In lead-up to First World Day of Grandparents and Elderly, the Holy Father urges the elderly to be open to "new invitations."
“There is no retirement age for the mission of proclaiming the Gospel, of transmitting traditions to the grandchildren,” Pope Francis said in a video message published June 22, in preparation for the 1st World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly, to be held July 25.
Recalling the theme of this celebration — “I am with you always” — the Pontiff addresses the elderly as one of their own. He recognizes the ordeal that the pandemic represents for them, hard hit by disease but also by isolation, and assures them of the closeness of the Church.
To illustrate his point, the Pontiff tells the story of Joachim and Anne, the grandparents of Jesus and parents of Mary. Initially, they could not have children. But in the night they went through, God sent them an “angel” to console them, their infant Mary, says the 266th Pope. Their wish was thus more than abundantly granted.
“When everything seems dark,” God sends angels in the person of a small child, a member of the family or a friend, assured the head of the Catholic Church, also insisting on the importance of prayer.
He invited the elderly to “try to read a page of the Gospel every day, to pray with the psalms, to read the prophets.” He added that “the Scriptures will also help us to understand what the Lord is asking of our lives today. For at every hour of the day, and in every season of life, he continues to send labourers into his vineyard.”
“During this time, we learned the importance of hugs and visits,” he said.
A vocation for an elderly person
Pope Francis urged them to be open to the “new invitations” that life offers them. “I can testify myself that I received the call to become Bishop of Rome when I had reached, so to speak, retirement age and did not think I could do much new,” he declared.
For the Successor of Peter, the vocation of the elderly is to “preserve the roots, to transmit the faith to the young and to take care of the little ones.”
The example of Benedict XVI and Edith Bruck
The “elders” are also the “pillars” of the reconstruction of a world in crisis, by their capacity to inspire dreams, to transmit memories, and to pray with and for the youngest, reflected the Pope. “The future of the world lies in this alliance between the young and the elderly,” he insists.
The pontiff gave as an example the survivor of the Shoah and conveyor of memory Edith Bruck, as well as his predecessor Benedict XVI, the “elderly saint who continues to pray and to work for the Church.” Finally, he cited the “soon to be Saint” Charles de Foucauld, who in the solitude of his desert remained a universal “brother.”
The Holy See’s program for the celebration
In the coming days, a video of the Pope’s prayer recited with older people around the world – including one of the world’s oldest bishops, 101 years old – will be released. The Dicastery for the Laity, Family, and Life also calls on everyone to participate in a campaign on social networks that will soon be launched and which aims to highlight all initiatives related to the elderly, in particular by sharing them with the hashtag. #IamWithYouAlways (I’m with you every day, in English)
On July 25, an indulgence will be granted to all those participating in the celebration . Pope Francis will preside over a Mass in Rome that day with and for the elderly of his diocese. The Holy See, through the voice of Cardinal Kevin Farrell, Prefect of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life, encourages all dioceses to mark this date, according to their means, with events that highlight teachers of tenderness” that are the elderly.