Pope Francis instituted this day on July 25 to highlight the vocation of the elderly, which is ‘keeping the roots, transmitting faith to the young and taking care of the little ones’. For the occasion, we collected some experiences of grandparents and grandchildren that bear witness to the love between generations.
‘When everything seems dark, like during these months of the pandemic, the Lord continues to send angels to console our loneliness and to repeat to us, “I am with you every day.”’
In his message for the first World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly, to be celebrated on July 25, Pope Francis aimed to give a message of hope and closeness to grandparents and the elderly around the world.
I would like ‘every grandparent, every elderly person, every grandmother – especially those among us who are most alone – to receive a visit from an angel’ through a grandchild, a family member, a friend.
During these times of pandemic, we have realised how important hugs, visits, gestures of love are. These signs are experienced daily between grandparents and grandchildren or with elderly neighbours.
Martin, for example, is 8 years old and is a Gen 4 – the youngest children of the Focolare – who lives in Uruguay. He lives near an elderly grandmother who grows flowers in her garden. Some children sometimes throw a ball in her garden, making her angry, then laugh at her.
Martin thought that this was not good, so he decided to help the lady. He got a wheelbarrow and took the weeds and trash out of the garden. The lady thanked him, and every time he helps her, she gives him some money, which he donates to the poor in the community.
Nicola, on the other hand, is a grandfather of eight grandchildren. One day he was invited by a Gen 4 to speak at catechism class about the family. On his way to the meeting, he asked himself how he could interest the children in this topic.
While walking, his gaze was drawn to a nest that had fallen from a branch and was now abandoned. He picked it up and brought it to the class. What a nice idea; he was able to explain how a nest is made, as well as how a family is. Everyone had something to add, and the hour of catechism passed quickly.
Rosaria is 70 years old and a grandmother, who is so dedicated to both her grandchildren and the Gen 4 of her local community.
‘I always feel like I’m doing very little,’ she says, ‘but I notice that something is happening – they’re having experiences I didn’t expect.
‘For example, Tommaso received a scratch on the cheek from a little girl at school. When the teacher noticed it, she asked why he hadn’t told her. He answered by apologising for his classmate because she hadn’t done it on purpose. When the teacher told his parents, they were positively amazed because such behaviour had never happened before.’
Grandma Rosaria has a secret: she prays every day for all Gen 4 and all the children of the world. ‘I think this is the most important thing.’
Grandma Mary from New York tells Living City, ‘A few years ago before Christmas our granddaughter Cecilia, then 11, came home from school with a bag full of gifts she bought with money her mom had given her. She was so happy as she showed us what she had gotten for a couple of friends and some family members. I marvelled at how lovingly she had chosen those gifts!
‘I started to tell her what my Christmas was like when I was a little girl living in the Philippines. We were quite poor. After midnight mass, we went to our neighbours’ house to have dinner together. We each received a delicious red apple as a Christmas present. It was something really special!
‘Hearing this, Cecilia said: “Really? A delicious red apple?”
‘“Yes,” I said, “a delicious red apple!”
‘And as soon as her dad came home, she told him: “You know what Grandma got for Christmas? A delicious red apple!”
‘On Christmas Day, we were celebrating in our New York home with some of our children and their families. My daughter-in-law brought a basket marked “Happy Holidays” with a dozen apples in it, saying, “Cecilia called me and asked, ‘Would you buy 12 apples for Grandma so she doesn’t just have one but 12 for Christmas?”
‘What a Christmas gift! We have found over and over again that we don’t need many gifts to love God and others at Christmas. Sometimes all it takes is one red, delicious apple.’
You can see the pope’s video message for the first World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly at youtu.be/1qhzDGFl-6w.