The Archbishop of Panama and President of the Organizing Committee of the 2019 World Youth Day, Monsignor Jose Domingo Ulloa Mendieta, spoke on October 23, 2018, during the presentation of the book “The Wisdom of Time,” which contains 250 interviews with elderly and young people.
Taking part in the meeting, as well as in the project, were the Holy Father Francis and Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro, Director of “La Civilta Cattolica” review, promoter of the initiative.
“The Wisdom of Time” is a global project to promote dialogue between elderly and young people, sharing their experiences of life, so that old and new generations “walk together.” On Tuesday afternoon, October 23, 2018, the Panamanian Prelate shared with the Pontiff and with all those present, his own witness of this experience. “We have begun these areas of dialogue [in Panama], in the context of preparation for the World Youth Day. It was an appeal made by the Pope to young people at the end of the WYD in Krakow so that they go to Panama’s WYD by the hand of the elderly, their grandparents.”
In this connection, Archbishop Ulloa pointed out that the “existence of inter-generational relations implies that communities have a collective memory, as each generation takes up the teachings of its ancestors, thus leaving a legacy to its successors. This constitutes frames of reference to cement society solidly in today’s world.” Here is ZENIT’s translation of Archbishop Jose Domingo Ulloa’s address.
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Archbishop Ulloa’s Address
Most Blessed Father, Dear Elders and Young People:
I want to welcome you to this meeting, which is part of the initiative of our Holy Father Francis, to regenerate the dialogue between young people and adults of the world, which becomes increasingly important given the present challenges in society, where the disposable culture imposes itself increasingly and the generational breach is <ever> wider. In a parallel way, in our small Panamanian Isthmus, we have also initiated these areas of dialogue, in the context of the preparation for the World Youth Day. <It was> an appeal made by the Pope to young people at the end of the WYD in Krakow, so that they go to Panama’s WYD by the hand of the elderly, their grandparents.
The existence of inter-generational relations implies that the communities have a collective memory, as each generation takes up the teachings of its ancestors, thus leaving a legacy to its successors. This constitutes frames of reference to cement solidly a society in the present-day world.
The growth of individualism, which characterizes our modern societies, does not seem to have questioned the intensity of the inter-generational bonds or the existence of family groups. The presence of inter-generational bonds is not only a vestige of previous or traditional societies, as one might think, but above all it constitutes one of the present driving forces of solidarity, which foments scenes of encounter, collaboration and learning between generations.
The inter-generational <dimension> is a means and an objective in itself, which in addition guarantees social cohesion and development, through dialogue and cooperation without excluding anyone.
“I will pour out my spirit on all flesh, your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams” (Joel 2:28) — words that resounded on the morning of Pentecost.
It is a beautiful and thought-provoking verse because it alludes to two important ages of the human being: youth and old age. This text enlightens us to recognize that the mission of the Church is to foster and to accompany the meetings. By divine vocation, the Church is “tent of meeting” in which God and man, the Church and the world, converse.
- Young people who see visions, understood as youth capable of glimpsing the future, a future on the horizon — something that can only be completed with the wise contribution of the elderly. Holy Father, you already took up this idea in your address last March at the opening of the Plenary Assembly of the Pre-Synodal Meeting. “Your old men will dream and your young men will prophesy. The prophet Joel also said. And then you explained in a wise way the approach: “We need young prophets, but be careful: you’ll never be prophets if you don’t take the dreams of the elderly, what’s more: if you don’t make an old man dream who is bored because no one listens to him. Make the old men dream, and these dreams will help you to go forward. Let yourselves be challenged by them.”
All that is dynamic, all that projects itself is proper of youth, but it’ necessary to clarify what is Vision. Vision is a joyful expression; it gives the sensation of freshness, of novelty, of something that is destined to fill life. We need visionary young people, who see with the eyes of the heart, who see what humanity can succeed in being, if it dares to live from the depth and not from the surface. The world needs the massive manifestation of passionate young people, who don’t let themselves doze off by the siren songs of the established system.
