Message of Pope Francis for the Second World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly

The day was established in 2021 and is celebrated every year throughout the Church on the fourth Sunday of July, around the feast of St. Joachim and St. Anne, the "grandparents" of Jesus. This year it takes place on July 24.

Maria José Atienza-July 20, 2022-Reading time: 6 minutes
grandparents day

The Pope addressed a message for this occasion in which he invites grandparents and the elderly to continue to bear fruit and proposes to them to live in a particular way the dimension of prayer. He also encouraged everyone to go and visit the elderly who are lonely in their homes or in the residences where they live.

In old age they will continue to bear fruit." (Salt 92,15)

Dear sister, dear brother:

The verse of Psalm 92 "in old age they will continue to bear fruit" (v. 15) is good news, a true "gospel" that we can announce to the world on the occasion of the second World Day of Grandparents and Older People. This goes against the grain of what the world thinks of this age of life; and also with respect to the resigned attitude of some of us older people, who carry on with little hope and no longer expect anything from the future.

Many people are afraid of old age. They consider it a kind of disease with which it is better not to come into contact. The elderly are of no concern to us, they think, and it is better for them to be as far away as possible, perhaps together among themselves, in facilities where they are cared for and where we do not have to take care of their worries. It is the "throwaway culture", that mentality that, while making us feel different from the weakest and alien to their frailties, authorizes us to imagine separate paths between "us" and "them". But, in reality, a long life - so Scripture teaches - is a blessing, and the elderly are not outcasts to be distanced from, but living signs of the goodness of God who grants life in abundance. Blessed is the home that cares for an elderly person! Blessed is the family that honors its grandparents!

Old age, in fact, is not an easy season to understand, even for those of us who are already living it. Although it comes after a long journey, no one has prepared us to face it, and it almost seems to take us by surprise. The most developed societies invest a lot in this age of life, but they do not help us to interpret it; they offer assistance plans, but no projects of existence. . That is why it is difficult to look to the future and glimpse a horizon towards which to turn. On the one hand, we are tempted to exorcise old age by hiding our wrinkles and pretending that we are always young; on the other hand, it seems that all that remains is to live without illusion, resigned to no longer having "fruits to give".

The end of the work activity and the children already autonomous make diminish the reasons for which we have spent a lot of our energies. The awareness that our strength is waning or the onset of an illness can put our certainties in crisis. The world - with its accelerated times, in the face of which we find it difficult to keep up - seems to leave us no alternative and leads us to internalize the idea of discarding. This is what leads the psalmist to exclaim: "Do not reject me in my old age; do not abandon me when my strength fails me" (71:9).

But the same psalm - which discovers the presence of the Lord in the different seasons of life - invites us to continue to hope. As we grow old and gray-haired, he will continue to give us life and will not allow us to be defeated by evil. Trusting in Him, we will find the strength to praise Him more and more (cf. vv. 14-20) and we will discover that growing old does not imply only the natural deterioration of the body or the inescapable passing of time, but the gift of a long life. Growing old is not a condemnation, it is a blessing!

For this reason, we must be watchful over ourselves and learn to lead an active old age also from the spiritual point of view, cultivating our interior life through the assiduous reading of the Word of God, daily prayer, the practice of the sacraments and participation in the liturgy. And, together with our relationship with God, our relationship with others, especially with our family, children and grandchildren, to whom we can offer our affection full of attention; but also with the poor and afflicted, whom we can approach with concrete help and prayer. All this will help us not to feel that we are mere spectators in the theater of the world, not to limit ourselves to "watching from the balcony," to watch from the window. Instead, by sharpening our senses to recognize the presence of the Lord. we will be like "green olive trees in the house of God" (cf. Salt 52,10), and we can be a blessing to those who live next to us.

Old age is not a useless time in which we step aside, abandoning the oars in the boat, but it is a season for continuing to bear fruit. There is a new mission that awaits us and invites us to look to the future. "The special sensitivity of us elderly, of old age for the attentions, thoughts and affections that make us more human, should once again become a vocation for many. And it will be a choice of love from the elderly towards the new generations." . It is our contribution to the revolution of tenderness A spiritual and peaceful revolution in which I invite you, dear grandparents and elderly people, to be protagonists.

The world is living through a time of severe trial, marked first by the unexpected and furious storm of the pandemic, then by a war that affects peace and development on a global scale. It is no coincidence that war has returned to Europe at a time when the generation that lived through it in the last century is disappearing. And these great crises can make us insensitive to the fact that there are other "epidemics" and other widespread forms of violence that threaten the human family and our common home.

In the face of all this, we need a profound change, a conversion that will demilitarize hearts, allowing everyone to recognize in others a brother or sister. And we, grandparents and elders, have a great responsibility: to teach the women and men of our time to see others with the same understanding and tender gaze that we direct to our grandchildren. We have honed our humanity by taking care of others, and today we can be teachers of a way of living peacefully and attentively with the weakest. Our attitude may perhaps be mistaken for weakness or submission, but it is the meek, not the aggressive or the prevaricators, who will inherit the earth (cf. Mt 5,5).

One of the fruits we are called to bear is to protect the world. "We have all passed through the knees of grandparents, who have carried us in their arms." But today is the time to hold on our knees - with concrete help or at least with prayer - together with our own, all those frightened grandchildren whom we have not yet met and who are perhaps fleeing from war or suffering because of it. Let us carry in our hearts - as did St. Joseph, a tender and caring father - the little ones of Ukraine, of Afghanistan, of South Sudan.

Many of us have matured a wise and humble conscience, which the world so badly needs. We are not saved alone, happiness is a bread to be eaten together. Let us witness it to those who delude themselves into thinking they can find personal fulfillment and success in confrontation. Everyone, even the weakest, can do it. Even letting people take care of us - often people who come from other countries - is a way of saying that living together is not only possible, but necessary.

Dear grandmothers and grandfathers, dear old ladies and dear old men, in this world of ours we are called upon to be the architects of the revolution of tenderness. Let us do this by learning to use more and more effectively the most precious instrument we have, the one that is most appropriate for our age: that of prayer. "Let us also become a little bit poets of prayer: let us cultivate a taste for finding our own words, let us make our own again those that the Word of God teaches us". . Our confident invocation can do much, can accompany the cry of pain of the suffering and can contribute to change hearts. We can be "the permanent "choir" of a great spiritual sanctuary, where the prayer of supplication and the song of praise sustain the community that works and struggles in the field of life".

This is why the World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly is an occasion to say once again, with joy, that the Church wants to celebrate with those to whom the Lord - as the Bible says - has granted "an advanced age". Let us celebrate it together! I invite you to announce this Day in your parishes and communities, to go and visit the elderly who are most alone, in their homes or in the residences where they live. Let us try to make sure that no one lives this day alone. Having someone to wait for can change the meaning of the days of those who no longer expect anything good in the future; and from a first meeting a new friendship can be born. Visiting the elderly who are alone is a work of mercy of our time.

Let us ask Our Lady, Mother of Tenderness, to make us all the architects of the revolution of tendernessto free the world together from the shadow of loneliness and the demon of war.

May my Blessing, with the assurance of my loving closeness, reach all of you and your loved ones. And you, please do not forget to pray for me.


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