On Monday, 26 July 2021, the Church celebrates the Feast of Sts Joachim and Anne. They are among the more popular saints with Catholics in Peninsular Malaysia. Every year, a huge number of pilgrims throng the Shrines of St Anne at Bukit Mertajam and Port Klang, for Novenas and Masses.
The Holy Father Pope Francis, has dedicated the 4th Sunday of July as World Day of Grandparents and Elders, in conjunction with the Feast of Sts Joachim and Anne (grandparents of Jesus) which this year, falls on 25 July 2021. In his pastoral care letter, Pope Francis addressed his concern for grandparents and elders, and highlighted their roles in God’s plan of salvation. He acknowledged their richness in many years of life, experiences and wisdom which can be offered for the mission of evangelising the Good News and transmitting the traditions and customs to younger generations. He also affirmed that God is always close with them in all their undertakings. Pope Francis, who is 84 years old, has the spirit of youthfulness in him. He tirelessly continues his apostolic journey across the continents and carries out the mission entrusted to him by Christ.
Some of us may have viewed video clips and movies pertaining to elderly people and how they have been disrespected, treated badly and lack connection with family and society. We must strive to allow grace and compassion to rise above, especially when serving and communicating with the elderly. The Church always acknowledges their presence, values their initiatives and contributions towards strengthening and building the Parish community. The Church will continue to do so, and will always give rightful dignity to them and ensure their relevance and importance in our daily lives, by providing various formations as well as social and healthcare assistance whenever possible.
Catholic priests visit the homebound and elderly parishioners without fail, in order to administer the Sacrament of Holy Anointing and Holy Communion when required, particularly during the seasons of Lent and Advent. Whereas the ExtraOrdinary Holy Communion Ministers reach out to them for Holy Communion on a regular basis.
I recall an occasion when I announced my homebound visit to an elderly person’s home one morning. She was so excited and eager, that she was up by 3am, waiting for my arrival! However, due to some unavoidable circumstances, I only managed to see her at noon. I was terribly embarrassed and felt so guilty when I had learned that she had been waiting for me all morning. At that moment, I realised how deep her faith in Christ was, and how much she yearned for the Lord in the Sacraments.
We want our elderly parents and grandparents to live long, healthy and peaceful lives. We want to see them happy and joyful in their golden years, surrounded by loving family and friends. We pray for those who have been abandoned and for those who are lonely and isolated, especially during this time of pandemic. We pray for their spiritual strength and for their physical well-being. Scripture respects and honours the elderly and it says that “longevity is a blessing.” May God’s will be done unto them.
Rev. Fr. George Packiasamy