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Elderly Priests, Sisters are ‘True Shrines of Holiness,’ Pope Says

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Elise Harris - Catholic News Agency - published on 10/21/13

Pope Francis reflects on various biblical figures who experienced difficulty in their old age, and encourages the young not to forget the elderly.

During his daily Mass homily Pope Francis reflected on various biblical figures who experienced difficulty in their old age, and encouraged those present not to forget the elderly.

The Pope directed his reflections to those gathered in the Santa Marta guesthouse of the Vatican on Oct. 18 for his daily Mass, centering his thoughts upon the latter lives of Moses, John the Baptist and Saint Paul.

These three figures, he noted, remind him of “the shrines of holiness which are the nursing homes of elderly priests and religious sisters.”

Pope Francis recalled the excitement and enthusiasm displayed by all three men in their youth, and contrasted it to isolation and pain they suffered at the end of their lives, stressing that although none of them were spared suffering in their old age, the Lord never abandoned them.

Noting that the apostle Paul “has a joyful and enthusiastic beginning,” the Pope recalled that he experienced a decline in the latter years of his life, and both Moses and John the Baptist shared a similar experience.

“Moses, when young,” stressed the pontiff, was “the courageous leader of the People of God who fought against his enemies” in order to save his people, however at the end of his life “he is alone on Mount Nebo, looking at the promised land” but is unable to enter it.

Saint John the Baptist, noted the Pope, in his later life was tormented by anguish, and “finished under the power of a weak, corrupt and drunken ruler who in turn was under the power of an adulteress’ jealousy and the capricious wishes of a dancer.”

Turning his thoughts back to Saint Paul, Pope Francis stressed that the apostle endured a similar experience, speaking in his letters of those who abandoned him and rejected his teachings.

However, the Pope clarified that although Paul wrote about his great sufferings, he also wrote that “the Lord was close to him and gave him the strength to complete his mission of announcing the Gospel.”

Pope Francis concluded his reflections by stressing that the situations of the three biblical characters in their old age reminded him of those elderly priests and religious sisters in nursing homes.

Referring to them as a “shrine of holiness,” he urged the guests present not to forget the elderly, and to visit them, because “bearing the burden of solitude, these priests and sisters are waiting for the Lord to knock at the door of their hearts.”

Originally published by Catholic News Agency on 18 October 2013.

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Pope Francis
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