MARFAM for many years has produced a family year planner for family education and spirituality with focus areas for different months of the year.  Because in July the Church celebrates the feast of St Joachim and St Ann, the grandparents of Jesus, July has been our month for grandparents as still important members of families, even when they are not directly living within a family unit.  Their specific reality,  their needs as well as their worries, fears and their joys can be explored and shared with their children and grandchildren and others too for mutual support.  For more on MARFAM’s THOUGHTS FOR THE DAY, overview and prayers go to

For the last 4 years Pope Francis has added a special day for Grandparents and the Elderly on the last Sunday of July to the Church’s calendar. He chooses a theme and provides a special message.   Previously he has chosen fruitfulness of old age or “You are not alone”  but this year he focuses on the loneliness experienced by many elderly people.  He lists some reasons for this and issues a challenge to society to respond to this need. Notes from Pope Francis message are given below, the full message can be downloaded from             

A thought from Pope Francis Message for the Day for Grandparents and Elderly 2024. “Do not cast me off in my old Age” (cf. Ps 71:9)   “We have lost our “taste for fraternity.”

God never abandons his children, even when our age advances and our powers decline, when our hair grows white and our role in society lessens, when our lives become less productive and can risk appearing useless. In the Bible, growing old is a sign of blessing.  God  does not disdain to choose those who, to many people, may seem irrelevant. God discards no stone; indeed, the “oldest” are the firm foundation on which “new” stones can rest, in order to join in erecting a spiritual edifice (cf. 1 Peter 2:5).

At the same time, in the Psalms we also find this heartfelt plea to the Lord: “In my old age do not abandon me” (cf. Ps 71:9). We find both the certainty of God’s closeness at every stage of life and the fear of abandonment, particularly in old age and in times of pain.    

There are many reasons for this loneliness: children migrate or leave for a better life, sometimes men are involved in wars and conflicts. Women may be left behind in devastated towns or have fled to safety with their children.  In other parts of the world, a false belief, deeply rooted in certain local cultures, suspects the elderly of witchcraft and blames them for premature death or sickness or other misfortunes.

There is also a conviction that the elderly are burdening the young with the high cost of social services and are diverting resources. This situation is not by chance or inevitable, but the fruit of decisions – political, economic, social and personal decisions – that fail to acknowledge the infinite dignity of each person. The elderly themselves may begin to consider themselves a burden and feel that they should step aside.

Many women and men today seek personal fulfilment in a life as independent as possible and detached from other people. Group memberships are in crisis and individualism is celebrated.  We have lost our “taste for fraternity.” Let us use the Old Testament example of Naomi an elderly Israelite widow who has also lost her two sons and lives away from her home country.  She offers to let her foreign daughters-in-law return to their families but Ruth generously chooses to remain with her mother-in-law and returns with her to Israel where she has a very successful life, being a predecessor of David, the greatest Israelite king.  

Pope Francis concludes, “let us acknowledge the importance of this shared love across the generations.  Let us show tender love to the elderly and remain close to them, as they play their unique role in the family, society and the Church.”

Old age is for many of us a time for spiritual growth and many older people become regular weekday mass goers, no doubt also valuing the social contact with others. Praying for grandchildren can be a special gift for both this month.

But the vast majority of the elderly, grandparents included, do not have that spiritual focus and their lives are lived out in the world, alone, possibly with an ailing partner, or with family members, in a complex or old age home.  There is much that can be done, even by themselves to improve their situation. Where there is a will there is a way. Taking good care of their health can be a chore but definitely worthwhile. Eating well, exercising as best they can, getting involved with a pet or other people and adopting an interest, also around environmental issues can give them a meaningful purpose in life.  Becoming eco-friendly is a MARFAM focus area that can apply to everyone young and old in a whole variety of ways, reading and researching, gardening, discussions, reflecting on one’s life experience, watching TV wild life or other educational programmes, listening to talks on nature or climate justice issues can be enjoyable especially if this could become a shared interest with grandchildren and grandparents.  Surely a most rewarding activity!    


July 3.  St Thomas. The members of the luncheon club were grateful that Fr Nicholas was able to come and say Mass for them.  Afterwards Paulina said, “when Father raises up the host at the consecration I always say those words, ‘My Lord and My God.’  They are words of worship but for me there is also that question of believing. I pray that God will increase my faith.” Jack added, “Talking of faith my sight has almost gone and as I walk around I certainly have to go “by faith and trust.”  

Reflect, share, scripture:  Jesus said to Thomas,” put your finger here and put out your hand and place it in my side.  Do not be faithless but believing.” Thomas answered, “My Lord and my God!”  Jesus said to him, “You have believed because you have seen me. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”  John20: 27-29.  Pope Francis: “All that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us, we will not hide from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord.  AL16.   ACTION AND PRAYER.   Reflect on the deepest meaning of the words, “My Lord and my God!”