The Bible teaches that that those who are blessed with a long life, including grandparents, are “living signs of the goodness of God who bestows life in abundance,” shared Pope Francis in his message for the second World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly, to be celebrated July 24.

The words of the psalmist, “In old age they will still bear fruit” (92:15) serves as the theme, and an encouragement to the elderly to look to the future with expectation. The day is held each year on the fourth Sunday of July, close to the memorial of Saints Joachim and Anne (July 26), the Blessed Mother’s parents and Jesus’ grandparents.

Many parishes will observe the day with special blessings of grandparents, and at my parish, a donut social and fun family activities will additionally follow some Masses.

Our seniors are such a gift to us, as they are the holders of our family histories, world history, lived wisdom, unconditional love for their grandchildren, passers on of faith and often a calm that comes from having seen things work out even when they seemed terrible. They pray for us, guide us, and more and more these days, help with daily family life while parents are working.

Drawing from Scripture, Pope Francis, encourages the faithful to celebrate the day together “with those …  whom the Lord ‘has filled with days.’ … I ask you to make this day known in your parishes and communities; to seek out those elderly persons who feel most alone, at home or in residences where they live. Let us make sure that no one feels alone on this day. Expecting a visit can transform those days when we think we have nothing to look forward to; from an initial encounter, a new friendship can emerge. Visiting the elderly who live alone is a work of mercy in our time!”

So, how can we celebrate this day? Here are a few ideas:

Spend time with the grandparents or seniors in your life. Have a special meal with them. Ask them to tell you the stories that are most meaningful to them: What was it like growing up for you? Can you tell me a story from when you were my age? How did Grandma and Grandpa meet? What was it like raising kids? What is the funniest story you have? What was the most significant world event that you observed? What has your faith meant to you over the years?

  • Write a thank you note to your grandparents and tell them what you appreciate about them.
  • If you don’t have grandparents in your life (and even if you do) talk to a senior at Mass. If you see a senior who is always alone, invite them to breakfast.
  • Write cheerful cards or prayer cards and send them to a local senior facility. If it’s feasible, volunteer at a facility – they are always looking for people to help the residents play games, do sing-alongs, lead prayers, etc.
  • Offer to do some yard work for a senior in your neighborhood.
  • Donate items that seniors need to your local food bank – many of the clients are seniors living in compromised situations.
  • Become a minister of Holy Communion to the homebound and bring your kids (assuming the individual welcomes children).

Our seniors are truly a treasure for our families and churches, but, often, much of what they do for us is taken for granted. Take some time to get to know them and let them know that you appreciate them.

Jennifer Elsensohn is the pastoral associate in St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral, Freehold.