Pope Francis' General Audience on Grandparents

March 4, 2015

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today’s catechesis and that of next Wednesday will be dedicated to the elderly who, in the realm of the family, are the grandparents. Today we will reflect on the present problematic condition of the elderly and, next time, more positively, on the vocation contained in this age of life.

Thanks to the progress in medicine, life has lengthened: society, however, has not “enlarged” to life! The number of elderly has multiplied, but our societies have not organized themselves sufficiently to give them a place, with just respect and concrete consideration for their fragility and dignity. While we are young, we are induced to ignore old age, as if it were a sickness to avoid. Then, when we become old, especially if we are poor, sick or alone, we experience the lacunae of a society planned for efficiency that, consequently, ignores the elderly. And the elderly are richness; they cannot be ignored.

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We Love First Because He First Loved Us

Our Holy Father began his Lenten message with a reference from the First Letter of St. John: “We love because he first loved us” (4:19). He then reflects on God’s personal love for each of us, saying that he is interested in each of us, that each of us has a place in his heart. St. John suggests that our realization of this divine personal love should inspire us, motivate or compel us to share that love with others.

But “when we are healthy and comfortable, we forget about others (something God the Father never does): we are unconcerned with their problems, their sufferings and the injustices they endure…” our Holy Father wrote. “Our heart grows cold. As long as I am relatively healthy and comfortable, I don’t think about those less well off.”

This indifference often manifests itself in the face of the serious illness or death of a loved one. “I don’t have time” … “I can’t visit Grandma in the nursing home; it’s too depressing” … “I didn’t go to his wake because I didn’t know what to say to the family,” we hear. But those experienced in end of life work tell us that for those who are suffering, what we say is not what matters — what they will remember is that we came.

 

 

I felt that I had to be here

When he visited typhoon Yolanda survivors in the Philippines during his January visit to that country, Pope Francis showed us what it means to be present to others in their suffering, even when we don’t know what to say. Standing before thousands of survivors in the midst of torrential rains, he threw away his prepared homily and spoke from his heart:

Let me tell you something personal — when I witnessed this disaster from Rome, I felt that I had to be here. That is when I decided to come here. I wanted to come to be with you. Maybe you will tell me that I came a little late; that is true, but here I am!

I am here to tell you that Jesus is Lord; that Jesus does not disappoint. “Father,” one of you may tell me, “he disappointed me because I lost my house, I lost my family, I lost everything I had, I am sick.” What you say is true and I respect your feelings, but I see him there, nailed to the cross, and from there he does not disappoint us. He was consecrated Lord on that throne, and there he experienced all the disasters we experience. Jesus is Lord! And he is Lord from the cross, from there he reigned. That is why, as we heard in the first reading, he can understand us: he became like us in every way. So we have a Lord who is able to weep with us, who can be at our side through life’s most difficult moments.

So many of you have lost everything. I do not know what to tell you. But surely he knows what to tell you! So many of you have lost members of your family. I can only be silent; I accompany you silently, with my heart… Many of you looked to Christ and asked: Why, Lord? To each of you the Lord responds from his heart. I have no other words to say to you. Let us look to Christ: he is the Lord, and he understands us, for he experienced all the troubles we experience.

 

Before leaving the crowd, Pope Francis uttered this prayer, which we can share with those we know who are suffering and to whom we are called to reach out this Lent, even if we don’t know what to say:

Thank you, Lord, for being with us here today. Thank you, Lord, for sharing our sorrows. Thank you, Lord, for giving us hope. Thank you, Lord, for your great mercy. Thank you, Lord, because you wanted to be like one of us. Thank you, Lord, because you keep ever close to us, even when we carry our crosses. Thank you, Lord, for giving us hope. Lord, may no one rob us of hope! Thank you, Lord, because in the darkest moment of your own life, on the cross, you thought of us and you left us a mother, your mother. Thank you Lord for not leaving us orphans!

Click here for a pdf version of this prayer.

To read To Live Each Day with Dignity, the U.S. Bishops’ pastoral letter on physician-assisted suicide, click here

Click here for Pope Francis’ Lenten message.

 

 

It's what Jesus wants that really matters

Courtney Gerrity, who has been discerning with our Little Sisters in Mobile, officially entered the Little Sisters of the Poor as a postulant at our Home in Washington, D.C. on January 24th. Please enjoy Courtney’s reflections…

Sometimes words are not enough to explain how you feel about something.  Sometimes there are experiences in life that are so deep that words alone do not even scratch the surface. This is what happened to me when I fell in love with Jesus. It was the end of my freshman year in college when I started to have the feeling that I was called to religious life. There was a small voice that was deep inside me that was calling me.  This voice was Jesus. It was a call. I remember during the summer before sophomore year I did some research about religious life--wanting to learn more, but still questioning myself. I still had this feeling that this was not for me. It was hard to understand what any of this meant. I felt kind of strange that Jesus wanted me. What did I have to offer to Him? I knew that Jesus loved me, but I did not know how much He loved me. However, I also did not realize how much I loved Him and how much I wanted Him in my life.

Then the summer was over and I went back to college. In September I saw the Little Sisters of the Poor on television and looked them up online. I found their life interesting. I learned about their Spring into Service program and it looked very interesting. This summer I did the Spring into Service program at the Home in Mobile, Alabama, and I absolutely loved it so much. It was so much more powerful and meaningful then I ever thought it would be. I knew that I would enjoy it, but I had no idea how much! I loved the residents and the Sisters. I loved praying the Divine Office every day and being able to go to Mass every day… serving the residents and just being there for them. Some of them have no family, or their family is estranged from them. It was so beautiful to show to them that they are loved and that their lives have meaning--even when the world has forgotten them. I remember the Sisters telling me that when you serve the residents, you are serving Jesus. I had never thought about that. I did not realize that Jesus was not just at church, but also in the people that you see in the world. In July I realized that I wanted to be a Little Sister of the Poor. I wanted to live this way for the rest of my life. I loved the residents so much and I loved Jesus so much. I loved how I felt. I think I found the thing that was missing from my life. 

The voice inside of me that has been calling me since my freshman year was becoming even clearer. This is what Jesus wants me to do. There was only one problem, though: college. I wanted to finish college. So at the end of the summer I went back home from my service experience and then I went back to college. Halfway through my fall semester, I realized that I could not fight the feeling that I had anymore. Since July I had wanted to be a Little Sister of the Poor, but I really did want to finish college first. It became so hard to concentrate and it was starting to affect my work. Then I realized: Sometimes in life it is not what you want that is important, not what your parents want, but what Jesus wants, since He is what really matters in life--even when you think in the moment that His will is not what you want. Jesus since July had been down on His knee saying to me, “Courtney, marry me.”  I just could not say “yes” yet because I wanted to finish college first, but I realized that that is not what Jesus wants. Jesus wanted me now. Then with all the courage I have I said “yes”.  

This was one of the best days of my life. A feeling of peace came over me. I knew in my heart that this is what I want, but even more important it is what Jesus wants. Now on January 24th I am going to be entering the Little Sisters of the Poor. I am so excited, but I know Jesus is even more excited! I love Jesus and I cannot wait to give my life to Him and take care of the elderly poor. The love that I have for Jesus is so indescribable that words are not enough to explain it. I just know that in my heart this is what I am called to do. Never stop listening to the little voice in your head; I am so glad that I listened to it. He always knows what you want even when you do not know it yet.

 

 

 

From Indifference to Compassion

 

Each year our Holy Father writes a message for Lent, giving a theme for reflection during our journey to Easter. This year’s message addresses our modern tendency to indifference to the needs of others. This theme could not be more timely, since the Culture of Death has roared its ugly head in this new year in the form of efforts to legalize physician assisted suicide in as many U.S. states as possible.

Assisted suicide is obviously an important and troubling issue to us Little Sisters of the Poor. As we begin Lent we beg you to join us in praying that euthanasia and assisted suicide will not gain a foothold in our country.

Each week during Lent we will be sending a reflection on this theme of indifference, especially as it relates to caring for the sick and infirm. We hope that these passages will help to inform your mind and form your heart to be more like Christ’s, a heart which is merciful, attentive and generous, a heart which is not closed or indifferent, but open and compassionate toward those less fortunate.

 

God is not indifferent to us           
(excerpt from Pope Francis’ Lenten message)

God does not ask of us anything that he himself has not first given us. “We love because he first has loved us” (1 Jn 4:19). He is not aloof from us. Each one of us has a place in his heart. He knows us by name, he cares for us and he seeks us out whenever we turn away from him. He is interested in each of us; his love does not allow him to be indifferent to what happens to us…. God is not indifferent to our world; he so loves it that he gave his Son for our salvation. In the Incarnation, in the earthly life, death, and resurrection of the Son of God, the gate between God and man, between heaven and earth, opens once for all.

Do you believe that God calls you by name, that he cares for you and seeks you out?

Do you believe that you have a place in his heart?

It is natural to fear illness and death, but believing that our lives are in God’s hands, no matter what happens, can lessen our fears and give us hope.

 

A Prayer to Calm Our Fears

When the signs of age begin to make my body
and still more, when they touch my mind,
when the ill that is to diminish me and
carry me off, strikes from without,
or is born within me,
When the painful moment comes in which
I suddenly awaken to the fact that I am ill,
or growing old, and above all,
at that last moment
when I feel I am losing hold of myself
and I am absolutely passive
within the hands of the great unknown forces
that have formed me,
In all those dark moments, O God,
grant that I may understand that it is You
(provided only that my faith is strong enough).
You are painfully parting the fibers of my being
in order to penetrate
to the very marrow of my substance
and bear me away within Yourself.

–      Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J.

(Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881 – 1955) was a French philosopher and Jesuit priest. His sister was a Little Sister of the Poor who died as a missionary in China in 1911 at the age of 32.)

 

To read the complete text of Pope Francis’ Lenten message, click here.

 

 

A Perfect Little Sister Christmas

 

The following note was received from a Little Sister and captures the joy of hospitality (no, the photo is not the old gentleman, but an elderly shepherd) ...

"My best Christmas gift arrived on Christmas eve when our Savior came to us in the person of a poor elderly man who had been found on the floor in his impoverished dwelling, terminally ill and with no one to care for him. This dear, holy man who loves Jesus so much is now comfy, clean, and happy as he prepares for his journey home to God. I feel so privileged to be his 'Little Sister', and to be an instrument of the Lord's own love for him. Moments like this renew my faith, and I truly had a happy heart as I went to bed on Christmas eve.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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