The Vatican

July 24: Pope Francis dedicates a day to grandparents and senior citizens

Next Sunday, July 24, the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly will be celebrated around the world this year 2022. Parishes, dioceses and ecclesial communities are also called to celebrate with creativity and in a decentralized way this feast, which this year has as its theme "In old age they will continue to bear fruit".

Leticia Sánchez de León-July 23, 2022-Reading time: 5 minutes

The World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly has become one of the events that bears the unmistakable signature of the Argentine pope. It was Pope Francis himself who last year wanted to establish a day dedicated exclusively to grandparents and the elderly. The Day is scheduled to be celebrated every year on the fourth Sunday of July, around the feast of Saints Joachim and Anne, grandparents of Jesus.

This year it will take place this Sunday, July 24, with the celebration of a Eucharist in St. Peter's by Cardinal De Donatis, Vicar General for the Diocese of Rome. De Donatis, Vicar General for the Diocese of Rome. On the same day, the Pope begins an apostolic journey to Canada, during which he plans to visit the Shrine of St. Anne and meet with young people and the elderly at an elementary school in Iqaluit.

"Please do not leave them alone" is one of the phrases that the Pontiff has repeated most often in reference to the care and attention of the elderly, and the institution of the Day is a sign that he is concerned about this topic. It is not in vain that he has wanted to dedicate a good part of the Wednesday audiences to talk about the stage of old age and the richness that the elderly represent for families and for society.

"In old age they will continue to bear fruit", is the motto chosen to promote dialogue between the elderly and the young: "It is important that grandparents meet their grandchildren and that grandchildren meet their grandparents, because - as the prophet Joel says - grandparents will dream in front of their grandchildren, they will have illusions (great desires), and the young, taking strength from their grandparents, will go forward, they will prophesy". 

In addition to next Sunday's event, this July Christians are also praying especially for the elderly; the prayer intention that Francis entrusts to the whole Church this month, through the Pope's Worldwide Prayer Network, is precisely to pray for the elderly.

In the video message, the Pope reflects on this stage of life: "Old age, in fact, is not an easy stage 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 Pope appeals to the elderly to continue to contribute all that they can give because older people have "a special sensitivity for care, for reflection and affection" and invites them to be We are, or we can become, protagonists of a "revolution of tenderness."

"Many people are afraid of old age," the Pope begins in the message prepared for the event, "They consider it a kind of illness with which it is better not to come into contact. The elderly do not concern 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 which spare us from having to take care of their worries." Pope Francis wants to be close to all the elderly and he does so by speaking to them on a one-to-one basis, showing himself to be elderly himself: "And we, grandparents and the elderly, have a great responsibility: to teach the women and men of our time to see others with the same understanding and the same tender gaze that we address to our grandchildren. We have sharpened our humanity by caring for others, and today we can be teachers of a peaceful way of life, attentive to the weakest.

"The elderly," the Pope continues, "help to perceive "the continuity of generations," with "the charism of serving as a bridge. Often it is the grandparents who ensure the transmission of great values to their grandchildren, and "many people can recognize that they owe their initiation into the Christian life to their grandparents".

With these words, the Pope wants to make us understand that the construction of a better world passes - also - through revaluing the figure of our elders, going "against the tide with respect to what the world thinks of this age of life", encouraging at the same time older people not to maintain a resigned attitude", "with little hope and no longer expecting anything from the future".

A Church close to the elderly 

The Pope has also addressed this topic in greater depth in other messages and in papal documents, such as the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia: "The Church cannot and does not want to conform herself to a mentality of intolerance, much less of indifference and contempt, with regard to old age. We must awaken a collective sense of gratitude, appreciation, hospitality, which make the elderly feel a living part of their community." In this line, the World Day of Grandparents and Older Persons, wants to be an appeal to all families, and to society as a whole, to give back to the elderly all the value they have and to treat them as they deserve while inviting them to "continue to bear fruit".

In a society that values only that which produces an instant benefit, grandparents and the elderly find themselves more and more alone and neglected, sometimes even by their own families. The "throwaway culture" so often mentioned by the Pope also refers to this; the attention and care of the elderly has no short-term benefit and attending to their daily needs is tiring and repetitive and often becomes an additional burden in the daily lives of families. However, as the Pope says in the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia: "A family that does not respect and care for its grandparents, who are its living memory, is a disintegrated family but a family that remembers is a family with a future." 

La Jornada

In this second year of the Day dedicated to grandparents and the elderly, the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life suggests two ways to participate: celebrating the Eucharist or visiting the elderly alone.

The same Dicastery has made available to the various dioceses a series of pastoral and liturgical materials and suggestions, available on the Dicastery's website. Among the recommendations made, one that stands out is that of visiting or accompanying elderly people who are alone.

In fact, the Church grants the faculty to obtain the plenary indulgence under the usual conditions: sacramental confession, Eucharistic communion and praying for the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff. It can be received by grandparents, the elderly and the faithful who participate in the Mass on July 24 in St. Peter's Basilica or in the various celebrations that will take place throughout the world. The indulgence may also be applied as a suffrage for the souls in purgatory.

In addition, the same Plenary Indulgence will be granted to the sick elderly and to all those who, "unable to leave their homes for a serious reason, unite themselves spiritually to the sacred celebrations of the World Day, offering to the Merciful God their prayers, pains and sufferings of their own lives, especially while the Pontiff's words and the various celebrations are being broadcast by the media".

The World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly is also the starting point for developing a specific pastoral program that effectively reaches this part of society which, as the Pope says, is going through the loneliest phase of life and often does not know how to live it because "there are many projects of assistance" to the elderly but "few projects of existence".

Cardinal Kevin Farrell, Prefect of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life, regarding the organization of Sunday's event noted that, with the Day, the Holy Father "invites us to become aware of the relevance of the elderly in the life of societies and our communities, and to do so in a way that is not episodic, but structural, and the Day helps to lay the foundations for an ordinary pastoral care of this time of life."

The authorLeticia Sánchez de León

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