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Old Age Is a Time of Grace: Pope Francis Calls the World to Honor the Elderly

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By Deacon Keith A Fournier
10/3/2014 (4 years ago)
Catholic Online (https://www.catholic.org)

A powerful message was sent by a vibrant, seventy seven year old successor of the Apostle Peter who took the name Francis to signal his mission to rebuild the Church. Part of that mission is to affirm that the elderly are a treasury of wisdom and a gift of love and beauty for both the Church and the world.

This Pope, who coined the powerful phrase - Throwaway Culture- to challenge the instrumentalism of the age and offer in its place a recovery of authentic love, demonstrated the breadth of his Pro-Life vision in his actions and his words on Sunday. The honored guest at the Liturgical celebration was the beloved Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI. The obvious warmth, respect and brotherly affection between these two servants of the Lord was beautiful. It also uncovers the silliness which has infected some segments of the Catholic blogo-sphere which seek to claim that there is some animosity between them. Over fifty elderly priests, including the oldest priest of the Diocese of Rome, and elderly priests from the Democratic Republic of Congo, India and Argentina, bore witness to the powerful message sent on Sunday to thousands gathered in St Peters square from around the world.

More than 40,000 elderly men and women, including thousands of grandparents and grandmothers, attended this event. Prior to the Liturgy, an event entitled, The Blessing of a Long Life, featured powerful testimonies on aging and old age. Five passages from the Bible were used to demonstrate the dignity and contribution of the elderly throughout the history of God's plan of salvation.

More than 40,000 elderly men and women, including thousands of grandparents and grandmothers, attended this event. Prior to the Liturgy, an event entitled, The Blessing of a Long Life, featured powerful testimonies on aging and old age. Five passages from the Bible were used to demonstrate the dignity and contribution of the elderly throughout the history of God's plan of salvation.

VATICAN CITY (Catholic Online) - It was an absolutely beautiful sunny Sunday morning in Rome, September 28, 2014. Pope Francis presided over a beautiful liturgy in St Peters square specifically offered for grandparents and the elderly.

This Pope, who coined the powerful phrase "Throwaway Culture" to challenge the instrumentalism of the age and offer in its place a recovery of authentic love, demonstrated the breadth of his Pro-Life vision in his actions and his words on Sunday.

The honored guest at the Liturgical celebration was the beloved Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI. The obvious warmth, respect and brotherly affection between these two servants of the Lord was beautiful. It also uncovers the silliness which has infected some segments of the Catholic blogo-sphere which seek to claim that there is some animosity between them.

Over fifty elderly priests, including the oldest priest of the Diocese of Rome, and elderly priests from the Democratic Republic of Congo, India and Argentina, bore witness to the powerful message sent on Sunday to thousands gathered in St Peters square from around the world.

That powerful message was sent by a vibrant, seventy seven year old successor of the Apostle Peter who took the name Francis to signal his mission to rebuild the Church. Part of that mission is to affirm that the elderly are a treasury of wisdom and a gift of love and beauty for both the Church and the world.

More than 40,000 elderly men and women, including thousands of grandparents and grandmothers, attended this event. Prior to the Liturgy, an event entitled, The Blessing of a Long Life, featured powerful testimonies on aging and old age. Five passages from the Bible were used to demonstrate the dignity and contribution of the elderly throughout the history of God's plan of salvation.

They featured Sarah, Naomi, Ruth, and Eleazar from the Old Testament and Zechariah, Elizabeth, Simeon and Anna from the new. The emphasis was on God's love for the elderly and their significant contributions to His unfolding purposes. In addition, elderly refugees from Iraq and other places of persecution bore moving witness to the sanctity, perseverance and holiness of older men and women of deep Christian faith in this new missionary age of the Church.

Beautiful remarks on the vital role of grandparents in handing on the faith were made by Catherine Wiley, the founder of the Catholic Grandparents Association. In the remarks of Pope Francis he emphasized the effect of his own grandparents on his life, faith and vocation. He told the thousands assembled in the Square:

"Old age, in particular, is a time of grace in which the Lord will renew His call: He calls us to preserve and transmit the faith, calls us to pray, especially to intercede; calls us to be close to those who maybe in need."

