July 30, 2021

Editorial

Now is the time for us to cherish and protect grandparents and the elderly

“Grandparents and the elderly are not leftovers from life, scraps to be discarded. They are precious pieces of bread left on the table of life that can still nourish us with a fragrance that we have lost, ‘the fragrance of memory.’ ”
— Archbishop Rino Fisichella reading the homily Pope Francis wrote for the July 25 Mass marking the first World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly.

For many families, grandparents are a treasure house of memories.

Open the door to their past, and you can unpack the history of your family going back years, decades and even in some cases, generations.

Sadly, some of us have lost connections to our elders and their wisdom because of broken relationships, health challenges, physical distance and death.

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to more than 6 million deaths across the globe, many of them members of the elderly population.

While many have been left reeling seeing loved ones succumb to the

illness, a part of a family’s history dies with the loss of an elderly loved one as well.

In marking the first World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly, Pope Francis implored us to remember this population includes treasured members of society who build our families with their love and share important gifts with us.

“Despite lives of hard work and sacrifice, they were never too busy for us, or indifferent to us. They looked at us with care and tender love,” the pope said in his July 25 homily read during a liturgy by Archbishop Rino Fisichella. “When we were growing up and felt

misunderstood or fearful about life’s challenges, they kept an eye on us; they knew what we were feeling, our hidden tears and secret dreams. They held us in their arms and sat us on their knees. That love helped us grow into adulthood.”

Archbishop Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization, presided over the Mass marking the first World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly at

St. Peter’s Basilica in place of the pope, who is still recovering from the colon surgery he had on July 4.

In his homily, the pope challenged us to do our part to build relationships with our grandparents and the elderly.

“When was the last time we visited or telephoned an elderly person in order to show our closeness and to benefit from what they have to tell us?” he asked. “I worry when I see a society full of people in constant motion, too caught up in their own affairs to have time for a glance, a greeting or a hug. I worry about a society where individuals are simply part of a nameless crowd, where we can no longer look up and recognize one another. Our grandparents, who nourished our own lives, now hunger for our attention and our love; they long for our closeness. Let us lift up our eyes and see them, even as Jesus sees us.”

Seeing others as Jesus sees us. It is a mandate in our call as missionary disciples. And although many of us are not medical professionals, we could offer a remedy of being present to those who are aging in our communities—be they our grandparents, elderly neighbors and friends, or the residents of nearby nursing homes or assisted living facilities who are alone and have no one.

“Let us not lose the memory preserved by the elderly, for we are children of that history, and without roots, we will wither,” Pope Francis wrote. “They protected us as we grew, and now it is up to us to protect their lives, to alleviate their difficulties, to attend to their needs and to ensure that they are helped in daily life and not feel alone.”

As we have learned, many of the elderly who lost their lives as a result of COVID died alone. Simply put, that is heartbreaking.

“Brothers and sisters, grandparents and the elderly are bread that nourishes our life. … Please, let us not forget about them. Let us covenant with them. Let us learn to approach them, listen to them and never discard them,” the pope wrote. “Let us cherish them and spend time with them. We will be the better for it. And, together, young and old alike, we will find fulfillment at [a] table of sharing, blessed by God.”

Leftovers and scraps to be discarded? May the wake-up call the Holy Father is giving us help us understand we can never view our grandparents and the elderly in that way, and let us always remember the nourishment they provide for humanity.

—Mike Krokos

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