“I still treasure the words my grandmother wrote to me on the day of my ordination. I carry them with me to this day inside my breviary,” the Pope told pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his March 11 general audience.
In the book interview “The Jesuit,” Pope Francis referenced a text written by his grandmother, which he kept in the breviary that he carried with him, Andrea Tornielli of Vatican Insider noted.
The text reads, “May these my grandchildren, to whom I have given the best of my heart, have a long and happy life, but if on some painful day, sickness or the loss of a loved one fills you with grief, remember that a sigh before the Tabernacle, where the greatest and most august martyr resides, and a gaze at Mary at the foot of the Cross, can make a drop of balm fall on the deepest and most painful wounds.”
Francis, the eldest of five children, spent much of his childhood under the guidance of his grandmother, Rosa, who looked after the future Pope when his younger siblings were born. She played a key role in his upbringing, and he had a great respect for her.
When the hearts of the elderly are free from “past resentments and present selfishness,” he said, they become attractive for the youth, “who hope to find in them a strong support in their faith and meaning for their lives.”
He specifically pointed to the importance of prayer for the elderly, in which they are able to thank the Lord for many blessings that would otherwise go unnoticed, and intercede for the needs and hopes of the youth.
The purifying ability of faith and prayer can also help society to find “the wisest way to teach the young that the true meaning of life is found in self-sacrificing love and concern for others.”
Simeon and Anna are two biblical figures who provide a model for how the elderly can live the final stages of their lives, the Pope said, noting that he himself is included in this category.
The image of the two elderly prophets in the temple attentively waiting for the coming of the Messiah point to the “centrality of prayer,” he said, noting that this prayer is a gift both for families and the Church.
Because we are called by the Lord to follow him in every moment and circumstance of our lives, the elderly have a “special mission” to fulfill and are given the grace to do it, Francis explained.
He said that because of this the final stage of their lives is not a time to “give up” and become marginalized, and recalled how Simeon and Anna both received new strength to praise God when they recognized Jesus as the Messiah.
“Grandparents today are called to form a permanent choir in the great spiritual sanctuary of our world, to support with prayer and to instill courage with their testimony to those struggling in the field of life,” Francis said.
The Pope prayed that in a world which frequently overlooks and discards the elderly, the Church can be a beacon which recognizes “their contribution and gifts,” and helps them to foster “a fruitful dialogue between the generations.”
“How I wish that the Church can overcome the culture of waste, promoting the joyful reunion and mutual acceptance of different generations!” he said, and encouraged pilgrims to pray for this intention.