Leave it to me to focus on a line most forgot Pope Francis said to Congress.
Storehouse of Wisdom
Buckets of grace and wisdom were tossed onto Congress and hopefully the world today as Pope Francis spoke. I want to focus on one statement, and one segment of our population that didn’t get much notice. Here’s the golden nugget:
“I would also like to enter into dialogue with the many elderly persons who are a storehouse of wisdom forged by experience, and who seek in many ways, especially through volunteer work, to share their stories and their insights. I know that many of them are retired, but still active; they keep working to build up this land.” He added that he also wanted to “dialogue with all those young people who are working to realize their great and noble aspirations, who are not led astray by facile proposals, and who face difficult situations, often as a result of immaturity on the part of many adults. I wish to dialogue with all of you, and I would like to do so through the historical memory of your people.” – Pope Francis, Address to Congress – September 24th, 2015
It is not the first time he has said such things. Today it struck a cord for me in relation to Youth Ministry and what is happening in my home in Canada. We are currently losing a battle about physician assisted suicide. The dignity of the sick, vulnerable, and elderly is being dangerously threatened. As the Pope said the elderly are seeking to share what they have and to build their communities no matter what stage of life. I guess the question is, are we giving them opportunities to do this?
In this year of Consecrated Life our Diocese is celebrating the lives of many of our religious (many advanced in age) and trying to capture their stories to pass on to generations to come. Many of them founded cornerstones of our communities such as schools, hospitals, care homes, you name it! What a legacy we have to celebrate. They have left an indelible mark on our society. It would be a shame to ignore and forget it.
A Generation of Fools?
So often we are concerned with what is quick, current, and upcoming. I get it. We are trying to respond to the needs of young people and their families as best we can. The landscape in which we are working in many ways changes at a lightening pace. However I’m afraid we might be raising a generation of fools if we do not slow down.
How many lessons (be them joys or struggles) have already been lived by our elderly that they desperately want to pass on? Have I taken time to talk to my elders and ask them what’s on their heart? Do we understand their desire must be to prevent pain, to encourage lives of deep purpose and influence, and perhaps simply to be heard one last time?
I cannot help but see the link with this and the Pope’s next statement of wanting to dialogue with the young people and their aspirations. Does not the wisdom of generations before offer help us to mentor and accompany our young people today? I cannot help but think this is a deep well of wisdom we simply are not drawing from enough. I am struck by the obvious example of the Pope as a living witness to this himself given his age and popularity with youth.
So, perhaps today let’s take a moment to reflect on how well we are doing that as youth workers, teachers, parents, and children. Here’s a few questions I came up with for me to think about. Feel free to use them as well.
- When was the last time I spoke to someone 20 years different in age (on either side)?
- When was the last time I started a conversation with someone elderly just to listen?
- When was the last time I took my children to visit the elderly religious who live 4 minutes away?
- When was the last time I sang love songs in a long term care home to brighten someone’s day?
- When was the last time I had youth gathered in one part of the church, and elderly were gathered in another space at the very same time. When have I brought them together?
- What passions do we share? Classic film, swing music, knitting prayer shawls, crib, devotions such as the rosary, etc.
- Is there a platform for providing a space for elderly to speak wisdom directly to the hearts of young people?
- Do I set aside moments in my week to learn from my elders?
- Do we pray together?
Wisdom! Be Attentive!
So, let us not abandon the storehouse of wisdom in our communities. Let us pray that together, we raise a wise and merciful generation instead of a generation of fools.