The elderly witness to the past and form the family’s future

From Pope St. John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio (1981):

There are cultures which manifest a unique veneration and great love for the elderly: far from being outcasts from the family or merely tolerated as a useless burden, they continue to be present and to take an active and responsible part in family life, though having to respect the autonomy of the new family; above all they carry out the important mission of being a witness to the past and a source of wisdom for the young and for the future.

Other cultures, however, especially in the wake of disordered industrial and urban development, have both in the past and in the present set the elderly aside in unacceptable ways. This causes acute suffering to them and spiritually impoverishes many families.

The pastoral activity of the Church must help everyone to discover and to make good use of the role of the elderly within the civil and ecclesial community, in particular within the family. In fact, “the life of the aging helps to clarify a scale of human values; it shows the continuity of generations and marvelously demonstrates the interdependence of God’s people. The elderly often have the charism to bridge generation gaps before they are made: how many children have found understanding and love in the eyes and words and caresses of the aging! And how many old people have willingly subscribed to the inspired word that the ‘crown of the aged is their children’s children’ (Prv. 17:6)!”79

79 John Paul II, Address to the Participants in the International Forum on Active Aging (Sept. 5, 1980), 5: Insegnamenti, III, 2 (1980), 539.

Familiaris Consortio 27

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