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Grandparents and the Elderly

1st Catechesis by Pope Francis on the Family
General Audience, Wednesday 4 March 2015 - in Arabic, English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good Morning,
Today’s catechesis and next Wednesday’s will be dedicated to the elderly, who in the family are the grandparents, aunts and uncles. Today we will reflect on the current problematic condition of the elderly, and next time, that is, next Wednesday, on a more positive note, on the vocation pertaining to this stage of life.

Thanks to the progress of medicine life-spans have increased: but society has not “expanded” to life! The number of elderly has multiplied, but our societies are not organized well enough to make room for them, with proper respect and practical consideration for their frailty and their dignity. While we are young, we are led to ignore old age, as if it were a disease to keep away from; then when we become old, especially if we are poor, if we are sick and alone, we experience the shortcomings of a society programmed for efficiency, which consequently ignores its elderly. And the elderly are a wealth not to be ignored.

Benedict XVI, visiting a home for the elderly, used clear and prophetic words, saying in this way: “The quality of a society, I mean of a civilization, is also judged by how it treats elderly people and by the place it gives them in community life” (12 November 2012). It’s true, attention to the elderly makes the difference in a civilization. Is there attention to the elderly in a civilization? Is there room for the elderly? This civilization will move forward if it knows how to respect wisdom, the wisdom of the elderly. In a civilization in which there is no room for the elderly or where they are thrown away because they create problems, this society carries with it the virus of death.

In the West, scientists present the current century as the aging century: children are diminishing, the elderly are increasing. This imbalance challenges us, indeed, it is a great challenge for contemporary society. Yet a culture of profit insists on casting off the old like a “weight”. Not only do they not produce — this culture thinks — but they are a burden: in short, what is the outcome of thinking like this? They are thrown away. It’s brutal to see how the elderly are thrown away, it is a brutal thing, it is a sin! No one dares to say it openly, but it’s done! There is something vile in this adherence to the throw-away culture. But we are accustomed to throwing people away. We want to remove our growing fear of weakness and vulnerability; but by doing so we increase in the elderly the anxiety of being poorly tolerated and neglected.

During my ministry in Buenos Aires I was in direct contact with this reality and its problems: “The elderly are abandoned, and not only in material instability. They are abandoned out of a selfish incapacity to accept their limitations that reflect our own limitations, because of the numerous difficulties that must be overcome in order to survive in a society that does not allow them to participate, to have their say, or be referents in the consumer model of ‘only the young can be useful and enjoy’. These elderly persons throughout society ought to be a reservoir of wisdom for our people. The elderly are the reservoir of wisdom for our people! How easily the conscience falls dormant when there is no love!” (Solo l’amore ci può salvare, Vatican City, 2013, p. 83).

And it happens like that. I remember, when I was visiting a retirement home, I spoke with each person and I frequently heard this: “How are you? And your children? Well, well. How many do you have? Many. And do they come to visit you?. Oh sure, yes, always, yes, they come. When was the last time they came?” I remember an elderly woman who said to me: “Mmm, for Christmas”. It was August! Eight months without being visited by her children, abandoned for eight months! This is called mortal sin, understand? Once as a child, a grandmother told us the story of an old grandfather who got dirty while eating because he couldn't easily bring the spoonful of soup to his mouth. And his son, that is, the father of the family, had decided to move him from the dinner table and set up a little table in the kitchen to eat alone, so he couldn’t be seen. In this way he wouldn’t make a bad impression when friends came over to lunch or dinner. A few days later, he came home and found his youngest child playing with some wood and a hammer and nails, he was making something there, he said: “What are you making? — I’m making a table, papa. — A table, why? — To have one for when you grow old, so that you can eat there”. Children are more aware than we are!

In the tradition of the Church there is a wealth of wisdom that has always supported a culture of closeness to the elderly, a disposition of warm and supportive companionship in this final phase of life. This tradition is rooted in Sacred Scripture, as these passages from the Book of Sirach attest: “Do not disregard the discourse of the aged, for they themselves learned from their fathers; because from them you will gain understanding and learn how to give an answer in time of need” (Sir 8:9).

The Church cannot and does not want to conform to a mentality of impatience, and much less of indifference and contempt, towards old age. We must reawaken the collective sense of gratitude, of appreciation, of hospitality, which makes the elder feel like a living part of his community.

Our elders are men and women, fathers and mothers, who came before us on our own road, in our own house, in our daily battle for a worthy life. They are men and women from whom we have received so much. The elder is not an alien. We are that elder: in the near or far future, but inevitably, even if we don’t think it. And if we don’t learn how to treat the elder better, that is how we will be treated.

