March 23, 2015

VATICAN CITY – Don't pack it in or shift into cruise control, Pope Francis told his fellow seniors.

Today's frenetic world, especially young people and families, needs the older generation's prayers, wisdom and gifts to give them the encouragement, hope and faith they often lack, he said at his weekly general audience March 11.

"We, older people, can remind ambitious young people that a life without love is barren," he said to those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

"We can tell fearful young people that worrying about the future can be overcome. We can teach young people who are in love with themselves too much that there is more joy in giving than receiving."

The pope continued a series of audience talks about the family with the second part of two talks dedicated to the elderly.

The 78-year-old pope said he would use the pronouns "we" and "us" when talking about the elderly since "I, too, belong to this age group."

"It's true that society tends to discard us, but the Lord definitely doesn't. The Lord never rejects us," he said.

In fact, there is a true vocation and mission set aside for older people, who have a lot more free time at their disposal now than before, he said.

"It's still not time to 'rest on one's oars'" and just coast along, he said.

When it comes to finding one's new purpose in the world, seniors need to "make it up" as they go along "because our societies are not ready, spiritually and morally, to give this period of life its full worth."


Even "Christian spirituality has been taken a bit by surprise, and it involves sketching out a spirituality of older persons," he said.

There are plenty of saints as role models, he said, especially the elderly Simeon and Anna in the Temple, who had the knowledge and wisdom from life's journey to recognize Jesus.


When they saw Jesus, "the weight of age and waiting disappeared at that moment," the pope said. They found "new strength for a new task: to give thanks and bear witness to this sign of God."

Just as Simeon found inspiration to sing out with joy and Anna became the first to preach of Jesus, "Let us also become poets of prayer, let us acquire a love for looking for our words" to offer, as inspired by the word of God.

The prayers of the world's grandparents and older people are "a great gift for the Church." They offer "a great infusion of wisdom for all of society, too, especially for (those who are) too busy, too occupied, too distracted."


Pope Francis remarked how wonderful it is that Pope Benedict XVI "chose to spend the final stretch of life in prayer and listening to God. This is beautiful," he said to applause.

"It is truly a mission for grandparents, a vocation for older people," he said, for them to hand down their wisdom and offer encouragement to those who are searching for meaning in life.

"How awful the cynicism of an older person is, he who has lost the meaning of his witness, scorns the young and does not communicate knowledge about life."