Therefore, it is urgent to propose to our young people and to live with them true experiences of humanity and of divinity, to lose the fear of being humans and to let God be God. Brother Roger of Taize said: “If you ask a youth to give you a little, perhaps he won’t give you anything, but if you ask him a lot, he will give you all. Perhaps it is us, the adults, who believe in the visionary capacity of our young people, in their potential to go through events, to see what is true behind them. We pay dearly for this lack of faith, when we don’t dare to “encounter one another” and follow tough paths with them, from the human and divine depth.
How lovely it would be if our youth could see visions of God, of glory, of hope. It would be good for those of us now crowned by white hair, sign of the inexorable passage of time, if we were granted the happiness to help them see clearly the Will of God, divine love, their life in those visions of hope that are a contrast to the horrible spectacle of a divided world, of a rarefied panorama, of a society that lies in the painful spectacle of its frustrations.
Help us, Holy Father, so that the grace of the Spirit enables us to be carriers of the lamp of faith that help those that begin the path of life, those that deserve that our testimony be part of that vision of life and of hope that we all need.
We see the Synod of Bishops with hope, which is taking place at present in “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment. “The dynamism and participation of young people have made themselves felt. It has also been an attentive listening of the Synodal Fathers. Glimpsed are new times with young people taking the lead, with the accompaniment of the Church and of elders.
- Old men dreamers. Your Holiness and many of those of us who are here have already followed a path. We long for young people to recognize, with love and gratitude, that the elderly are the memory of humanity. Previously, cultures valued with joyful happiness the historical memory of the elderly, but today they are diluted in the new technologies that, on one hand, are so useful to us, and on the other, often enslave us.
The memory of an elderly person is not only quantitative but above all, qualitative. It’s not an encyclopaedia of data but a treasure of experiences and in them, scars aren’t lacking of wounds that taught how to live, and traces of sincere and clean caresses that taught how to love. The elderly person who, in addition, has lived that vital course and enabled his ego to die, has been a transparency of the essential Being.
That elderly man becomes a child again: he fears nothing, accepts everything, is surprised by all, has a look that enamours, perhaps because it’s the look of one who is letting go of the last attachments and is closer to the eternal and definitive. Old age gives us something that makes us return to the child we <once> were, allowing at the same time a new wisdom to emerge. Therefore, the elderly are able to dream and will be able to explain their dreams to us.
- Young people that dream, old men that see visions: may young people learn to interpret the visions that the Spirit awakens, for which the key is necessary of the dreams realized by our elders and the wise memory of those that learned to live, sometimes from the wounds, because the scars, seen from the best side, are broken dreams that are only healed with visions of hope.
A pastoral path without the elderly lacks something very important and our elderly, without young people close, feel exiled from the currents of life. It is up to the Church to propitiate the free encounter that fosters conversation. Because to converse is to welcome, it’s a form of human hospitality, it’s to pause to live a rite of contemplation and joy; it is open to surprises and to the mystery that moves the conversation. It’s not planned; it arises at any moment.
As young Ruth took care of her mother-in-law Noemi. <It was> a free option, in which she committed the depth of her love, where one of them had the knowledge and the other the youth and strength.
Our society needs old men dreamers that dazzle us with their learning, with their perspicacity, with their “nothing to lose,” which makes them practical and crazy at the same time. I believe it’s the living of what we call mystical, where all this can flower.
Holy Father, what good fortune to know that Your Holiness wishes to combine in his heart the vision of young people through the ineffable lens of the dreams of the elderly. In this balance of dream and vision, help us to see by dreaming. And, before you say “pray for me,” accept the certainty of our prayers so that, as Saint Augustine said, you continue to be a Bishop for us and a Christian with us.
Copyright: Archbishopric of Panama
Translation by Virginia M. Forrester