A Word From Bishop Medley: The active and vital ministry of the elderly
My Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
By the time you receive this edition of The Western Kentucky Catholic in your home, we will have just observed the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly on July 25, 2021. Pope Francis, in his wisdom, called for the observance of this day in light of the challenging year we’ve just come through and its impact most especially on the older members of our parish communities and our families. Many became ill, others died or suffered the loss of a spouse or loved one, and many others experienced profound isolation and loneliness. Our Holy Father reminds us that God has been with us through it all, choosing as the theme for the observance, “I am with you always.”
The Paschal Mystery teaches us that God brings life and goodness from every dark moment. Perhaps one of those points of light is a renewed love and appreciation for the important role played by the older members of our churches and families. We live in a culture that exalts youthfulness, health and beauty to the detriment of old age and which makes an idol of youth in its advertising and entertainment. So much so that the elderly rarely see themselves reflected positively in social media and advertising. While we celebrate the vigor and passion that tends to come with youth, it is up to us as a Church which values all human life to emphasize as well the active and vital ministry of the elderly.
In my travels throughout the Diocese of Owensboro over the past 11 years, I have been edified time after time through my encounters with examples of Simeon and Anna, elders whose lives have been marked by devotion to their faith and their families, preparing for that great day when we shall all meet in Christ and enjoy together the wonders of heaven. In aging, there tends to come a wisdom and deep faith as a result of living through the peaks and valleys. Whereas childhood and youth are the times when the human person is being formed and is completely directed towards the future, St. Jerome reminds us that “with the quieting of the passion, comes an increase in wisdom since wisdom generally comes from experience and time is a great teacher.”
In the Catholic Church around the world these days we are seeing a renewed emphasis on the ministry of evangelization and the call of Jesus to each one of us to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). In his message on the occasion of the first World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly, Pope Francis reminds grandparents and the elderly that this commission is addressed to them as well. He asks, “Think about it: what is our vocation today, at our age? To preserve our roots, to pass on the faith to the young and to care for the little ones. Never forget this.”
He goes on to say, “It makes no difference how old you are, whether you still work or not, whether you are alone or have a family, whether you became a grandmother or grandfather at a young age or later, whether you are still independent or need assistance. Because there is no retirement age from the work of proclaiming the Gospel and handing down traditions to your grandchildren.”
To be human is to age. However, even as our energy may diminish and our physical bodies slow down, our role in building the Kingdom of God never ends. As people of faith, it is right that we should wish to live long lives since each day we live is an opportunity to encounter God through love and service to others. In deepening our relationships with family and friends or reaching out to serve someone in need, we are making love real; we are making God’s presence concrete. Every new day is a gift, an opportunity to become more fully human and to come closer to God, the God who is love and the source of all love. May every one of our seniors know that they are valued and vital members of our communities. May they experience the bounty of God’s love every day and help others to do the same.
Sincerely in Christ,
Most Reverend William F. Medley
Diocese of Owensboro
Pope Benedict XVI’s Prayer for Grandparents
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!
Originally printed in the August 2021 issue of The Western Kentucky Catholic.