The Universal Church celebrates the 3rd World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly (WDGE) this Sunday, 23 July 2023, with the theme “His Mercy Is From Age To Age” (Lk 1: 50). WDGE is celebrated on the Sunday closest to the Feast of Saints Joachim and Anne (Jesus’ grandparents) which falls on 26 July, every year. This theme is closely related to the upcoming World Youth Day (WYD), which will be held in Lisbon, Portugal, from 1-6 August 2023.
The theme for WYD emphasises the significance of the relationship between the young and older generations, as proclaimed in the Magnificat. It is the story of Mary, who quickly travelled to visit her older cousin Elizabeth. Both celebrations, which are just a matter of days apart, remind us to reflect on the “haste” (cf. v 39) with which Mary set out to visit Elizabeth – “the bond that unites young and old.” Holy Father expects the “young people to bring joy to the hearts of the elderly, as Mary did to Elizabeth, and gain wisdom from their experiences.”
In 2021, Pope Francis designated this day because he felt that grandparents and the elderly are frequently overlooked, despite their significant contributions to society. He aims to bridge the gap between generations and pass down valuable life experiences and faith to the younger generation. The Pope highlighted that “between the two generations, there is a communion of life and faith, mutual giving and gratitude, and a witness of hope and charity.”
The presence of grandparents and the elderly must be treasured in families and communities because we share the same heritage and roots. They should not be abandoned or cast aside. The Holy Father desires that young people who are attending WYD in Lisbon, visit their grandparents or an elderly person they know, before they leave for the trip. The Pope assures young people that blessings and prayers from the elderly will protect and accompany them throughout WYD’s celebration.
We want our elderly parents and grandparents to live long, healthy and peaceful lives. We want to see them happy and joyful in their golden years, surrounded by loving family and friends. We pray for those who have been abandoned and for those who are lonely and isolated. We pray for their spiritual strength and for their physical well-being. Scripture respects and honours the elderly, saying that “longevity is a blessing.”
Plenary indulgence will be granted to all the grandparents, the elderly, the sick and the homebound who participate in the Eucharistic celebration and Sacrament of Confession on the day of WDGE. Plenary Indulgence is also granted to those who visit them either in-person or virtual. The Holy Father wants us to be more charitable in deepening their spiritual lives and seek His mercy in every way.
To have grandparents and the elderly in our family is a blessing indeed! They are great gifts that make up part of our families and the church. “Do not reject me in my old age, nor desert me when my strength is failing…” (Ps 71: 9). May God’s will be done unto them.
(An Extract from the Message of the Holy Father, Pope Francis, for the 3rd World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly)