Grandparents and the elderly

Pope Francis: “The elderly, whose roots young people need in order to grow into adulthood”

8 thousand present in Saint Peter’s for the III World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly


“Be vigilant so that we do not marginalize the elderly in our families or lives”. This was the message pronounced made by Pope Francis during his homily at the Mass he celebrated together with Prefect Card. Kevin Farrell on the occasion of the Third World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly at St. Peter's, in the presence of 8,000 faithful, including many elderly and grandparents with their grandchildren and families. Thinking of grandparents and the elderly, “whose roots young people need in order to grow into adulthood”, Pope Francis proposed a new reading of three stories of the day’s Gospel beginning with an aspect they all have in common: growing together.


Growing together

In the first parable, the wheat and the weeds grow together, in the same field (cf. Mt 13:24-30). This image – explained the Pope – “helps us to see things realistically: in human history, as in each of our lives, there is a mixture of light and shadows, love and selfishness”. However, “Christians are realists: they know that there are wheat and weeds in the world”, and Jesus tells us to let both of them grow together until the harvest: “How beautiful – the Pope emphasized - is this vision of God, his way of teaching us about mercy. This invites us to be patient with others, and – in our families, in the Church and in society – to welcome weakness, delay and limitations, not in order to let ourselves grow accustomed to them or excuse them, but to learn to act with respect, caring for the good wheat gently and patiently”. Here I think of our grandparents and the elderly, he continued, “who have already travelled far along life’s journey. If they look back, they see so many beautiful things they have succeeded in doing. Yet they also see defeats, mistakes, things that – as they say – “if I went back I would not do again”. Yet today the Lord offers us a gentle word that invites us to accept the mystery of life with serenity and patience, to leave judgment to him, and not to live regretful and remorseful lives”.


A new bond: “to be enabled to encounter one another and dialogue between tradition and the newness of the Spirit”

The second parable mentioned again by the Pope was that of the tiny mustard seed, which when it grows “is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches” (Mt 13:32). Pope Francis emphasized that “our lives are like this too, for we come into the world so small; we become adults, then grow old. At the beginning we are like a small seed; then we are nourished by hopes, and our plans and dreams come to fruition, the most beautiful of which become like the tree that does not live for itself but gives shade to all who desire it and offers space to those who wish to build a nest there. Thus those who grow together in this parable are ultimately the mature tree and the little birds. Here I think of our grandparents: how beautiful are these thriving trees, in whose “branches” children and grandchildren build their own “nests”, learning the warmth of home and experiencing the tenderness of an embrace. This is about growing together: the verdant tree and the little ones who need a nest, grandparents with their children and grandchildren, the elderly with the youngest”. Then the Holy Father underlined the need for “a new bond between young and old”, because “the sap of those who have a long experience of life behind them will nourish the shoots of hope of those who are growing. In this fruitful exchange we can learn the beauty of life, build a fraternal society, and in the Church be enabled to encounter one another and dialogue between tradition and the newness of the Spirit”.


Mingling, encountering, and embracing one another

Finally, the Holy Father said, there is “the third parable, where the yeast and the flour grow together (cf. Mt 13:33). This mixing makes the whole dough rise. Jesus uses the verb “to mix”. This reminds us of the “art” or «“mystique” of “living together, of mingling and encounter, of embracing and supporting one another», and «to go out of ourselves and to join others» (Evangelii Gaudium, 87)”. “Let us be careful – he warned - so that our crowded cities do not become ‘centres of loneliness’; that politics, called to provide for the needs of the most fragile, never forgets the elderly nor allows the market to banish them as ‘unprofitable waste’. May we not chase – he continued - after the utopias of efficiency and performance at full-speed, lest we become incapable of slowing down to accompany those who struggle to keep up”. In closing, the Holy Father urged everyone not to forget grandparents and the elderly: “For so often we have been lifted up, gotten back on track, felt loved and been healed within, all by a caress of theirs. They have made sacrifices for us, and we cannot let them drop down the list of our priorities”.


From age to age

At the end of the celebration, five elderly people - one from each continent - symbolically handed over the WYD Pilgrim's Cross to five young people leaving for Lisbon, representing the transmission of faith, tracing the theme of the Day for this edition: “His mercy from age to age” (Lk 1:50). This gesture symbolized the commitment that the elders and grandparents made at the Holy Father's invitation to pray for the departing young people and accompany them with their blessing. Later, for the Angelus prayer, Pope Francis spoke from the window of his study from the Apostolic Palace with Michele, a young man leaving for the WYD, and Cesira, an elderly woman and grandmother of two grandchildren, next to him, explaining: “while many young people are preparing to depart for World Youth Day, we celebrate the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly. May the proximity of the two Days be an invitation to promote an alliance between the generations, in the sharing of experiences and reciprocal care between the young and the elderly. Let us not forget them”. 



3rd World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly
26 July 2023
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