We old people are all a little fragile. Some, however, are particularly weak, many are alone, and stricken by illness. Some depend on the indispensable care and attention of others. Are we going to take a step back? Abandon them to their fate? A society without proximity, where gratuity and affection without compensation— between strangers as well — is disappearing, is a perverse society. The Church, faithful to the Word of God, cannot tolerate such degeneration. A Christian community in which proximity and gratuity are no longer considered indispensable is a society which would lose her soul. Where there is no honour for elders, there is no future for the young."

"Je salue cordialement les pèlerins de langue française, en particulier les prêtres Chaldéens d’Europe, accompagnés de Monseigneur Ramsi Garmou, et les groupes de jeunes venus nombreux.
Je vous invite tous à vous faire proche des personnes âgées qui vous entourent et de leur faire sentir votre affection, votre estime et votre reconnaissance. Sachez profiter de leur expérience et de leur sagesse.
Bon pèlerinage.

I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, including those from Great Britain, Austria, Denmark, Sweden, Japan, Korea and the United States of America. Upon you and your families I cordially invoke joy and peace in the Lord Jesus. God bless you all!

Mit Freude grüße ich die Pilger und Besucher aus den Ländern deutscher Sprache. Insbesondere heiße ich die verschiedenen Schulgruppen und die Arbeitsgemeinschaft Katholischer Hochschulgemeinden in Deutschland willkommen. Eure Pilgerfahrt nach Rom stärke euch im Glauben und lasse euch die Gemeinschaft der weltweiten Kirche erfahren. Der Heilige Geist schenke euch seine Weisheit und seine Freude.

Saludo a los peregrinos de lengua española venidos de España, México, Venezuela, Argentina y otros países latinoamericanos. Queridos hermanos, recordemos hoy a los ancianos especialmente a los que están más necesitados, que viven solos, que están enfermos, dependientes de los demás. Que puedan sentir la ternura del Padre a través de la amabilidad y delicadeza de todos. Muchas gracias.

Com grande afecto, saúdo os peregrinos de língua portuguesa, com votos de que possais vós todos dar-vos sempre conta do dom maravilhoso que é a vida. Vele sobre o vosso caminho a Virgem Maria e vos ajude a ser sinal de confiança e esperança no meio dos vossos irmãos. Sobre vós e vossas famílias desça a Bênção de Deus.

أُرحّبُ بالحجّاجِ الناطقينَ باللغةِ العربية، وخاصةً بالقادمينَ منالشرق الأوسط. أيُّها الإخوةُ والأخواتُ الأعزّاء، لنحترم مُسنّينا، إنَّهم ذاكرتنا وحكمتنا. ليُبارككُم الرب!

Serdeczne pozdrowienie kieruję do pielgrzymów z Polski. Św. Jan Paweł II zauważył, że „tak zwany trzeci lub czwarty wiek jest często lekceważony, a sami ludzie starsi muszą zadawać sobie pytanie, czy ich życie jest jeszcze użyteczne”, (…) podczas gdy „chrześcijańska wspólnota może wiele skorzystać dzięki obecności osób w podeszłym wieku. (…) „Starsi umiejący dodać otuchy przez życzliwąradę, milczącą modlitwę, świadectwo cierpienia znoszonego z wytrwałą ufnością (…) stają się szczególnie cennymi narzędziami tajemnych zamysłów Opatrzności” (por. List do osób w podeszłym wieku). Dziękujmy Panu za naszych dziadków i prośmy o szczególne dla nich błogosławieństwo. Niech będzie pochwalony Jezus Chrystus!

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Rivolgo un cordiale benvenuto ai pellegrini di lingua italiana. Saluto i docenti e gli studenti della Pontificia Università Salesiana che ricordano il bicentenario della nascita di San Giovanni Bosco; i diaconi della Arcidiocesi di Milano e i numerosi soci del Rotary Club. Saluto i fedeli di Anzio, che celebrano l’anno dedicato a Papa Innocenzo XII; l’AIDO di Vigevano nel 40° di fondazione, e i disabili di Mondovì accompagnati dal Vescovo Mons. Luciano Pacomio.

Cari amici, il nostro tempo, segnato da tante ombre, sia sempre illuminato dal sole della speranza, che è Cristo. Egli ha promesso di restare sempre con noi e in molti modi manifesta la sua presenza. A noi il compito di annunciare e testimoniare il suo amore che ci accompagna in ogni situazione. Non stancatevi, pertanto, di affidarvi a Cristo e di diffondere il suo Vangelo in ogni ambiente.

