I write this on February 2nd, Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, – also called ‘Candlemas’. On this day we remember the two elderly people, Simeon and Anna, who welcomed the Holy Family to the Temple, and recognized in the infant Jesus the long- awaited Saviour of the world. Simeon took the child into his arms, blessed God, and declared, “…my eyes have seen the salvation which you have prepared for all the nations to see, a light to enlighten the pagans, and the glory of your people Israel.”
On January 31st, 2020, Pope Francis delivered an address at the conclusion of a three-day Conference in Rome with the theme “The Richness of Many Years”. Too often the elderly are assumed to have a past but no future; it’s time to change the tenses said the Holy Father. Elderly people don’t just have a “mouldy past” – they also have a future. There is richness in their years of life. Life is a gift, and it’s a privilege if we are given a long life – a privilege for oneself and for others.
“God has a large population of grandparents throughout the world.” There is need to provide for their pastoral care, but as a Church we must become more aware of the important role the elderly can play in passing on the faith to new generations. They are the indispensable link in educating children and young people in the faith. We must include them in our pastoral evangelizing ministry, for they are privileged witnesses of God’s faithful love.
“In the Bible, longevity is a blessing. It confronts us with our fragility, with our mutual dependence, with our family and community ties, and above all with our being sons and daughters of God. Granting old age, God the Father gives us time to deepen our knowledge of Him, our intimacy with Him, to enter ever more into His heart and surrender ourselves to Him… But it is also a time of renewed fruitfulness… The elderly person, even when he or she is weak, can become an instrument of salvation history.” Some 550 people from 60 countries took part in the Congress. Among them was Fr Jose Ignacio Figueroa from Spain who has been working with grandparents for over thirty years. In an interview he spoke of how with ageing we lose our mobility, our sight, our hearing, “but we also gain other qualities…..our ability to love, our sensitivity, and our religious feelings.” He went on to speak of the wisdom of the elderly, their witness, their faith that so many times we disregard. The Congress delegation from Ireland included Glasgow-born Maire Printer, a member of the Irish Bishops’ Council for Marriage, and former President of the Catholic Grandparents Association.
All who are associated with our missionary work, young and old, can be instruments of salvation – reaching out to all the peoples of the world.