Every 4th Sunday in July, we celebrate World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly and this year, it will be celebrated on 25 July 2021, in anticipation of the Feast of Sts Joachim and Anne (grandparents of Jesus). During the Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Elizabeth (31 May 2021), the Holy Father, Pope Francis, released a pastoral care letter for the first World Day of Grandparents and Elderly with the theme – “I am with you always,” (MT 28: 20). It was the last words of Jesus to His Disciples before He ascended into heaven.
In the letter, Pope Francis emphasises that the vocation of the elderly which is “to preserve our roots, to pass on the faith to the young and to care for the little ones.” It is also a “new invitation” to the older generations in our families and communities to deepen and discern their “richness of many years of life, experience and history behind them.” The Holy Father affirms that grandparents and the elderly have an essential role in God’s salvation plan. He added “there is no retirement age for the mission of proclaiming the Gospel, of transmitting traditions to the grandchildren.”
There is no age criteria to proclaim the Good News to all people but the Lord is always “close to us with new possibilities, new ideas, and new consolations.” Each one of us represents the present and future of the Church and we “have a place in God’s plan” and are “actors in a pastoral evangelising ministry, privileged witnesses of God’s faithful love.” In this time of global pandemic, the Holy Father sympathises with the elderly, especially those who are sick and those who experience the death of spouses or loved ones, as well as those who are lonely and depressed.
At this time of difficulty, the Holy Father expresses his deep care and concern for people who are unable to leave their homes or unable to visit their elderly parents, grandparents and old folks’ home due to the pandemic restrictions. Therefore, it is important for us to stay connected with our grandparents, elderly friends, the poor and the needy through various social networking services – to read the Scripture to them, to pray the Psalms and the Rosary for them. In his letter, the Holy Father invites us to reflect on these few questions:
|a)||How can this be possible when my energy is running out and I don’t think I can do much?|
|b)||How can I begin to act differently when habit is so much a part of my life?|
|c)||How can I devote myself to those who are poor when I am already so concerned about my family?|
|d)||How can I broaden my vision when I can’t even leave the residence where I live?|
|e)||Isn’t my solitude already a sufficiently heavy burden?|
The world needs grandparents and the elderly in order to build a stronger foundation for all our tomorrows. Grandchildren need their grandparents for their wisdom and knowledge, for their experience, advise and unconditional love, and especially for their stories of the past that root them together in faith, tradition and family.
Rev. Fr. George Packiasamy