World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly is celebrated on Sunday 24 July (©Africa Studio – stock.adobe.com)

By Lydia O’Kane

July 25 2022

As the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly is celebrated on Sunday 24 July, the chair of the Irish Bishops’ Council for Marriage and the Family, Bishop Denis Nulty is inviting people to cherish and value older people.

Celebrate older people in our society: That’s the message from the chair of the Irish Bishops’ Council for Marriage and the Family, Bishop Denis Nulty, who said, “We need to try our best to see the value that all people offer our society or community.”

This is the second World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly, a commemoration that was instituted by Pope Francis in 2021.

In his message marking this year’s World Day, Pope Francis encourages the elderly to be “poets of prayer,” emphasising, “Our trustful prayer can do a great deal: it can accompany the cry of pain of those who suffer, and it can help change hearts.”

A new mission

The Pope also stresses that “old age is no time to give up and lower the sails, but a season of enduring fruitfulness: a new mission awaits us and bids us look to the future.”

Welcoming the Pope’s message, Bishop Nulty noted that “Pope Francis is saying that when you are getting a little older, as a grandparent, as an older person, don’t pull down your sails and say ‘I’ve lived my life’; you still have a lot to give.”

Imparting wisdom

For much of his Pontificate, Pope Francis has highlighted the special vocation of the elderly to hand on to new generations their personal experience of the Church’s faith.

During his weekly General Audience on the 23 March this year, the Pope commented: “We greatly need the wisdom and experience of the elderly to help new generations know the Church from the inside, to live lives of fidelity to God’s word, to persevere in hope amid trials, and to show compassionate love for all our brothers and sisters.”

Asked about the role grandparents and the elderly have in imparting wisdom and memory, Bishop Nulty said they have a unique part to play in the lives of younger generations, and he encouraged young people to spend time with their grandparents.

“Make sure you sit with them, make sure you converse with them, make sure you spend time with them, you linger in their company.”

He also encouraged young people “to write letters to their grandparents; to the older people in their family to say how much they value them.”

The Bible and older people

“In old age they will still bear fruit” (Ps 92:15), is the theme of the second World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly.

According to Pope Francis, “These words of the Psalmist are glad tidings, a true “gospel” that we can proclaim to all on this second World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly. They run counter to what the world thinks about this stage of life, but also to the attitude of grim resignation shown by some of us elderly people, who harbour few expectations for the future.”

Bishop Nulty pointed out that there are several examples in the Bible of older people accomplishing great things. “Abraham immediately comes to mind, Sarah comes to mind, Our Lady and Elisabeth, and that visit to Elisabeth in her old age…So many examples of old people bearing fruit in the work they do; bringing life into the world, bringing life into communities, bringing people into a promise land despite their age. Through the Bible, there are many examples of older people who are great examples to today’s generation, tomorrows generation that older people have a lot more of life to live.”

Grandparents day

The Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin underlined that the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly offers us “a new opportunity to celebrate them and to let them know how much they mean to us.” He also noted that the seeds planted for the first World Day are already bearing fruit, but he added, we can’t “rest on our laurels.”

“We have a lot more to do. We are doing our very best here in Ireland to resource every single parish across our dioceses, to welcome grandparents and senior citizens to Mass next weekend.”

He is also inviting parishes across the country “to celebrate grandparents and elders, not forgetting our more senior priests and religious. I would also encourage parishes to ensure that their local nursing care home is included in this important annual celebration.” 

Vatican News