Sunday, 23 July, marks the Third World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly. The theme chosen for this year is “His mercy is from age to age,” recalling a passage from Luke’s Gospel.
Ahead of the celebration, the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life has released a statement reminding the faithful that Mass will be presided over by Pope Francis at 10 a.m. local time inside St. Peter’s Basilica, and it will see the participation of over 6,000 people, including “many elderly people from all over Italy.” Specifically, “grandparents accompanied by their grandchildren and families, elderly residents living in retirement and residential nursing homes, as well as many elderly people who are active in parish, diocesan and associational life.”
At the end of the celebration, five elderly people – one representative from each continent – “will symbolically hand over the World Youth Day Pilgrim’s Cross to five young people leaving for Lisbon.”
The gesture symbolises the “transmission of faith from age to age” but also “the commitment that the elderly and grandparents have accepted, at the invitation of the Holy Father, to pray for the departing youth and accompany them with their blessing.”
In the statement, the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life indicated two ways to celebrate the event in every diocese of the world: with a Mass dedicated to grandparents and the elderly or with a visit to those who are alone. “A Plenary indulgence,” according to the statement, “is granted to those who perform these deeds.”
From age to age
The theme was chosen to be in tune with that of World Youth Day in Lisbon: Mary arose and went with haste, taken from Luke’s Gospel. The short passage “His mercy from age to age” is taken from Luke’s Gospel and is the end of the first part of the Magnificat, when Mary immediately goes to meet her elderly cousin Elizabeth after the Angel’s annunciation. It is a theme that highlights the importance of dialogue between generations, which is fundamental for perceiving and contemplating God’s merciful action on behalf of human beings.
Since the beginning of his pontificate, Pope Francis has insisted on overcoming the “throwaway culture” and embarking on a culture of relationships. Today we live in a society where the elderly are not at the centre. IN these days we are prompted to ask ourselves some soul-searching questions:
“What do we do for the elderly? How do we take care of them? Do our elderly feel lonely? Do they truly have dignity?”
This Day also serves to introduce into our hearts the desire to think and look for solutions for giving greater dignity to our grandparents.
The Holy Father insists and invites all dioceses to concretely organise the pastoral care of the elderly, where they are the protagonists. A starting point is that every diocese, every parish and church community can celebrate Grandparents’ Day by rejoicing, thus making it the right time to thank grandparents for all they have done and still do for the Church and society. Then it is also an excellent opportunity to initiate pastoral reflection about them, for them and with them. That of the elderly is not just an issue that concerns the Church; the elderly also need political support.
Pope Francis has said many times in his speeches that it is necessary to create public policies in favour of the elderly. Immediate needs include pension plans, which can be improved, access to free or lower-priced medication, physical support, and time to spend together. There are many resources that can be created to give the elderly some dignity.
Mary & Elizabeth meet
In the meeting between Mary and Elizabeth, between young and old, God points us towards the future that he is opening up before us. Indeed, Mary’s visit and Elizabeth’s greeting open our eyes to the dawn of salvation: in their embrace, God’s mercy quietly breaks into human history amid abundant joy. I encourage everyone to reflect on that meeting, to picture, like a snapshot, that embrace between the young Mother of God and the elderly mother of Saint John the Baptist, and to frame it in their minds and hearts as a radiant icon.
The World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly is meant to be a small but precious sign of hope for them and for the whole Church.
At the end of this Message Pope Francis writes:
I ask you, the elderly among us, to accompany by your prayers the young people about to celebrate World Youth Day. Those young people are God’s answer to your prayers, the fruits of all that you have sown, the sign that God does not abandon his people, but always rejuvenates them with the creativity of the Holy Spirit.
Dear grandparents, dear elderly brothers and sisters, may the blessing of the embrace between Mary and Elizabeth come upon you and fill your hearts with peace. With great affection, I give you my blessing. And I ask you, please, to pray for me.
You can download the full Message from Pope Francis – 20230531-messaggio-nonni-anziani
About #WYD2023 Lisbon, Portugal see https://www.lisboa2023.org/en