“A few days after, his youngest son … was playing with wood and a hammer and nails … and his father asked him: ‘What are you doing? — I’m making a table, Papa, the boy responded. —Why a table, the father asked? — The boy replied: To have when you get old, so that you can eat there.”
The 78-year old pontiff then told pilgrims not to conform their minds to a throw-away, anti-family culture that sets aside the elderly, but to listen to God’s Word, which says: “Do not disregard the discourse of the aged, for they themselves learned from their fathers; because from them you will gain understanding and learn how to give an answer in time of need” (Sir 8:9).
It is time, he said, to reawaken ourselves and our communities to the wisdom of a Christian culture, one of “closeness to the elderly” and “an attitude of warm and supportive accompaniment in this final stage of life.”
“The Church,” he said, “cannot and does not want to conform to a mentality of impatience, much less to to indifference or lack of appreciation in relation to old age. We must reawaken the collective sense of gratitude, appreciating, hospitality, which makes the elderly feel like a living part of his community.”
Pope Francis then invited everyone to see his or her elderly parents, aunts and uncles as individuals with their own personal and unique history, with whom we are called to live in a communion of love. They are “men and women, fathers and mothers who have gone before us, on our same paths, in our homes, in our daily struggles for a dignified life. The are men and women from whom we have received much.”
He also reminded Christians to remember that, one day, we will all grow old. “We are the elderly: in a little while, or in a long while, but inevitably [it will be], even if we don’t think about it. And if we do not learn to treat the elderly well, we will be treated in the same way.”
The Pope concluded his Wednesday address by inviting individuals and societies to be especially attentive to the most vulnerable, and to the sick. A society that would abandon them, he said, is “a perverse society.”
“The Church, faithful to the Word of God, cannot tolerate these degenerations” he said. “A Christian community in which closeness and gratuitousness are no longer considered essential … would lose its soul.”
“Where there is no honor for the elderly, there is no future for the young.”
Diane Montagna is Rome correspondent for Aleteia’s English edition.