Papal Focus on Universal Celebration of Vital Human Assets
Submitted by: John (Jack) D. Rudnick, Jr., Ed.D., professor, Thomas More University
This past January, Pope Francis announced a new celebration: World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly. He is attempting to spotlight the importance of older persons as assets and not liabilities, as media and societal values unfortunately often convey.
World Day for Grandparents and Elderly is an initiative for Catholics and all faith communities to appreciate older adults as true human capital and assets in our global societies. This year, the Papal directed celebratory commemoration occurs on July 25. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops announced the initiative is to be repeated as an annual event celebrated on the fourth Sunday of each July.
For the Catholic faith, Amoris Lateitia (The Joy of Love) is a pro-family/pro-life papal document released by Pope Francis I in 2015 that serves as the foundation for this celebration. The document’s purpose is to emphasize the importance of connected families— intergenerational (young and old).
In the context of our Catholic faith tradition, Catholic means universal. The tenets and teaching intend to strive toward a universality of positive, virtues, and values. Thomas More University is undergoing preparation for an exciting new initiative aimed at providing education through a Center on a host of topics for the TMU community. More information will be coming on the progress of this exploration.
Meanwhile, we are all connected through influential older persons– family and acquaintances– that we have known and admire. Pope Francis shared how influential his own grandmother, Rose, was in his faith formation and her many gifts (through a global news network, Aletia). Pope Francis shares the admiration of his two immediate predecessors who also revered and emphasized the importance of elders in their lives. St. John Paul II asked us to be attentive to the role of the elderly in families because in the wake of disordered and industrial development, both have set aside the elderly in unacceptable ways. The elderly must be appreciated as they offer a link to the past through a vibrant charism to bridge the generational gap, including the gifts of storytelling and evangelization. In 2021 Pope Benedict XVI published a special prayer (written in 2008) on behalf of grandparents and the elderly:
you were born of the Virgin Mary,
the daughter of Saints Joachim and Anne.
Look with love on grandparents the world over.
Protect them! They are a source of enrichment
for families, for the Church and for all of society.
Support them! As they grow older,
may they continue to be for their families
strong pillars of Gospel faith,
guardians of noble domestic ideals,
living treasuries of sound religious traditions.
Make them teachers of wisdom and courage,
that they may pass on to future generations the fruits
of their mature human and spiritual experience.
help families and society
to value the presence and role of grandparents.
May they never be ignored or excluded,
but always encounter respect and love.
Help them to live serenely and to feel welcomed
in all the years of life which you give them.
Mary, Mother of all the living,
keep grandparents constantly in your care,
accompany them on their earthly pilgrimage,
and by your prayers, grant that all families
may one day be reunited in our heavenly homeland,
where you await all humanity
for the great embrace of life without end. Amen!
Catholics and all faith communities can demonstrate reverence and respect for life by practicing a universal commandment “Honor thy father and mother.” Let us consider how fortunate and blessed we are to have had significant older persons in our lives as we celebrate World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly.