“In a society which overlooks and discards the elderly, may the Church acknowledge their contributions and gifts, and help them to foster a fruitful dialogue between the generations.”
During his weekly General Audience in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis conveyed this hope while continuing his catechesis on the family, and his second week focusing on the elderly.
At the start of his remarks, the Holy Father immediately acknowledged he falls into this age category, and reminisced how during his visit to the Philippines this January, they called him ‘Lolo,’ meaning “Grandpa Francesco.”
While last week’s address focused on the elderly’s problematic current condition, the Holy Father this week spoke on their value and importance.
Purifying power of prayer and faith, he said, helps us show the young that the true meaning of life is found in self-sacrificing love and concern for others.
While stressing incessant prayer purifies the heart, Francis underscored, “Praise and supplication to God prevent the hardening of the heart in resentment and selfishness. “
“How bad it is to see the cynicism of a senior who has lost the sense of his testimony, despises the young and does not communicate wisdom of life!” he said.
“Instead,” he stressed, “how beautiful is it to see the elderly encourage and manage to convey to the young people the meaning of faith and life!”
This, he said, is really the mission of the grandparents, the vocation of the elderly.
“The words of grandparents have something special for the young. And they know it,” he said. “The words that my grandmother gave me in writing on the day of my priestly ordination, I still carry with me, always in the breviary.”
“I would like a Church that challenges ‘the culture of the gap’ with the overflowing joy of a new embrace between the young and the elderly!”
The Holy Father outlined various ways in which this can be achieved.
“We can intercede for the expectations of the younger generation and give dignity to the memory and sacrifices of those who are older. We can remind ambitious young that a life without love is arid.”
Moreover, he stressed, those with old age–the age to which the Pope belongs, he said–can encourage fearful young people to not be afraid of the future.
“We also can teach young people who are in love with themselves, that there is more joy in giving than in receiving. “
The grandfathers and grandmothers form “a great spiritual sanctuary,” he noted, where their prayers and supplication help support the community through daily life and struggle.
The Holy Father also said he was very impressed by the “Day for the Elderly” held in St. Peter’s Square in September last year. Recalling how many he met who were celebrating their 50 or 60-year anniversaries, he encouraged those couples to pass on their example of fidelity to the young people.