Life-size figures of St. Anne and St. Joachim grace the Grandparents Garden on the grounds of St. Ann Parish, Lawrenceville. File photo
Life-size figures of St. Anne and St. Joachim grace the Grandparents Garden on the grounds of St. Ann Parish, Lawrenceville. File photo

I woke up one day only to discover I was a senior citizen! Where did the time go? It seemed like only yesterday that I was "the young guy" among my "older" brother priests. I must not have been paying much attention as the days turned into months, then into years. Now, I look into the mirror as I prepare to shave in the morning and ask, "Who are YOU? Where did YOU come from?"

It’s true that age brings its own share of aches and pains and wrinkles we “seniors” didn’t have or, at least, never noticed before. But it is also true that age brings a certain wisdom and insight born only of experience … at living life! Been there, done that! My hair — when I had it —  was brown … once. I could read my prayer book or menus … without glasses, once. When did my clothes shrink? What did she just say? Where are my keys? If you don’t take these things too seriously, one can just smile and say, “well, I guess I am getting older!” It’s really not so bad, especially when you consider the alternative.

Age is a gift, a beautiful gift to be cherished. A gift that offers us memories, reminders of how fortunate we’ve been through the years and of all the people who have blessed the journey we’ve taken. As seniors, we’ve lived and learned, we’ve laughed and cried, we’ve loved and have been loved in return. And there is still more to come!

This year, Pope Francis has established the first “World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly” to be celebrated annually in the Catholic Church on the fourth Sunday of July, close to the feast of Sts. Joachim and Anne, the grandparents of the Lord Jesus. Observing that “the Holy Spirit stirs up thoughts and words of wisdom in the elderly” whose “voice is precious because it sings the praises of God and preserves the roots of the peoples,” the Holy Father noted that “old age is a gift and that grandparents are the link between the generations to pass on to the young the experience of life (Angelus Message, January 31, 2021).”

In his “July 25 Message for the First World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly,” at age 84, Pope Francis called seniors to a “renewed vocation” even at this later point in their lives:

“… to preserve our roots, to pass on the faith to the young, and to care for the little ones." Think about it: 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 ones. Never forget this.

“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. Because 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.”

Celebrating aging is not simply about remembering the past. It is about grandparents and the elderly — honored “on their day” — using their wisdom and experience “at living life” to create in those younger than they a dream of what can and is yet to be and doing so in faith, in hope and in love, something that only those who have lived can bear a true and confident witness, mindful of the Lord’s promise “I am with you always (Matthew 28:20).”