The Neglect of Grandparents
On March 4, 2015 Pope Francis continued his weekly catechesis on the family by speaking about the problematic condition of the elderly in society today. In relation to the family, the elderly are the grandparents who are too often neglected.
The Holy Father said that our society often ignores the elderly. Though life spans have lengthened thanks to medicine, and the number of the elderly has increased, society has failed to organize places that can care for the elderly and give special attention to their fragility and dignity. A society likes this bears in it a “virus of death” due to elderly persons being “discarded because they create problems.” The elderly are abandoned, Pope Francis said, because our world today does not allow them to participate in society or express their opinions, and does not view them as useful.
The Holy Father told two stories that witness to society’s neglect of the elderly. First, he spoke about visiting a home for the elderly in Buenos Aires. He asked an elderly woman when the last time her children had visited her, and she replied that it had been eight months. Second, he told a story that his grandmother had told him: there was an elderly grandfather who was forced to eat his meals in isolation from his family because he soiled himself when he ate and caused the family embarrassment. This kind of neglect, Pope Francis said, is a mortal sin.
We should instead value the elderly as a source of wisdom. The tradition of the Church has always been close to the elderly and adopted a disposition of “affectionate and solidaristic support in this final part of life.” Far from copying the impatient attitude of society, the Church must cultivate “a sense of gratitude, of appreciation, of hospitality, which makes the elderly feel a living part of their community.”
He emphasized how essential the elderly are to our communities, noting that they have been the fathers and mothers who have given us so much. The elderly are far from strangers. We too will be elderly one day, and we will be treated how they are treated now unless we truly care for them.