Pope Francis: The rhythms of old age help us to grasp the meaning of life marked by time

by FLL Editorial Team

(Vatican News) Pope Francis has begun a new cycle of catechesis on old age, focusing his second reflection in the series on long life as a “symbol and opportunity.”

The tremendous longevity of the Old Testament patriarchs – who in the ritual narrative of the Scripture are said to have lived for centuries after fathering their children – has a “profound symbolic meaning,” Pope Francis said at Wednesday’s General Audience.

In his second reflection in a new catechetical series on old age, the Pope said the earliest moments of human history required a “slow and prolonged initiation,” as human beings, created in God’s image and likeness, yet bearing the fragility of mortal existence, needed time “to decipher experiences and confront the enigmas of life.” During that same time, he said, “the spiritual quality of man was also slowly cultivated.”

Every generation offers questions about the meaning of life

Pope Francis noted that every generation has questions about the meaning of life, as they respond to the new situations of their own existence. In our time, he said, experiences tend to be fleeting, more superficial, and less nourishing. He said the elderly can help us experience a slower rhythm of life – and that if generations are separated, this rhythm of life is closed off to everyone.

He explained that this was the reason for the Day of Grandparents and the Elderly, established by Pope Francis last year and set to take place annually on the fourth Sunday of July, which always occurs close to the feast of Sts Anne and Joachim, the grandparents of Jesus.

The Holy Father said he imagines a “city” where the different generations, young and old, are close to one another. This “overlapping of generations,” he said, “would become a source of energy for a truly visible and liveable humanism.”

Modern life, however, in its obsession with haste, tends too often to treat the elderly (and significantly, children as well) with hostility. Yet he insisted that excess haste does not make life more “intense,” but instead “pulverizes” it.

The relationship between young and old helps restore hope

Noting that the pandemic has forced humanity to slow down, Pope Francis said the experience of the older generations has served as a “barrier to the affective ‘dehydration’” of the young. The relationship between generations, between young and old, helps to restore the hope of “not living life in vain.” It helps to restore a love for life, while the “rhythms of old age” help us to grasp the meaning of life marked by time.

This helps us to see God’s plan for humanity: women and men, created in the image and likeness of God, and saved by Christ, who became man, are ultimately destined to be united to God forever.

Today, the Pope said in conclusion, our longer life spans give us the opportunity to build up the relationship between generations, and to embrace the full meaning of life.

The Holy Father prayed that the Holy Spirit might give us the “intelligence and strength” to move from “the arrogance” of the stopwatch to the “beauty of the rhythms of life.” In this “reform,” Pope Francis said, “the alliance of generations is indispensable.” And he prayed that God might help us “to find the right music for this harmonization.”

Source: Pope at Audience: Alliance of generations is indispensable