Growing Old with Christ: 7 Lessons we can learn from the Elderly.
Every time I attend Holy mass or pop into the church to visit with Jesus, my attention often shifts towards the elderly men and women. I am constantly in awe of their dedication to Jesus Christ. Their faithful gaze towards Jesus and the love with which they receive the Eucharist, despite their ailments, has made me realise how much more I need to grow in my faith. I want to share in this blog some of the things I have observed from the elderly and outline the key things we can learn from them.
A Perseverance in faith.
To the elderly what is most important in life is their relationship with Jesus and faithfulness to His church. It is evident that they know and believe that whatever happens, God is in control. Though questions and worries may prevail within their minds during problems that shake our Church, it does not cause them to leave the church. No matter what happens, they will be there at church every day. Now, we must understand that it was not as if the church was devoid of problems during their young age. Quite the contrary, our church is always in reform and being pruned to be the ever perfect bride of christ. They stood strong in faith then and continue to do so.
This is certainly something we need to adopt within our faith lives as a difficulty that young people and middle aged adults face is the constant battle to remain with the church during turbulent times. Why? I often wonder! It is simply because we don’t gaze upon Jesus and His promise to be with His church for ever. We see the catholic faith as something passing but that is not what they see. They see the truth! They see catholicism as eternal and the ark through which we enter God’s Kingdom. A look at our elderly shows us the right, faithful and the strongest way to keep the faith. All we need to do is keep our eyes focused on Jesus.
‘Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days.’ ~Job 12:12
Simplicity and Deep Faith.
St Therese of Lisieux gave the catholic church 'The Little Way’. I am sure that many of you are aware of this form of prayer centred around offering every small act in love for Jesus. 'The Little way' involves simplicity, a deep child like faith, a total surrender and an understanding of ones littleness in front of God.Time and time again I visualise just how much the elderly embrace simplicity. There is no fanfare around the way the elderly choose to pray or live their life for christ.They are the ones who will spend hours in front of the Eucharistic Lord, ask for the intercession of saints, pray for the people they love and offer up sacrifices for others.
Sometimes in the excitement of living out our faith, sharing Christs’ love with others our age, dreaming about evangelising the world and travelling as a missionary during our youthfulness, We forget to just be God’s little child. We forget to simply sit at His feet and listen. Why? Because we are so occupied with doing great things for the world to see. Now, don’t misunderstand me. In no way am I implying that we shouldn’t do great things for God. Oh no! The latter is very important. But we need to as young people just love God and allow God to love us. We need to understand who God is, what He wants for us and talk to Him. It is from this that we should prosper and evangelise.
“The elderly who have the faith are like trees that continue to bear fruit.” ~Pope Francis
They truly live Christianity.
How often do we acknowledge those around us? How often do we inquire about our neighbours needs? How often do we go above and beyond to aid our neighbour?.
I know that I am not always quick to do so. Here too I have been amazed at the extend to which older adults live out the christian way. They embody what it means to be Christian and spread the love of christ by both deeds and words.
I recently came across one woman in a local parish who shared with me about how her neighbour was suffering during the initial covid lockdown. She went on to reveal something which made me respect her greatly. She was sparing large portions of her time to run errands, buy groceries and maw the lawn for her neighbour. She was also there when this neighbours’ wife passed away, in order to comfort him and share the love of Christ with him and his family, despite their unbelief in God.
This is how we should live for Christ! We need to do what Jesus would do! We need to act like Jesus would act! We need to be Christ to others! We might be the only person through whom someone see a glimpse of Gods’ mercy and love. So let’s get our acts together! In this self-centred and self-focused modern world we need to Imitate the actions of the elderly.
They are Prayer Warriors.
The elderly know that prayer is the strength for their soul. They don’t just claim they are catholics but they do the most important thing that Catholics are supposed to do. They pray!
How many times have we seen our grandparents dedicate themselves to prayer each day? How many times have we watched our grandparents run their fingers through, old and tattered, rosary beads offering endless Hail Mary’s for their loved ones and the world? My grandparents were just like this. My two grandmothers were prayer warriors.They were the spiritual backbones of both sides of my family. No matter who needed prayer or whatever situation needed help within our family, they prayed and cried to God with all their hearts. They didn’t just pray though. They believed and trusted whole heartily that prayer works miracles.
Likewise, you may have noticed, when arriving at mass a little earlier than usual, that several elderly men and women are already there, at least half an hour early, praying the rosary fervently. This is something that young adults and middle aged adults need to embrace. We need to make a commitment more often to pray for our families and for anyone and everyone that needs our help.
“Grandparents, who have received the blessing to see their children’s children, are entrusted with a great responsibility: to transmit their life experience, their family history, the history of a community, of a people; to share wisdom with simplicity, and the faith itself , the most precious heritage! Happy is the family who have grandparents close by! A grandfather is a father twice over and a grandmother is a mother twice over.” ~Pope Francis.
A love for the Eucharist.
I am always in awe at the love with which the elderly receive our blessed Lord. In these moments I always say in mind “Oh Jesus I hope that I will be able to love you like this at every stage of my life”. I get reminded of how much more faithfully I should receive my Lord.
On one particular day whilst attending mass at my university chaplaincy, I visualised some elderly individuals with ailing bodies, making their way to mass, in wheelchairs and walkers. I saw the effort with which they pushed themselves and walked one small step at a time to get to the pew. I saw during the distribution of the Holy Eucharist, the effort it took them to stand up in their pews or reach out their palms to welcome Jesus. They exclaimed “Amen” with all the strength they had and sincere looks of gratitude and love covered their faces upon our Lord.
I was mesmerised at how even in their misery and pain they longed for Jesus. They loved Jesus soo much that they couldn’t say no to the opportunity of receiving Jesus once more. The love for Eucharist that I have is so little in comparison to the immensity of their love. Oh, how much more do we need to grow to yearn with all our hearts to be one with God in the Eucharist!
I hunger for the bread of God, the flesh of Jesus Christ ...; I long to drink of his blood, the gift of unending love. ~ St. Ignatius of Antioch
The parish church is their home.
This particular characteristic of the elderly I have always admired. Older adults have a strong love for their parish church. They care about their parish church soo much so that anything that affects the parish negatively is a cause of deep sadness. This is because to them their local parish is home and every member within the church is their family.
Have you noticed how the elderly give their time and effort in helping maintain the parish? I have met many older women who use their talents and time, which they could spare for themselves, to do embroidery and sew together all the linen cloths and altar covers used during mass, to arrange flowers for the church, to clean the church, to make food for the priests, to garden and to take out the garbage etc.
These are all minuscule jobs, right? But aren’t these similar to the jobs one does at homes. It is the small things that make a house a home. So it is the small things the elderly do that make the House of God, a home.
We should learn to love our parishes and to make it our homes. Our parishes are God’s house. God is our father thus it’s our home. Let's think about all the things we can do make our parish church stay beautiful. It is only when loving our churches that we build up our churches.
They Encourage others in the parish.
Have you noticed how the elderly are some of the most encouraging people within your churches? It often occurs that the elderly notice the gifts that other parishioners have and personally praise them and encourage them to use that gift for the parish. I remember when my sister and I were little and a sweet old lady ,within the parish we attended at the time, gave us each a £1 for being good during Mass. I can surely say, this made my sister and I understand that what we did was good and that attending holy mass was important. Similarly, it was some the elderly women in our parish that encouraged my sister to sing in the choir upon understanding that she had a beautiful voice.
How often do we go to Holy Mass and notice the beautiful talents God has given our brothers and sisters? Not very often I assume. We are many times soo occupied with ourselves or we are really just looking to catch up with our friends before they leave. Do we ever congratulate a young mother for bringing her children to mass? Or do we ever ask if that young mother would like some help managing her children so that she can participate wholly in the mass? Moreover, do we ever encourage those budding singers, altar servers and lectors within our parishes?
Sometimes I have observed that many young and middle aged adults are concerned that acknowledging someone else’s talents will take away their role within the church. This is simply not true. We are a family friends! It is not all about ourselves. We need to build up our churches and for that we need all the members of the Christs body work together to pass on the faith fervently to future generations.
'Now you are the body of Christ, and each of you is a member of it.' ~ 1 Corinthians 12:27
These are some snippets of the many things I have observed from the elderly. There are so much more which I have not included. Nonetheless, we should understand that we have a long way to go to become the people that Jesus wants us to be. The elderly have wisdom on how to live the faith. The only thing they will leave us with is their example. It is their example that we should follow so that one day we can impact the world in a beautiful way like they do.
God Bless xx