Do we oldies really believe that “in old age we will still bear fruit?” In his message for the 2nd annual Day for Grandparents and Elderly Pope Francis is talking to both grandparents and also speaks quite personally, as being 85 years old himself. He speaks about the lack of expectations of older people for a personal future. He also speaks about the general societal fear of old age as a time to become worthless, redundant, ready to be thrown-away. We live in a throw-away culture, while we honour and celebrate newness, youth and its vitality. However the almost universal economic as well as social situation today makes life difficult for youth to reach for and attain their goals. In fact life has become increasingly complex and difficult for everyone across the board. Because of the challenges to be faced there is the distinct possibility of increasing individualism and selfishness, possibly mostly in the case of elderly who do not have a family.
Why do I say that? I believe that in spite of its many challenges the reality of family life is psychologically and spiritually positive. There is an inherent sense of belonging and intimacy, also to some degree across the generations. Each generation or age group has their particular needs as well as their unique gifts to share with others for the common good. That is the ideal.and a great blessing. At the same time this sense of belonging can and often is also a burden, for which society should nevertheless still be grateful. Family is an important societal resource. But how often do we hear of cases of neglect and at times abuse of the elderly within their families? Conflict could often be over money and inheritance or involve in-law issues. In situations where grandparents are caring for grandchildren the young ones at times abuse the elderly or vice versa.
Sociologically a family is a recognized changing and developing system, a network of interactions. Naturally one cannot generalize as, even from a systems perspective ,there are so many different family situations and realities, and the way these are experienced can be very different. However there can be a special focus on the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren on a spiritual, religious and interest levels.
In the 2022 message the Holy Father tends to focus more on the elderly in general and encourages us to care for ourselves and remain active, physically, mentally and spiritually. A special calling is for us to show concern for our own families but also for others, the poor and vulnerable. He calls for a revolution of tenderness as a special quality of humanity acquired in older age through becoming “poets of prayer, and reflecting on the word of God. Tenderness is offered towards the great number of children who are suffering in many parts of the world.
A general awareness and celebration in the Church includes reaching out to other elderly persons who are alone. “Let us make sure that no one feels alone on this day.” It might be a particularly meaningful gesture of fruitfulness to share one of the other elements of creation, a plant, a flower an item of fruit, and a visit with a friendly pet to remind us all of the love and joy of God for and in all his creatures. TR 13 July 2022 Get the full text of the MESSAGE FOR THE 2ND ANNUAL DAY FOR GRANDPARENTS AND THE ELDERLY from www.vatican.va
BEATITUDES FOR GRANDPARENTS
Blessed are the poor in spirit …. as they will not see their grandparents as a mealticket to the future.
Blessed are the gentle,. as they will recognise and be patient with the weaknesses of old age.
Blessed are they who mourn, and who comfort the bereaved and lonely in their loss.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for justice, …. that the old and weak will not be cast aside but be treated with dignity and respect.
Blessed are they who are merciful and who forgive the old for the faults and failings of yesteryear.
Blessed are the pure in heart, who see the old and young as they really are.
Blessed are the peace-makers and the agents for reconciliation between generations.
Blessed are they who accept with grace the wisdom of old age.
Blessed are they who can look back on a life of integrity and know they are loved.
Blessed are they who do not judge their young, so that they will not be judged.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because they do what is right, standing up with courage to defend what they have learned through the years.
Blessed are the old and the young, children, parents and grandparents who acknowledge with gratitude the great gift of life they have been given to share. ……… for the Kingdom of God is theirs.
TR July 2001