February 12, 2021

Editorial

Day will serve as a reminder of gifts of grandparents, elderly

They are the family members who help write our history, nurture seeds of faith, and love us unconditionally.

They are our grandparents and, in some cases, our elderly parents.

Sadly, many of them are isolated and feel threatened because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

No age group has been hit harder and more adversely affected by the pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that eight out of 10 COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. have been in adults 65 years old and older.

Some grandparents and elderly family members have hunkered down at home, only leaving when it is absolutely necessary. Others are in independent living, assisted-living facilities and nursing homes, where visitors coming inside those places of residence are severely restricted. “Window visits”—where a family member or friend stands outside their window and communicates—are the new normal, as are phone calls, FaceTime and other forms of communication.

On more than one occasion, Pope Francis has reminded us of the important role that grandparents and the elderly play, serving as a link between generations.

So we should all be grateful our Holy Father recently announced the establishment of a World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly.

During his Sunday Angelus address on Jan. 31, the pope said the day will be celebrated every year on the fourth Sunday of July, which is the Sunday closest to the July 26 memorial of Sts. Joachim and Anne, Jesus’ grandparents. The first celebration of this day will be on July 25, when Pope Francis will mark the first World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly with an evening Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican.

“It is important for grandparents to meet their grandchildren and for grandchildren to meet their grandparents because—as the prophet Joel says—grandparents, before their grandchildren, will dream and have great desires, and young people—taking strength from their grandparents—will go forward and prophesy,” he said.

Offering a reflection on the annual Feb. 2 feast of the Presentation of the Lord, the pope said the recognition of Christ as the Messiah by the elderly Simeon and Anna is a reminder that “the Holy Spirit still stirs up thoughts and words of wisdom in the elderly today.

“Their voice is precious because it sings the praises of God and safeguards the roots of peoples,” he said. “They remind us that old age is a gift and that grandparents are the link between generations, passing on the experience of life and faith to the young.

“Grandparents are often forgotten, and we forget this wealth of preserving roots and passing on,” he added.

While the worldwide coronavirus pandemic has brought challenges to nearly every corner of the globe, we believe it has also presented an opportunity to bring families closer together. But we must also make sure there are no forgotten ones, especially the elderly members of our communities, who—now as much as ever—need to know they are remembered and loved.

In a statement published shortly after the pope’s announcement, Cardinal Kevin J. Farrell, prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life, said the yearly event was “a gift to the whole Church” that emphasizes the pastoral care of the elderly as “a priority that can no longer be postponed by any Christian community.”

We pray we use this annual celebration each July to remind our grandparents and the elderly what a gift they are to us, and how we will each do our best, God willing, to continue the spiritual legacy many are creating in passing down our faith from generation to generation.

—Mike Krokos

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