Saluto i giovani, gli ammalati e gli sposi novelli. Cari giovani, il cammino quaresimale che stiamo percorrendo sia occasione di autentica conversione perché possiate giungere alla maturità della fede in Cristo. Cari ammalati, partecipando con amore alla stessa sofferenza del Figlio di Dio incarnato, possiate condividere fin d’ora la gioia della sua risurrezione. E voi, cari sposi novelli, trovate nell’alleanza che, a prezzo del suo sangue, Cristo ha stretto con la sua Chiesa, la base del vostro patto coniugale."

© Copyright - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

7) The Grandparents

Catechesis by Pope Francis on the Family
General Audience, Wednesday 11 March 2015 - in Arabic, English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning,
In today’s catechesis we continue our reflection on grandparents, considering the value and importance of their role in the family. I do so by placing myself in their shoes, because I too belong to this age group.

When I was in the Philippines, the Filipino people greeted me saying “Lolo Kiko” — meaning Grandpa Francis — “Lolo Kiko”, they said! The first important thing to stress: it is true that society tends to discard us, but the Lord definitely does not! The Lord never discards us. He calls us to follow Him in every age of life, and old age has a grace and a mission too, a true vocation from the Lord. Old age is a vocation. It is not yet time to “pull in the oars”. This period of life is different from those before, there is no doubt; we even have to somewhat “invent it ourselves”, because our societies are not ready, spiritually and morally, to appreciate the true value of this stage of life. Indeed, it once was not so normal to have time available; it is much more so today. Christian spirituality has also been caught somewhat by surprise, with regard to outlining a kind of spirituality of the elderly. But thanks be to God there is no shortage of the testimony of elderly saints, both men and women!

I was really moved by the “Day dedicated to the elderly” that we had here in St Peter’s Square last year, the Square was full. I listened to the stories of elderly people who devote themselves to others, and to stories of married couples, who said: “We are celebrating our 50th wedding anniversary, we are celebrating our 60th wedding anniversary”. It is important to present this to young people who tire so easily; the testimony of the elderly in fidelity is important. There were so many in this Square that day. It is a reflection to continue, in both the ecclesial and civil spheres. The Gospel comes to meet us with a really moving and encouraging image. It is the image of Simeon and Anna, whom are spoken of in the Gospel of Jesus’ childhood, composed by St Luke. There were certainly elderly, the “old man”, Simeon, and the “prophetess”, Anna, who was 84 years old. This woman did not hide her age. The Gospel says that they awaited the coming of God every day, with great trust, for many years. They truly wanted to see Him that day, to grasp the signs, to understand the origin. By then, they were also perhaps more resigned to die first: that long wait, however, continued to occupy their whole life, having no commitments more important than this: to await the Lord and pray. So, when Mary and Joseph went to the temple to fulfil the provisions of the Law, Simeon and Anna moved quickly, inspired by the Holy Spirit (cf. Lk 2:27). The burden of age and waiting disappeared in an instant. They recognized the Child, and discovered new strength, for a new task: to give thanks for and bear witness to this Sign from God. Simeon improvised a beautiful hymn of jubilation (cf. Lk 2:29-32) — in that moment he was a poet — and Anna became the first woman to preach of Jesus: she “spoke of him to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem” (Lk 2:38).

Dear grandparents, dear elderly, let us follow in the footsteps of these extraordinary elders! Let us too become like poets of prayer: let us develop a taste for finding our own words, let us once again grasp those which teach us the Word of God. The prayer of grandparents and of the elderly is a great gift for the Church! The prayer of grandparents and of the elderly is a great gift for the Church, it is a treasure! A great injection of wisdom for the whole of human society: above all for one which is too busy, too taken, too distracted. Someone should also sing, for them too, sing of the signs of God, proclaim the signs of God, pray for them! Let us look to Benedict XVI, who chose to spend the final span of his life in prayer and listening to God! This is beautiful! A great believer of the last century, of the Orthodox tradition, Olivier Clément, said: “A civilization which has no place for prayer is a civilization in which old age has lost all meaning. And this is terrifying. For, above all, we need old people who pray; prayer is the purpose of old age”. We need old people who pray because this is the very purpose of old age. The prayer of the elderly is a beautiful thing.

We are able to thank the Lord for the benefits received, and fill the emptiness of ingratitude that surrounds us. We are able to intercede for the expectations of younger generations and give dignity to the memory and sacrifices of past generations. We are able to remind ambitious young people that a life without love is a barren life. We are able say to young people who are afraid that anxiety about the future can be overcome. We are able to teach the young who are overly self-absorbed that there is more joy in giving than in receiving. Grandfathers and grandmothers form the enduring “chorus” of a great spiritual sanctuary, where prayers of supplication and songs of praise sustain the community which toils and struggles in the field of life.

