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A Revolution of Tenderness

A revolution of tenderness

In Pope Francis’ Message for the 2nd World Day of Prayer for Grandparents and Elderly on 24th July 2022, Pope Francis encourages the elderly to persevere in hope and reminds them of their great power to transform the world through prayer and tenderness.

The World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly is an opportunity to proclaim once more, with joy, that the Church wants to celebrate together with all those whom the Lord – in the words of the Bible – has “filled with days”.

Let us celebrate it together! I ask you to make this Day known in your parishes and communities; to seek out those elderly persons who feel most alone, at home or in residences where they live. Let us make sure that no one feels alone on this day.

Expecting a visit can transform those days when we think we have nothing to look forward to; from an initial encounter, a new friendship can emerge. Visiting the elderly who live alone is a work of mercy in our time!

“In old age they will still bear fruit” (Psalm 92:15)

Pope Francis says aging is not a condemnation, but a blessing, and that even if society or your own frailties may tempt you to think otherwise, you are invaluable and God wants you to persevere in hope!

These words of the Psalmist are glad tidings, a true “gospel” as they run counter to what the world thinks about this stage of life, but also to the attitude of grim resignation shown by some of us elderly people, who harbour few expectations for the future.

Many people are afraid of old age. They consider it a sort of disease with which any contact is best avoided. The elderly, they think, are none of their concern and should be set apart, perhaps in homes or places where they can be cared for, lest we have to deal with their problems. This is the mindset of the “throw-away culture”, which leads us to think that we are somehow different from the poor and vulnerable in our midst, untouched by their frailties and separated from “them” and their troubles.

The Scriptures see things differently. A long life – so the Bible teaches – is a blessing, and the elderly are not outcasts to be shunned but living signs of the goodness of God who bestows life in abundance.

Blessed is the house where an older person lives! Blessed is the family that honours the elderly!

 The fast pace of the world – with which we struggle to keep up – seems to leave us no alternative but to implicitly accept the idea that we are useless. We can resonate with the heartfelt prayer of the Psalmist: “Do not cast me off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength is spent” (71:9).

Prayer and tenderness

Yet that same psalm – which meditates on how the Lord has been present at every stage of our lives – urges us to persevere in hope. Along with old age and white hairs, God continues to give us the gift of life and to keep us from being overcome by evil. If we trust in him, we will find the strength to praise him still (cf. vv. 14-20). We will come to see that growing old is more than the natural decline of the body or the inevitable passage of time, but the gift of a long life. Aging is not a condemnation, but a blessing!

For this reason, we ought to take care of ourselves and remain active in our later years. This is also true from a spiritual standpoint: we ought to cultivate our interior life through the assiduous reading of the word of God, daily prayer, reception of the sacraments and participation in the liturgy.

In addition to our relationship with God, we should also cultivate our relationships with others: first of all by showing affectionate concern for our families, our children and grandchildren, but also for the poor and those who suffer, by drawing near to them with practical assistance and our prayers. These things will help us not to feel like mere bystanders, sitting on our porches or looking out from our windows, as life goes on all around us. Instead, we should learn to discern everywhere the presence of the Lord. [2] Like “green olive trees in the house of God” (cf. Ps 52:10), we can become a blessing for those who live next to us.

We grandparents and elderly people have a great responsibility: to teach the women and men of our time to regard others with the same understanding and loving gaze with which we regard our own grandchildren. We ourselves have grown in humanity by caring for others, and now we can be teachers of a way of life that is peaceful and attentive to those in greatest need. This attitude may be mistaken for weakness or resignation, yet it will be the meek, not the aggressive and the abusive, who will inherit the earth (cf. Mt 5:5).

Many of us have come to a sage and humble realization of what our world very much needs: the recognition that we are not saved alone, and that happiness is a bread we break together. Let us bear witness to this before those who wrongly think that they can find personal fulfilment and success in conflict. Everyone, even the weakest among us, can do this. The very fact that we allow ourselves to be cared for – often by people who come from other countries – is itself a way of saying that living together in peace is not only possible, but necessary.

Dear grandparents, dear elderly persons, we are called to be artisans of the revolution of tenderness in our world! 

Our trustful prayer can do a great deal: it can accompany the cry of pain of those who suffer, and it can help change hearts. We can be “the enduring ‘chorus’ of a great spiritual sanctuary, where prayers of supplication and songs of praise sustain the community that toils and struggles in the field of life”. [7]

Pope Francis concludes his Message by writing: “To all of you, and to your loved ones, I send my blessing and the assurance of my closeness and affection. And I ask you, please, not to forget to pray for me”!

(Pope Francis, Rome, Saint John Lateran, 3 May 2022, Feast of the Apostles Philip and James).

Let Us Pray …

Our Lady, Mother of Tender Love,
make all of us artisans of the revolution of tenderness,
so that together we can set the world free
from the spectre of loneliness and the demon of war.

Amen

You can read the full text of the Message from Pope Francis for the 2nd World Day of Prayer for Grandparents and Elderly on 24th July 2022  20220503-messaggio-nonni-anziani

See also A beautiful bridge – Presentation Sisters Union North East Ireland (presentationsistersne.ie)

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