Weekend Edition: In Joy & Sorrow
Given that the Memorial of the Parents of Mary and the Grandparents of Jesus, Joachim and Anne is celebrated on July 26 in the Universal Church, Pope Francis has designated this Sunday as the first World Day of Prayer for Grandparents and the Elderly. Each year, this Day of Prayer will serve as a worthy reminder of the precious gift our grandparents and elderly are in our lives and in the life of our Church. They are the keepers of the memory of our successes and failures as a human family, which are woven throughout history. They redirect our lives when we stray too far from the values and truths that ultimately last.
My grandparents lived through the Great Depression. I can remember very clearly my mother telling stories of how it was hard to make ends meet for her young parents, raising eight children. It was a treat when, after a long day of work, Grandpa brought home eight pieces of candy, one each for his five sons and three daughters. The Griesbachs did not have a lot of material possessions but they were not wanting for unconditional love. My mom’s childhood was a happy one.
These past fifteen months were excruciatingly hard for our grandparents and elders. My mom, a grandmother and a great-grandmother (She now has five great-grandchildren after the birth of precious little Eleanor on July 1), lived behind locked doors at Prairie Home Assisted Living in Menasha. She survived a mild case of COVID-19, which was a blessing because she has a history of bronchitis. Even though she is fully vaccinated, she told me last Sunday that she does not want people to visit her who have not been vaccinated and choose not to wear a mask. This grandmother, my ninety-year-old mom, is still pretty sharp and speaks pretty straightforwardly. She has been closely following the uptick in positive cases due to the spread of the delta virus across our nation, predominantly among our unvaccinated sisters and brothers. She is worried about what the season of fall will bring. My mom is wise. She’s my mom, after all!
In a beautiful Message entitled I am with you always, Pope Francis, eighty-four-years-old, addressing our grandparents and elders, writes:
You are needed in order to help build, in fraternity and social friendship, the world of tomorrow, the world in which we, together with our children and grandchildren, will live once the storm has subsided. All of us must “take an active part in renewing and supporting our troubled societies.” (Fratelli Tutti, 77)
Pope Francis suggests that in building the world of tomorrow, our elders remind us that three pillars are necessary. Those pillars are dreams, memory and prayer.
Our dreams of justice, of peace, of solidarity can make it possible for our young people to have new visions; in this way, together, we can build the future. You need to show that it is possible to emerge renewed from an experience of hardship. I am sure that you have had more than one such experience. In your life, you have faced any number of troubles and yet were able to pull through.
Dreams are intertwined with memory…Keeping memory alive is a true mission for every elderly person…Edith
Bruck, who survived the horror of the Shoah
[Holocaust], has said that, “even illuminating a single conscience is worth the effort and pain of keeping alive the memory of what has been. For me, memory is life.”
Finally, prayer. As my predecessor, Pope Benedict, himself a saintly elderly person who continues to pray and work for the Church, once said, “The prayer of the elderly can protect the world, helping it more effectively than the frenetic activity of many other [people].” Your prayer is a very precious resource: a deep breath that the Church and the world urgently need.
Happy Grandparents’ Day! Our dear precious Elders, thank you! Pray for us as we pray for you!