You may have seen in the news recently that Pope Francis was hospitalised, and that he regularly requires the use of a wheelchair and assistance from carers to aid his mobility. It would be fair to say that not even the Pope is immune from ageing and frailty.
Importantly, though, the Pope has made it his business to remind Catholics just how precious grandparents and the elderly are. To this end, he initiated the annual World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly, which is celebrated at the end of July. This year’s theme looks at the joyful meeting between the young Mary and her older cousin Elizabeth; you can read the story in the Gospel of Luke, 1:39-56.
This beautiful encounter between two women is an example of the bond that can be formed when humanity values the preciousness of both the young and the old. Each has something to offer, be that the exuberance of youth or the wisdom of a long life.
Take a moment to imagine the scene between Mary and Elizabeth – their warm embrace, their shared anxieties as well as their hopes for the future.
How does this make you feel? Are there family members or neighbours who might be feeling neglected or unloved? Are you feeling that way? As you think about this, it might arouse a variety of emotions such as anger, sadness or despair. If this is the case, take a moment to pause and share these emotions with God in prayer.
In Pope Francis’ message for the third World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly, he offers the following invitation:
“I would invite you to make a concrete gesture that would include grandparents and the elderly. Let us not abandon them. Their presence in families and communities is a precious one, for it reminds us that we share the same heritage and are part of a people committed to preserving its roots. From the elderly we received the gift of belonging to God’s holy people. The Church, as well as society, needs them, for they entrust to the present the past that is needed to build the future. Let us honour them, neither depriving ourselves of their company nor depriving them of ours. May we never allow the elderly to be cast aside!”
If you are young, then take the Pope’s invitation to heart and reach out to an elderly person in your life. If you are a grandparent, or older person, trust that you have immense value. Be ready to share the wisdom that comes with age with the generations that follow you.
Pope Francis’ message for the Third World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly (2023)
Pope Francis' message for the First World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly (YouTube, 2021)
Grandparents and the Elderly: Grace and Mission (Mavis and Ron Pirola, Video on Evangelise Plus, 2022)
Words: Sharon Brewer