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I come from a large family, but at the center of it all on either side were my grandparents. I was blessed to have one set of grandparents as an active part of my life up until they passed away.  They were there for events, to listen to any news I wanted to share, had my favorite cookies in the pantry, played board games with my family and were who we went to Mass and dinner with regularly. The other set of grandparents passed away before I was even born, but I have felt close to them my entire life. I know my affinity for a certain college football team and my worrying nature comes from them. It always felt like such a gift when a relative would share an insight about one of my grandparents that I didn’t know before. Often, those insights came from relatives who were older and sometimes on their own, such as one of my aunts. Sharing time with them helped me grow as a person and helped me understand where I came from in a new way.

Pope Francis recently named July 25th the first World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly.  In his message for the day, one passage struck me:

In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus tells the Apostles, “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” (28:19-20). These words are also addressed to us today. They help us better understand that our vocation is to preserve our roots, to pass on the faith to the young, and to care for the little ones.

While grandparents often model and share their faith with their grandchildren, World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly is also an opportunity for us to reflect on the roots that they have placed in our lives.

Consider some of these questions for reflection this week.

  • What is one way a grandparent or other elderly person influenced your faith for the better? If you never told them, consider connecting in some way to let them know this week.
  • How do you share stories of your grandparents or the elderly people in your life with those around you (children, relatives, co-workers, etc.)? Are they words of kindness? Love? Understanding?
  • What gifts do your grandparents or the elderly people in your life have to give, and how can you call on them to share them in your life?
  • If you are not yet, imagine what it will be like to be a grandparent or elderly.  How would you hope your family celebrates the faith then? What practices can you put in place now to help that happen?
  • How is God calling you to pray for and serve your grandparents and those that are elderly in your life?
  • If your grandparents are deceased, for what can you call on their intercession this week?

When my oldest son was born, I remember watching him meet his great-grandmother. When we took a four generation picture that night of my husband holding our son with his mother and grandmother, I couldn’t fathom then how each of those generations would influence our family and our faith, from recipes and sayings to traditions and outlooks. The World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly gives us the opportunity to consider our roots and celebrate those that have helped them grow.