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Pope Francis listens to a woman while greeting the disabled during his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican March 11.

Vatican City

Pope: Elderly need to offer wisdom, prayers in later years

By CAROL GLATZ, Catholic News Service | Published March 20, 2015

VATICAN CITY (CNS)—Don’t pack it in or shift into cruise control, Pope Francis told his fellow seniors.

Young people and families, especially, need the older generation’s prayers, wisdom and gifts to give them the encouragement, hope and faith they often lack, he said at his weekly general audience March 11.

“We, older people, can remind ambitious young people that a life without love is barren. We can tell fearful young people that worrying about the future can be overcome. We can teach young people who are in love with themselves too much that there is more joy in giving than receiving,” he said.

‘The Lord never rejects us’

The pope continued a series of audience talks about the family with the second part of two talks dedicated to the elderly. The 78-year-old pope said he would use the pronouns “we” and “us” when talking about the elderly since “I, too, belong to this age group.”

“It’s true that society tends to discard us, but the Lord definitely doesn’t. The Lord never rejects us,” he said.

In fact, there is a true vocation and mission set aside for older people, who have a lot more free time at their disposal, he said.

“It’s still not time to ‘rest on one’s oars’” and just coast along, he said.

Seniors need to show society ‘full worth’ of this time of life

Being older is certainly different, and so when it comes to finding one’s new purpose in the world, seniors need to sort of “make it up” as they go along “because our societies are not ready, spiritually and morally, to give this period of life its full worth.”

Even “Christian spirituality has been taken a bit by surprise, and it involves sketching out a spirituality of older persons,” he said.

There are plenty of saints as role models, he said, especially the elderly Simeon and Anna in the temple, who had the knowledge and wisdom from life’s journey to recognize Jesus.

When they saw Jesus, “the weight of age and waiting disappeared at that moment,” and they found “new strength for a new task: to give thanks and bear witness to this sign of God,” the pope said.

Just as Simeon found inspiration to sing out with joy and Anna became the first to preach of Jesus, “Let us also become poets of prayer, let us acquire a love for looking for our words” to offer, as inspired by the word of God.

Prayers of grandparents ‘a great gift’

The prayers of the world’s grandparents and older people are “a great gift for the church” and they offer “a great infusion of wisdom for all of society, too, especially for (those who are) too busy, too occupied, too distracted.”

“It is truly a mission for grandparents, a vocation for older people,” he said, for them to hand down their wisdom and offer encouragement to those who are searching for meaning in life.

He said he was praying for “a church that challenges the culture of disposal with the overflowing joy of a new embrace between young and old people.”

A grandparent’s words are so important, he said, telling his audience how he often reads a letter, which he keeps in his breviary, that his grandmother wrote him for his priestly ordination because “it does me good.”