“The elderly see history and pass on history,” says Pope Francis.
Continuing his catechesis on old age, the Holy Father today spoke about the vital importance of the elderly passing along the faith to the next generations.
He taught about Moses who was a whopping one hundred and twenty years old, “but his eye was not dim” (Dt 34:7). Like Moses, our older family, friends, and neighbors have a great deal to offer.
“An old age that is granted this clarity is a precious gift for the generation that is to follow. Listening personally and directly to the story of lived faith lived, with all its highs and lows, is irreplaceable,” he explained.
He further remarked that reading about these stories in books, or watching them in videos or other forms of media just doesn’t have the same impact, and it’s something that we are missing in our communities today.
“There is a tone and style of communication to direct, person-to-person storytelling, that no other medium can replace. An older person, one who has lived a long time, and receives the gift of a lucid and passionate testimony of his history, is an irreplaceable blessing.”
This blessing is something that we must recognize and be open to receiving from those around us.
Speaking personally, Pope Francis shared, “I learned hatred and anger for war from my grandfather, who fought at the Piave in ’14, and he passed on to me this rage at war. Because he told me about the suffering of a war. And this isn’t learned in books or in other ways… it’s learned in this way, being passed down from grandparents to grandchildren. And this is irreplaceable.”
Even more important than passing along history is the transmission of the faith which is much more than teaching facts and doctrine. As the Holy Father explains, it is “to speak about the experience of faith.”
It is the responsibility of the elderly to offer faithful testimony. “To be faithful is to tell history as it is; and only those who have lived it can tell it well,” said Pope Francis.
Let’s listen to our grandparents, ask them questions, and share ideas with one another. The faith is not handed on by simply giving a child a book; it is also through sharing dialogue and experience and wisdom.
As we show respect and honor to our grandparents, let us also teach our children to cherish the gift of their elderly family. This begins with instilling a habit of listening, not constantly talking, but asking questions and being silent in order to learn from others.
Sts. Joachim and Anne, grandparents of Jesus, pray for us!