Saturday, April 27, 2024

Popes, Grandparents, and Grandchildren

This day marked the tenth anniversary of the canonization of Pope Saint John Paul II, an event recorded in the archives of this Blog. Pope Francis emphasized the Church's commitment to Saint John Paul's enduring legacy. He expressed the need to carry on John Paul's commitment to affirming the dignity of every human person created by God and called to eternal life, and building a culture of life and peace through works of mercy by which we are conformed to the Father's love in Jesus Christ.

Pope Francis also had a special audience with a gathering of grandparents and grandchildren, where he emphasized once again his important witness to the significance of elderly people for society as a whole, and the crucial value of interaction among the different generations for the vitality of humanity's history and God's plan to forge the human community as a "diamond of love." The Pope's words are especially encouraging for those of us who have begun to embark on our own senior years in life, and also to learn so many wonderful things through our grandchildren.

"Our society is full of people who are specialists in many things, rich in knowledge and useful means for everyone. However, if there is no sharing and each person thinks only of himself, all that wealth is lost; rather, it becomes an impoverishment of humanity. And this is a great risk for our time: the poverty of fragmentation and selfishness. The selfish person thinks he is more important if he puts himself in the foreground and has more things, if he has more things… But the selfish person is the poorest, because selfishness impoverishes. 

"Let us think, for example, of some expressions we use: when we talk about the 'world of youth', the 'world of the elderly', this world or that world or another… But there is just one world! And it is made up of many realities that are different precisely in order to help and complement each other: the generations, the peoples, and all the differences, if harmonized, can reveal, like the faces of a big diamond, the wondrous splendour of humanity and creation. This too is what your being together teaches us: not to let diversity create rifts between us! No, let there not be rifts… Not to pulverize the diamond of love, the most beautiful treasure God has given us: love.

"At times we hear phrases such as 'think of yourself' and 'you don’t need anyone'! They are false phrases, which mislead people into thinking that it is good not to depend on others, to do things by yourself, to live as islands, whereas these are attitudes that only create a great deal of loneliness. Such as, for example, when because of the culture of rejection, the elderly are left alone and have to spend the last years of their life far from home and from their loved ones. What do you think about this? Is it good or is it not good? No! The elderly must not be left by themselves, they must live within the family, in the community, with the affection of everyone. And if they cannot live with their families, we must go to visit them and stay close to them. Let us think about it for a moment: do we like this? Isn't a world in which no one has to be afraid to end their days alone much better? This world is sad, clearly yes, it is sad. So let us build this world, together, not just by devising care programmes, but by cultivating different projects of existence, in which the passing years are not considered a loss that diminishes someone, but an asset that grows and enriches everyone: and as such are appreciated and not feared.

"And this brings us to the final aspect: love, the love that makes us wiser. It is curious: love makes us wiser. Dear grandchildren, your grandparents are the memory of a world without memory... We must not lose our memory. Listen to your grandparents, especially when they teach you, with their love and with their witness, to cultivate the most important affections, which are not obtained by force, which do not appear through success, but which fill life."