I have no memories of my Grandparents. How could I? They lived and died an ocean away in Germany. I feel I missed out on something very precious.

This month Pope Francis is involved in two seemingly unconnected events.

 July 23, 2023 marks the third time the universal church responds to his call to celebrate the World Day for Grand Grandparents and the Elderly.

Then Pope Francis arrives in Lisbon on Aug. 2 for the World Youth Day gathering of Catholic youth that takes place in various cities around the globe every few years. This year they expect 400,000!

How are they connected?

Pope Francis’vision for the young and the old.

Pope Francis views these two events through the lens of the joyful meeting between the young Mary and her elderly relative Elizabeth (cf. Lk 1:39-56)”

Elizabeth recognizes that God is working in new ways through Mary.

On the other hand, Mary rushed to be with her elderly cousin

The pope writes…

“The Lord trusts that young people, through their relationships with the elderly, will realize that they are called to cultivate memory and recognize the beauty of being part of a much larger history.”

“Friendship with an older person can help the young to see life not only in terms of the present and realize that not everything depends on them and their abilities.”

“For the elderly, the presence of a young person in their lives can give them hope that their experience will not be lost and that their dreams can find fulfilment. “

“To better appreciate God’s way of acting, let us remember that our life is meant to be lived to the full, and that our greatest hopes and dreams are not achieved instantly but through a process of growth and maturation, in dialogue and in relationship with others.

Those who focus only on the here and now, on money and possessions, on “having it all now”, are blind to the way God works.”

Keep pressing forward

He continues…

“God’s loving plan spans past, present and future; it embraces and connects the generations. It is greater than we are. Yet it includes each of us and calls us at every moment to keep pressing forward.“

“For the young, this means being ready to break free from the fleeting present in which virtual reality can entrap us, preventing us from doing something productive.“

“For the elderly, it means not dwelling on the loss of physical strength and thinking with regret about missed opportunities. “

“Let us all look ahead! And allow ourselves to be shaped by God’s grace, which from generation to generation frees us from inertia and from dwelling on the past!”

World Youth Day

To you, the young who are preparing to meet in Lisbon or to celebrate World Youth Day in your own countries, I would ask: before you set out on your journey, visit your grandparents or an elderly person who lives alone! Their prayers will protect you and you will carry in your heart the blessing of that encounter.

“I ask you, the elderly among us, to accompany by your prayers the young people about to celebrate World Youth Day. Those young people are God’s answer to your prayers, the fruits of all that you have sown, the sign that God does not abandon his people, but always rejuvenates them with the creativity of the Holy Spirit.”

Do you see any connection with the kind of listening Pope Francis has been fostering in recent years?