The Testimony of the Elderly
Grandparents are called to be “poets of prayer,” said Pope Francis as he spoke about the gifts that the elderly bring to the family and society.
The pope recalled with fondness the way the Filipino people greeted him as “Grandfather Francis” during his apostolic visit to the Philippines in January 2015. He said that while society tends to marginalize and forget about the elderly, “The Lord never discards us. He calls us to follow Him in in every age of life.” The Holy Father remarked that “Old age is a vocation” and has a different form than previous times of life. He called us to look to the many Saints who lived to old age and act as a model.
Pope Francis spoke about the “Day for the Elderly” which was held at St. Peter’s in September 2014, and about how moving it was to see so many people present, including married couples who had been together for 50 or 60 years. He noted what an important witness that is for young people: “The testimony of fidelity of the elderly is important.”
In the Gospel, the event of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple is a particular moment for reflection on the vocation of the elderly. Simeon and Anna, one a poet, the other a prophetess, show us that even in old age we may be called to a special mission. The pope said, “They recognized the Child, and discovered new strength for a new task: to render thanks and render witness to this Sign of God.” In this light, Pope Francis exhorted grandparents to pray unceasingly and untiringly, taking as their model the beautiful example of Benedict XVI who chose to spend “the last stage of his life in prayer and in listening to God!” He said that this is why old age is given to a person: that they may pray.
The Holy Father enumerated some of the lessons that the elderly could transmit: thanksgiving for God’s gifts, intercession for the young, reminding the young that love is the most important task and that giving is better than receiving, and teaching young people not to be afraid of the future. The supplication and praise of grandparents, said the pope, “Sustain the community that works and struggles in the field of life.”
Pope Francis noted that prayer is the antidote to becoming cynical, egotistical or resentful in old age. Grandparents are called to be encouraging figures in the lives of young people who are searching for meaning. Young people pay attention to, and often treasure, the words of their grandparents, the pope said. He noted that he keeps words from his own grandmother tucked into his Breviary: “I read them often and it does me good.”
Finally, the Holy Father asked that a “new embrace” take place between the elderly and young people, which would confound the “disposable culture.”
Full text available at: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/general-audience-on-the-gift-of-grandparents