Sunday, July 26, is the first World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly. It was established by Pope Francis, who is 84, to remind the elderly in our families, our parishes and our communities that the Church is always with them.
“The whole Church is close to you – to us – and cares about you, loves you and does not want to leave you alone!” he wrote in his message for the day.
Caring for and respecting the elderly, as well as highlighting their importance and gifts, have been recurring themes throughout Pope Francis’ papacy. All too often, the elderly can be forgotten and marginalized, but the pope reminds us that the faithful are called to reach out to the seniors in their lives along with all members of the human family.
That may never have been more important than during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, when the elderly were the most susceptible to the coronavirus and most at risk of becoming seriously ill and of dying. Although it was for their protection, so many found themselves alone and isolated from their loved ones. Families were forced to communicate through panes of glass and over the internet.
“The Lord is aware of all that we have been through in this time,” the pope said. “He is close to those who felt isolated and alone, feelings that became more acute during the pandemic.”
The Lord sends angels to console people in their loneliness and to remind them God is always with us, the pope said.
We are those angels. It is up to us to carry God’s message to our grandparents and the elderly that the Lord is with us always. Let us make the effort and take the time to see those hidden in the shadows, to reach out to our grandparents, to show them the same love that they have showered upon us during our lives.
The family is often called the domestic church. It is where we learn the faith and we learn that living our faith can send ripples of grace and love through the lives of all whom we encounter. As we send out those ripples, don’t forget to direct them to our grandparents and all the elderly.