Grandparents are a treasure in the family. Please take care of your grandparents: love them and let them talk to your children!” – Pope Francis, July 2018
No matter where you look, it is easy to see the impact that grandparents have on the community, particularly through ‘Grandparents Day’. This is a fairly new, yet a very simple concept – celebrating our grandparents. For many this is celebrated during ‘Catholic Schools Week’.
As I attended Mass on Grandparents Day with my class, last month, it was clear to see the impact that this had both on the grandparents and the grandchildren in attendance. These intergenerational links are wonderful to see and the knowledge and understanding that can be passed from one group to the other is something that cannot be taught – whether it be grandchildren teaching their grandparents to take a selfie, or the grandparents explaining to their grandchildren what life was like when there was no colour television which in a Netflix inspired era, is hard to imagine!
Pope Francis was fundamental in establishing World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly in July 2021. This day is celebrated worldwide, and the date is particularly poignant. It was chosen to be celebrated on the Sunday closest to the Feasts of Saint Joachim and Anne, who were the grandparents of Jesus. This special day was established to reassure grandparents that they are needed, loved and valuable members of our family and parish communities – something I doubt anyone can disagree with!
Our grandparents are members of our family community, and they play a key role in handing on the faith that they grew up with. When they were younger, they passed this faith onto their children, and in turn they will now pass it onto their grandchildren. As Proverbs 16:31 states ‘grey hair is a crown of splendour; it is attained in the way of righteousness’. Grandparents help to support the faith at home and in the parish and are pivotal in showing us what a community of love can look like. They help us to ‘walk together in faith & love’, the key theme of this years ‘Catholic Schools Week’.
I am very lucky in the fact that I still have a grandparent with me today; my granda Sean. My other grandparents (Chris, Harry and Nuala) are fondly remembered and prayed for. The impact that the four of them had in shaping my parents has greatly impacted the person who I have become today.
It is important to be thankful for everything that our grandparents (and those who are like a grandparent to us in their absence). Their presence in our lives is something that cannot be disregarded. It is important to keep celebrating them. To paraphrase the Louis Armstrong song, what a wonderful world, especially when our grandparents are in it. For those that aren’t, we think of them and pray to them dearly, allowing their memories to continue to burn brightly.
Aine McElholm teaches in Glendermott Primary School, Ardmore, in the Diocese of Derry. She is also a volunteer with the Diocesan Catechetical Centre.