CLERMONT | “I am with you always” (Mt 28:20) are the first words of Pope Francis’ address for the first World Day for Grandparents and Elderly, July 25. Acknowledging himself among the elderly, he joins Jesus in this affirmation of accompaniment and love. Father Ramon Bolatete, pastor of St. Faustina Parish follows suit, honoring those among his congregation who so generously pray for the community, help raise grandchildren in the faith, and transmit the light of faith.
“The grace-filled living of the elderly is a prayer offered to God for our notice that we might receive their blessing,” Bishop John Noonan said. “These men and women are God’s advocates whose wisdom guides us all the days of our lives. They know that God is ever present – He does not retire – and they model themselves to Him. As we would care for God living among us, so their presence requires our generosity of spirit and care. As you do this with gratitude in the Lord’s name, you will receive the immeasurable treasure of God’s love.”
St. Faustina parishioners Patricio and Elena Crisostomo are a living example. Juggling busy schedules, both assist their son and his wife in taking their granddaughters to church and faith formation. Elena noted, “Now that I am a grandparent, I consider it not an obligation, but a commitment of love. I do not stop being a parent just because my child reached the age of maturity, or is married, or is a parent. It is a partnership that I signed with God that as long as I live…” The Crisostomos left the Philippines, their homeland, to follow their son and his family to the United States several years ago. For the couple, it simply made sense. “When we receive the Sacrament of Matrimony, the mandate of Jesus to us is, ‘You are no longer two, but one,’” patricio explained. “That love is founded by the love of Jesus Christ in Scripture. If we are one, then the fruit of that love -our son- is a part of us. Everything we do is based on the teaching and love of Jesus Christ from Scripture. When our son became a father, the grandchildren also became a part of the continuous teaching and practice of our faith. Because of this we are able to continue teaching, as an example of faith to them. Being part of their lives emanates that goodness of Jesus Christ in them.”
Elena and Patricio are retired, yet many seniors are still working and raising children. Connie Pockett Stoops is a sacristan at St. Faustina. She is happy about the pope’s proclamation of World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly. “I think it’s wonderful. I wish my mom was alive to be here for that,” she said noting her mother passed a year ago. Pockett Stoops, who says she still finds it hard to believe she has a Medicare card, just recently turned 65. With two 16-year-olds, she says she does not feel “old” at all. “I have a lot to do yet.” She still works as a full-time teacher while serving at her parish as an Extraordinary Minister of the Holy Eucharist and a catechist. “I do stay busy. I am not perfect, but I do the best I can,” she said.
In his letter to grandparents and the elderly, Pope Francis queried, “Think about: what is our vocation today, at our age? To preserve our roots, to pass on the faith to the young and to care for the little one. Never forget this.” He added, “It makes no difference how old you are, whether you still work or not, whether you are alone or have a family, whether you became a grandmother or grandfather at a young age or later, whether you are still independent or need assistance. There is no retirement age from the work of proclaiming the Gospel and handing down traditions to your grandchildren. You just need to set out and undertake something new.”
Acknowledging the worth of all, he noted even the bed-bound, the “frailest among us” can build the Kingdom of God through prayer, through their shared memories of hardship and war, enabling those younger to “learn the value of peace.”
Edda Velázquez, for instance, prays the rosary several times a day She offers it for her children, grandchildren and nephews. She said it helps her stay “on track”.
Patricio stated it plainly, “As St. Francis said, there are a lot of souls to be saved so we have to double our evangelization – if possible use words. The example is the most important. Many have said a lot. People have to see it. We have to make sacrifices, but it is nothing compared to the sacrifices of our Lord. At the end of our days, we would like the Lord to say, ‘Good job you faithful servant.’”
By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic, July 28, 2021