Evangelization and Spirituality
Excerpts from the conclusions of the International Congress of the Pastoral Care for the Elderly (January 2020); these excerpts are supplemented by others (in italics) from the intervention, at this congress, "the generation of elders, a generation to be spiritually attended".
Evangelism must aim for the spiritual growth of each age, for the call to holiness is for all, including grandparents. This spiritual growth is part of a reflection aroused by a new status (being retired), on the time of aging and on the meaning of age: what it means to no longer be productive, to enter the age of availability and gratuitousness, what meaning to give to vulnerability, illness, dependance, suffering, to address with lucidity and serenity the issues related to the end of life.
Not all the elderly have already met Christ; but these, at one time or another, are confronted with existential questions (what do I do on earth,what meaning do Igive to my life? why the finitude of our life?): these enigmas related to the mystery of our lives can be the starting point of a journey that the Church can accompany; it is an opportunity to discover the faith, not as a series of prescriptions, not as an obstacle to the development of each one but as what gives price and meaning to life.
Even for the elderly for whom the encounter with Christ took place, it is essential to help them rediscover the meaning of their baptism, in this special phase of life and in a triple direction:
- To find astonishment at the mystery of God's love and eternity;
- to overcome the widespread conception of a judge God who punishes, and instead discover the relationship with the God of merciful love;
c. to ask the elders who are part of our communities to be actors in the new evangelization and to pass on the gospel themselves. They are called to be missionaries. ...
-among the older people and the sick by visiting them regularly, helping them to find serenity, offering them a caring presence, a loving closeness because evangelizing is first of all loving.
-among the poor, by engaging in charity.
-among the children by making certain moments of daily life opportunities for catechism to be, as grandparents, awakeners and transmitters of the faith
-among our families, by becoming, through testimonies of life, messengers of God, signs of our belonging to Christ and revealers of his love for each person.
... Let us take care of the spirituality of the elderly, so that religiosity ... apart from piety and devotional practice, can be immersed in an authentic deep spiritual relationship with God.
The aging man is not nearing the end; rather, he needs to get close to God and the mystery of eternity:
- with the apostolate of prayer, which all the elderly, even the sickest, can accomplish. Every sick elderly person, through prayer, can embrace the world and can change it with his strength! Even when weak, in fact, each person can become an instrument of the history of salvation.
- With the care of the sacraments: Reconciliation, Eucharist and Anointing of the sick, explain better this incredible gift of the Holy Spirit, which too many people in the world confuse with a sacrament that announces death, whereas instead it gives the strength to face with serenity and confidence all the difficulties of the soul and body.
- With spiritual dialogue: as the years pass, the person continues to live the succession of different phases of spiritual life, and it is necessary that we deal with his demands, the need for intimacy with Christ and the sharing of faith, which exists even in the most advanced ages of life. It is for the elders to deepen their faith by finding in the places they attend catechisms adapted to their new state of life; it is for them to receive the elements of a spiritual reflection specific to old age: learning to acquire that inner freedom that makes us overcome the fear of death and doubt, learn to bear the disadvantages of aging, learn to strip yourself of the superfluous, learn to live the joy of the present, learn hope, as a force that fertilizes old age and must transform it ("it is no longer I who live, says St Paul, it is Christ who lives in me").
Undersecretary of the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life
Monique Bodhuin, President of LAI
The selected extracts were chosen by Jean-Michel Siméon