Let’s Pray for Grandparents Everywhere
As goes the family, so goes the Church and the world. This favourite statement by Pope St John Paul II is as relevant now if not more so than 30 years ago at the time of Familiaris Consortio, the Apostolic Exhortation after the Synod on the Family in 1980 and more recently Amoris Laetitia.
All aspects of family life are food for reflection. For some years I have focused on specific aspects month by month using a family year planner.
This has allowed me to delve into aspects of family life and highlight them in articles and daily reflections.
In July, because of the feast of Joachim and Ann, the grandparents of Jesus, we are given a chance to honour, thank and express concern for all grandparents.
In this Year of Mercy, grandparents are seen as Witnesses of Mercy. We tend to think of them as old, but in many cases a woman may be co-parenting her teenage daughter’s baby together with children of her own and managing a career.
This aspect of women’s roles in the family is explored as part of August’s family theme Men and Women of Mercy.
This approach has exposed a weakness I perceive in Amoris Laetitia. Beautifully as it presents marriage and its spirituality throughout the document, I was disappointed at the rather frugal attention given to other aspects of family life even though they are mentioned.
Figures given in a 2011 SA Institute of Race Relations analysis of the latest census indicated that just one third of our children will grow up in a family made up of both their biological parents, who may or may not be married.
The most common form of “family” is a single mother-headed home. Grandparents, mostly grandmothers, do care for many grandchildren, often as sole providers, using their pension and child grants. Grandmothers may share the childcare with their children, which can present its own issues. There are grannies who are happy, or merely content, or accepting, and others who find this burden quite irksome.Some grandparents, maybe those who are alone, want the freedom to live their own lives. When possible older grandparent couples love to travel to visit children who have moved away.
Those who are media savvy may enjoy contact with children and grandchildren by email, or Facebook or Whatsapp. Others who are widowed, separated or divorced experience abandonment, loneliness and even abuse.
The Church and spirituality can become a source of strength and support. Maybe the fact that churches — and sodalities too — are more packed with older people than younger ones is not only because of their more committed faith but also because of the social contact.
A programme I have been promoting for a while is “a movement of prayer of grandparents for their grandchildren”.
This was initiated when one granddad told me he prays for each of his 27 grandchildren by name every day. It is a simple movement that consists of an occasional meeting together of grandparents, to share photos and stories, share a scripture passage and a prayer.
Daily prayer for grandparents can bring us in tune with their lives, their loves, their hopes and worries.
Parishes could promote such a movement and on the Sunday nearest July 26 have a bumper grandparent celebration.
We, grandparents young and old, need to feel loved, but we also need to feel understood. I have certainly come to discover, “growing old is not for wimps” especially when your body and your mind begin to lose a little of their sharpness here and there and your knees refuse to do their duty. All the same, Happy Grandparents’ Day!
An info sheet on “A movement of prayer of grandparents for their grandchildren” can be downloaded from www.marfam.org.za under Liturgies, Prayers and Blessings.