Francis then went on to emphasize the inestimable worth of those, who are in the twilight of life. "A people that does not have care for [the elderly], that does not treat them well, has no future: such a people loses its memory and its roots."

We offer below the full text of the remarks of Pope Francis.

*****
Pope Francis Speaks to the Elderly and Grandparents

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

I thank you for coming in such large numbers! And thank you for your festive welcome. Today this is your celebration. It is our celebration! I thank His Excellency Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, President Pontifical Council For the Family and all those who have prepared this ceremony.

I listened to the testimonies of some of you and was struck by the common experiences of many seniors and grandparents. But one was different: that of the brethren from Erbil (i.e. is the largest city and capital of the Kurdistan region of Iraq). They escaped violent persecution in Iraq. To all of them we say together, "thank you" It is really special that you have come to be with us here. This is a gift to the Church.

In turn, we offer you our sympathy, our prayers and practical help. It is inhuman to abuse Elders just as it is inhuman to abuse children. But God will not abandon you. He  is with you! With God's help, you are and will continue to be the memory for your people; and also for us, the great family of the Church. Thank you!

These brethren here testify that even in the most difficult tests, the elderly who have faith are like trees that continue to bear fruit. And this is true even in the most ordinary of situations where, there may be other forms of temptations and other forms of discrimination. We have heard some such witnesses today.

Old age, in particular, is a time of grace, in which the Lord will renew his call: calls us to preserve and transmit the faith, calls us to pray, especially to intercede; calls us to be close to those who maybe in need. The elderly - grandparents [especially] - have a capacity to understand the most difficult situations: a great ability - and when they pray for these situations, their prayer is strong. It is powerful. 

To Grandparents, who have been blessed to see their children's children (cf. Ps 128.6), to them are entrusted an even greater task: to convey the experience of life, the story of a family, the story of a community or even of a people; to share with simplicity their wisdom and the same faith which is the most precious legacy! Blessed are those families who have grandparents nearby! The grandfather is in a way twice a father and the grandmother is twice a mother.

But it is not always the case that the elderly, the grandfather, grandmother has a family that can accommodate them or upon which they can count. So we welcome the houses for the elderly - so that they can truly be homes, not prisons! We hope that these homes will truly serve the interests of older persons and not the interests of someone else!

There must never be institutions where the elderly are forgotten, hidden or neglected. I feel close to the many elderly people who live in these institutions, and I think with gratitude of those who go to visit them and take care of them.

Homes for the elderly should be the "lungs" of humanity in a country, in a neighborhood, in a parish; "sanctuaries" of humanity where those who are old and weak are cared for and taken care of like a brother or a sister. It's good for you to go and visit senior citizens! Look at young people: sometimes seem miserable and sad: Go visit an elderly person and you will become joyful!

But there is also the reality of the abandonment of the elderly: how many times we discard older people with attitudes that are akin to a hidden form of euthanasia! The culture of discarding human beings hurts our world. We discard children, young people and older people under the pretense of maintaining a "balanced",  economic system the center of which is no longer the human person, but money. We are all called to counter this culture of poisonous waste!

We Christians, together with all people of good will, are called to patiently build a more diverse, more welcoming, more humane, more inclusive society, that does not need to discard the weak in body and mind. On the contrary we need a society which measures its success on how the weak are cared for.

As Christians and as citizens, we are called to envision, with imagination and wisdom, ways of dealing with this challenge. A people who do not take care for grandparents, does not treat them well has no future: such a people loses its memory and  its roots. But beware: you too have the responsibility to keep alive these roots in yourself with prayer, the reading of the Gospel and  the works of mercy. It is only is such a manner that we will remain as living trees, that even in old age will not stop bearing fruit.

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Deacon Keith Fournier is Founder and Chairman of Common Good Foundation and Common Good Alliance. A married Roman Catholic Deacon of the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia, he and his wife Laurine have five grown children and six grandchildren, He serves as the Director of Adult Faith Formation at St. Stephen, Martyr Parish in Chesapeake, VA. He is also a human rights lawyer and public policy advocate.

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