There is or can be something uniquely godly about the doting grandparent, especially the ones who can often be very helpful when it comes to the turbulent years of adolescence. But there is also something refreshing about how the elderly can sometimes say things as they are in an almost childlike fashion. In other words speaking the truth, truthfully. Their age can almost grant them permission to speak the truth. Our icon for this charism in family life must surely be the figure of Moses whose arms had to be held aloft for the armies of the Lord and therefore the forces of good to prevail. It may be true that old age and infirmity often brings with it physical dependency on others but it is that fragility, in spiritual partnership with a very visible humility, which becomes the embodiment of a lifetime’s witness to the Gospel. Peace and wisdom in old age must surely be the strongest testimony to the fact that life cannot be compartmentalised, as if religion were one item of living among others. Length of years and fragility of mind and body are perhaps the most beautiful and colourful of all stained glass windows in the “cathedral” of life-long education and one where we should linger in appreciation and wonder more often than we make time for in our fast moving society. The last remaining weeks and dying days of St. John Paul II was one of his most powerful encyclicals.
So let us cherish our elders and pray with our children for the repose of the souls who have gone before us, especially the grandparents or great grandparents we never knew and have yet to encounter. Perhaps in these summer weeks when there might be more opportunities to spend family time in the company of the older members, we can all do our bit to overcome in our ‘throwaway culture’ not just the cynicism towards ageing, but against the cult of youth which the Venerable Fulton Sheen so eloquently warned us:
“..the elders talk about the future being in the hands of the young; everyone is afraid to speak of his age, and the subject of growing old is treated in a manner midway between an insult and a sneer.”
Director, Office of Marriage and Family Life – Diocese of Westminster