“For a renewed centrality of the elderly, we must all be there: the family must be supported, especially the women, who are more involved in the care work. We need synergies, a network, it’s a question of welfare, but also a cultural question”, says the parish priest in Caivano.
In the blacksmith society, there seems to be no more room for the old, yet they have a great spiritual wealth and experience to offer us. But everyone’s commitment is necessary. We talk about it with don Maurizio Patricielloparish priest in Caivano.
From verse 15 of Psalm 92 in old age they will still bear fruit”, the Pope took the title of his message for World Grandparents and Elderly Day 2022. A thought that goes against the grain in today’s throwaway society. But how do you change mentality?
Our society is fast paced, certainly not suitable for the elderly, just as it is not suitable for children, the poor, the weak. Everyone is closed in their own world, in their own interests, and the elderly are pushed aside. Yet we should understand that we have everything to gain from them, from their experience in the field of work, in the field of wisdom. When an old man gives us advice, it may seem heavy, but it is as if he already knew certain roads, how they end. So we have to recreate alliances, share moments together. I was at “In His Image” to shoot episodes in Nuoro, at the sanctuary of the Madonna del Rimedio, which is surrounded by 80 houses inhabited for the novena of the feast, in September. In those days there is communal life, there is spiritual and social life, the old man and the child dance together, have fun, sing, pray. There are no ghettos. Together the child in a wheelchair, the elderly, the young, the adult, the middle-aged, the elderly: the diversity of life is a wealth. In Italy, all this can be exploited because the family, although under pressure, still holds its own. But we have to overcome the mentality of “separate the grandfather” and live with our elders, they will take some of our freedom from us, but they will give us a lot in return. It is beautiful to see the elderly living with their families. Of course, political commitment is also needed to make it possible for the elderly to be cared for at home. Reclaiming all this helps us a lot to have a society with a human face.
The Pope also says that old age is almost considered a disease. But what scares us? The idea of death that we associate with the elderly and society seeks to remove? Or the “burden” that may constitute their healing?
These two aspects are related. We shall live a million hours if the light of our life is extinguished slowly without sickness or accidents. When these hours are exhausted and the end approaches, it already frightens us. Yet many times I have seen an elderly person die in his home, with great serenity, because he is surrounded by his family, even children. In fact, it is not good to banish death as well as to hide it from children who must understand that it is a part of life. In addition, the elderly are more limited in movement, become more tired, but this is not a disease, rather a condition. But even this scares us because we know that sooner or later, if we live long, we too will find ourselves in that state. And then there is the question of how the elderly can somehow limit our lives, our holidays, our free time, even our work. But I believe that when there is good will on everyone’s part, solutions are always found, without the elderly refusing our company. Let’s go back to Jesus’ command: to love. When I look at our mothers, I am not saying that we must love them as they loved us, because we will never succeed, but we must love them. After all, these women gave us life. And the same goes for fathers. Let us enjoy our old people and their serenity to spend the last years of their lives with their loved ones, in their homes, among their things, with their habits, whims, little programs. And we learn from them to live day by day.
Many times, when the work is done, the same elderly continue with little hope and no longer wait for anything from the future. How do you give them a horizon to strive towards? Can the church help them?
When a person retires and has no prospects, they can easily go into depression.
The parish can do a lot, we can come up with many activities where we can involve the elderly.
Prayer also helps them tremendously. We thank the Lord that there are so many old people in our churches. We can assign them less responsibility and obligations. For example, in my parish we have a garden, if they like it, they can take care of it. Or let us think of the catechism, of the ministries of the lectorate, of the acolyte, of the service at the altar. And even when we organize a pilgrimage, we must think of something suitable for them, for example in sanctuaries not far from the parish. Italy has many. But we can do much more than what has so far been achieved for the ancients. In short, in the parish we must make our elders protagonists.
Loneliness is a great scourge of old age. Children engaged in a thousand things, peers who are no longer there …
We need to get out of the old man’s “poetry”. It can be a bit “heavy”. It is not always easy to love him. So we must educate ourselves for the family, where the elderly have their rightful place, this is not a concession. For this renewed centrality of the elderly, we must all be there: the family must be supported, especially women, who are more involved in the care work. Synergies and networks are needed, it is a question of welfare, but also a cultural question that children can already work with.
Old age is not “a sentence” but a blessing, says Pope Francis. How can elders turn this blessing into a gift for others?
There is no doubt that old age is a blessing. My old bishop said there is only one way not to die old: die young. It may sound like a joke, but it contains a very sharp consideration. In many homes, there are elderly people who help their children a lot financially, by looking after their grandchildren or looking after other old people in the family who are no longer self-supporting. And when an elderly person speaks, even if he repeats a story to us so many times, we listen to him, we always want something to learn.
At home, in the church, in society, we build a world that suits the elderly and children.
If we adults do this, we have a lot to gain.