Last, Prayer unceasingly purifies the heart. Praise and supplication to God prevents the heart from becoming hardened by resentment and selfishness. How awful is the cynicism of an elderly person who has lost the meaning of his testimony, who scorns the young and does not communicate the wisdom of life! How beautiful, however, is the encouragement an elderly person manages to pass on to a young person who is seeking the meaning of faith and of life! It is truly the mission of grandparents, the vocation of the elderly. The words of grandparents have special value for the young. And the young know it. I still carry with me, always, in my breviary, the words my grandmother consigned to me in writing on the day of my priestly ordination. I read them often and they do me good.

How I would like a Church that challenges the throw-away culture with the overflowing joy of a new embrace between young and old! This is what I ask of the Lord today, this embrace!"

"I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, including those from Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Canada and the United States of America. I offer a special greeting to the pilgrims from Korea, with vivid memories of my Visit to their country last August. Upon all of you, and your families, I invoke an abundance of joy and peace in the Lord Jesus. God bless you all!

Je salue les pèlerins de langue française, en particulier les membres de l’enseignement catholique du diocèse de Nanterre.
J’invite vos familles à accueillir avec reconnaissance au milieu d’elles les personnes âgées, afin de recevoir leur témoignage de sagesse nécessaire aux jeunes générations.
Que Dieu vous bénisse.

Mit Freude heiße ich die Gläubigen deutscher Sprache willkommen, besonders die Gruppe der Arbeitsgemeinschaft katholischer Studentenverbände. Liebe Freunde, suchen wir gemeinsam die Kultur des Wegwerfens mit der überfließenden Freude zu überwinden, die entsteht, wenn sich Junge und Alte näherkommen. Gott segne euch.

Saludo a los peregrinos de lengua española venidos de España, Puerto Rico, Argentina, México y otros países latinoamericanos. Queridos hermanos, cuánto me gustaría que la Iglesia pudiera superar la cultura del descarte, promoviendo el reencuentro gozoso y la acogida mutua de las distintas generaciones. Recemos todos por esta intención. Gracias.

Queridos peregrinos de língua portuguesa: sede bem-vindos! Faço votos de que as comunidades cristãs ofereçam ao mundo um testemunho de respeito e veneração pelos idosos, conscientes de que eles podem transmitir de um modo privilegiado o sentido da fé e da vida! Obrigado pela vossa presença!

أُرحّبُ بالحجّاجِ الناطقينَ باللغةِ العربية، وخاصةً بالقادمينَ من الشّرق الأوسط. أيّها الإخوةُ والأخواتُ الأعزّاء، الشيخوخةُ تحتوي نعمةً ورسالةً، دعوة حقيقيّة من الربّ. إنّ الأجدادَ والجدّات يشكّلون "الجوقة" الدائمة لمزارٍ روحيٍّ كبير، حيث يعضدُ نشيدُ التّسبيحِ وصلاةُ التضرّعِ الجماعةَ التي تعملُ وتناضلُ في حقلِ الحياة. ليبارككُم الرب!

Witam serdecznie pielgrzymów polskich, a szczególnie nauczycieli i uczniów II Liceum Ogólnokształcącego ze Starachowic. Przybyliście tutaj, by modlić się przy grobie świętego Jana Pawła II w dziesiątą rocznicę jego śmierci. Zachowujcie w pamięci jego nauczanie, bądźcie wierni Bogu i Ojczyźnie. W duchu dzisiejszej katechezy życzę wszystkim tu obecnym, byście dochowali wierności tradycji Ojców, znajdując radość w serdecznej relacji osób młodych i starszych. Niech będzie pochwalony Jezus Chrystus.

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Rivolgo un cordiale benvenuto ai pellegrini di lingua italiana. Saluto la Congregazione dello Spirito Santo, le Figlie di San Paolo e i giovani del Movimento dei Focolari. Saluto i gruppi parrocchiali, l’Osservatorio permanente dei giovani editori e le scolaresche. Invito tutti, soprattutto in questo tempo favorevole della Quaresima, ad impegnarsi nella costruzione di una società a misura d’uomo in cui ci sia spazio per l’accoglienza di ciascuno, soprattutto quando è anziano, ammalato, povero e fragile.

Un pensiero speciale porgo ai giovani, agli ammalati e agli sposi novelli. In questo mese ricordiamo il quinto centenario della nascita ad Ávila di Santa Teresa di Gesù. Il suo vigore spirituale stimoli voi, cari giovani, a testimoniare con gioia la fede nella vostra vita; la sua fiducia in Cristo Salvatore sostenga voi, cari ammalati, nei momenti di maggiore sconforto; e il suo instancabile apostolato inviti voi, cari sposi novelli, a mettere al centro Cristo nella vostra casa coniugale."

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