Monday, July 13, 2020

The Elders Dream, and the Young See Visions

I'm at a time in my life in which I appreciate very much the Pope's frequent remarks on the importance of inter-generational communication. Concretely, Eileen and I still find ourselves "in the middle" of three generations of family, though this position has begun to shift in recent years.

The events of my father's illness and death initiated this shift in a rather abrupt way for me. Not only had he been my father since "forever;" he was also well established as "Papa" to his five grandchildren. I will always be grateful that he was able to be a presence in their lives, and that he received so much joy from them.

I still miss him. If anything, I miss him more, though I do believe that "the relationship continues" and that he still "helps me" and keeps me grounded.

And now, the shift also continues - at least in the sense of establishing the proximate environment for a new generation to come into the world - as our son John Paul is getting married next month. ( ! )

Above: Papa playing baseball with his six year old
grandson. Below: Papa & high school age John Paul.
Eileen and I will be one step closer to being grandparents ourselves, to seeing the fulfillment of one of the blessings bestowed upon us on our own wedding day: "May they see their children's children" (a matter that seemed - on that day many years ago - only a little less remote than "traveling to other planets," as in "O yeah, maybe, way way waaay in the future...").

These relationships shape us and challenge us. I always assumed that, by the time I became "one of the elders," I would feel... well... old! And yet, as it approaches, I don't feel much older. I've been sick. I've been tired. But, no, this is a different thing. I suppose that - like most things in life - it's something you learn by going through it.

But as I said at the start of this post, "Papa" Francis often has insightful guidance on just this point. He insists on a crucial factor: the elderly are not just helpless or hindered people who need care from the younger, stronger generations. They have an essential and profound role for the future, for the fruitful movement of history. The different generations need one another, and when they are alienated from one another, society becomes dysfunctional and humanly impoverished.

Here is one recent quotation, that follows and comments on the Scripture text immediately below:

I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions (Joel 3:1).
"The elderly continue to be our roots. And they must speak to the young. This tension between young and old must always be resolved in the encounter with each other. Because the young person is bud and foliage, but without roots they cannot bear fruit. The elderly are the roots. I would say to them, today: I know you feel death is close, and you are afraid, but look elsewhere, remember your children, and do not stop dreaming. This is what God asks of you: to dream" (Joel 3:1).
"What would I say to the young people? Have the courage to look ahead, and to be prophetic. May the dreams of the old correspond to your prophecies" (also Joel 3:1).
~Pope Francis (from The Tablet interview with Austin Ivereigh, 04/08/2020)