"In old age they will still bear fruit" (Psalm 92:15)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ:
At the end of last month, Pope Francis invited the Church to celebrate the second World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly. This celebration corresponds to the Sunday closest to the July 26 Memorial of Saints Joachim and Anne, parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The theme for this year is drawn from the book of Psalms: "In old age they will still bear fruit." (Psalm 92:15)
Pope Francis warns again about our “throw-away culture” and how some can marginalize the elderly. By contrast, he reminds us of the biblical view of the elderly: “A long life – so the Bible teaches – is a blessing, and the elderly are not outcasts to be shunned but living signs of the goodness of God who bestows life in abundance. Blessed is the house where an older person lives! Blessed is the family that honors the elderly!”
One of the sadder experiences during the initial phase of the COVID-19 pandemic was that so many of our elderly in various facilities and in their own homes were cut off from the pattern of normal engagement with sources of love and support. All of us were seemingly separated from the many gifts of the elderly.
A friend of mine whose mother had endured much in her life, shared what her elderly mother said during those early days of the pandemic: “I have survived the Nazis and the communists and polio. I had to move away from my home country. God has been so good to me. We’ll get through this.” Such words of wisdom and perspective only come from those who have lived and endured and thrived through many years.
Here’s how Pope Francis describes the false temptation to despair as one ages: “The fast pace of the world – with which we struggle to keep up – seems to leave us no alternative but to implicitly accept the idea that we are useless. We can resonate with the heartfelt prayer of the Psalmist: “Do not cast me off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength is spent.” (71:9)
Rather than give in to despair, Pope Francis gives this practical advice and his own words of encouragement to the elderly:
“[W]e ought to take care of ourselves and remain active in our later years. This is also true from a spiritual standpoint: We ought to cultivate our interior life through the assiduous reading of the word of God, daily prayer, reception of the sacraments and participation in the liturgy. In addition to our relationship with God, we should also cultivate our relationships with others, first of all by showing affectionate concern for our families, our children and grandchildren, but also for the poor and those who suffer, by drawing near to them with practical assistance and our prayers. These things will help us not to feel like mere bystanders, sitting on our porches or looking out from our windows, as life goes on all around us. Instead, we should learn to discern everywhere the presence of the Lord. Like “green olive trees in the house of God” (cf. Ps 52:10), we can become a blessing for those who live next to us.”
I am grateful for our many parish and other ministries to the elderly. Many of our parishes rely extensively on the active loving engagement of our senior parishioners, who are the backbone and carriers of tradition in our local communities. May we find new ways to appreciate, encourage and stay connected to the elderly. Through the intercession of Ss. Joachim and Anne, may almighty God renew our appreciation for the gift of our seniors and bless all grandparents and elderly.
Most Reverend Robert J. McClory
Diocese of Gary