Pope Francis has announced the establishment of an international day to honor grandparents and the elderly to take place each year in July. The inaugural celebration is July 25.
“The Holy Spirit … arouses thoughts and words of wisdom in the elderly today: their voice is precious because it sings the praises of God and guards the roots of peoples. They remind us that old age is a gift and that grandparents are the link between generations, to transmit to young people an experience of life and faith,” Pope Francis said of the observation.
“Grandparents are often forgotten and we forget this wealth of preserving and passing on the roots. For this reason, I have decided to establish the World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly,” the pope said.
The World Day for the Grandparents and the Elderly will take place annually on the fourth Sunday of July, close to the feast of the grandparents of Jesus, Saints Joachim and Anne.
Pope Francis will offer a special Mass to mark the occasion, according to the Vatican Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life.
Grandparents can play a pivotal role in ensuring that the faith is passed on to their grandchildren in secularized societies, Pope Francis said earlier this year at a Vatican conference on pastoral care for the elderly.
“God has a large population of grandparents throughout the world … They are the indispensable link in educating children and young people in the faith,” he said.
“Nowadays, in secularized societies in many countries, current generations of parents do not have, for the most part, the Christian formation and living faith that grandparents can pass on to their grandchildren,” Pope Francis said.
“The elderly person, even when he is weak, can become an instrument of salvation history,” he said. “They are not only people whom we are called to assist and protect to guard their lives, but they can be actors in a pastoral evangelizing ministry, privileged witnesses of God’s faithful love.”
The global population of people over the age of 80 is projected to triple by 2050, according to the United Nations. Today’s global population aged 60 years or over is more than double what it was in 1980.
“In the twenty-first century, old age has become one of the distinctive features of humanity. Over a period of just a few decades, the demographic pyramid – which once rested upon a large number of children and young people and had at the top just a few elderly people – has been inverted,” the pope said.
He noted that as governments learn how to deal with demographic changes, the Church can contribute to civil society by sharing the dignity and meaning of old age.
PRAYER FOR THE FIRST WORLD DAY FOR GRANDPARENTS AND THE ELDERLY
I thank You, Lord,
for the comfort of Your presence:
even in times of loneliness,
You are my hope and my confidence,
You have been my rock and my fortress since my youth!
I thank You for having given me a family
and for having blessed me with a long life.
I thank You for moments of joy and difficulty,
for the dreams that have already come true in my life and for
those that are still ahead of me.
I thank You for this time of renewed fruitfulness to which You call me.
Increase, O Lord, my faith,
make me a channel of your peace,
teach me to embrace those who suffer more than me,
to never stop dreaming
and to tell of your wonders to new generations.
Protect and guide Pope Francis and the Church,
that the light of the Gospel might reach the ends of the earth.
Send Your Spirit, O Lord, to renew the world,
that the storm of the pandemic might be calmed,
the poor consoled and wars ended.
Sustain me in weakness
and help me to live life to the full
in each moment that You give me,
in the certainty that you are with me every day,
even until the end of the age.
“The indifference and rejection that our societies manifest towards the elderly demand not only of the Church, but of all of us, a serious reflection to learn to grasp and to appreciate the value of old age,” the pope said.
“We need to change our pastoral habits in order to respond to the presence of so many older people in families and communities,” he added.
“Different seasons of life correspond to old age: for many, it is the age in which productive efforts cease, strength declines and the signs of illness, the need for help, and social isolation appear; but for many it is the beginning of a long period of psycho-physical well-being and freedom from work commitments,” Pope Francis said.
“In the Bible, longevity is a blessing. It confronts us with our fragility, with our mutual dependence, with our family and community ties, and above all with our divine sonship. Granting old age, God the Father gives us time to deepen our knowledge of Him, our intimacy with Him, to enter ever more into His heart and surrender ourselves to Him,” he said. “This is the time to prepare to deliver our spirit into His hands, definitively, with childlike trust.”
“Life is a gift, and when it is long it is a privilege, for oneself and for others,” Pope Francis said.
Catholic News Agency