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Pope Francis’s prayer intention for the month of December is for the elderly, “That the elderly, sustained by families and Christian communities, may apply their wisdom and experience to spreading the faith and forming the new generations.”  This is a good time for us to give thanks to the seniors who have been friends and mentors to us, and to keep them in our prayers in a special way this month.

 

The pope has often spoken on the importance of older people to the life of the Church and the world.  He has said that “The Church regards the elderly with affection, gratitude, and high esteem.”[1]  Respect for the older generation is critical for the health of society because they represent “the roots and memory of a people”.  He also stresses how important it is for younger people to seek out the wisdom of older people.  He says that “Your maturity and wisdom, accumulated over the years, can help younger people in search of their own way, supporting them on the path of growth and openness to the future. The elderly, in fact, show that, even in the most difficult trials, we must never lose confidence in God and in a better future. They are like trees that continue to bear fruit: even under the weight of years, they can give their original contribution for a society rich in values ​​and for the affirmation of the culture of life.”

 

Pope Francis speaks so often about the dignity of the elderly because so often our culture doesn’t treat them with the respect and dignity they deserve.  In the “throwaway culture” that he decries so often, people are only valued for how useful and productive they are.  This ties into all sorts of issues, including abortion, euthanasia, poverty, and environmental degradation, in which we discard or disregard people or things who don’t serve our own wants and desires.  The pope calls us to something higher, to value all people according to their inherent dignity.  Respecting our elders is one critical way that we call the world to a greater respect for the dignity of all human beings.

 

Since the Pope chose this intention for the month of December, perhaps this gives us some ideas of some additional things we could do as part of our Advent preparation.  In this season where we always seem so busy, taking time to be present to elderly relatives, friends or neighbors – especially those who might be sick, homebound, or in nursing homes – can be a wonderful way to welcome Christ into our hearts by honoring Him in the face of the elderly.  And please be sure to include our homebound Christ the King parishioners in your prayers throughout this Advent season.

[1] http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2016/10/15/pope_francis_elderly_bear_witness_to_enduring_truths/1265369