“I want to greet all the grandmothers and grandfathers to thank them for their special place in families and for their importance to the new generations.” (Pope Francis, July 26, 2015)
The photo is of the 11 am daily Mass at Nuestra Señora del Carmen y San Luis, a parish built in the 17th century. It’s right next to my Spanish class so most days I try to make a visit and sometimes attend Mass. There usually isn’t anyone under the age of 65 and the priest must be at least in his 70’s. It takes Father two and a half minutes to walk from behind the altar and make his way down the stairs, clutching Jesus to his chest with one hand as he uses the handrail with the other. It could be easy to think these people don’t have a place in the New Evangelization, but they are the backbone of it. They are the ones holding us up in many ways. I see them every day praying for Spain, for vocations, for young people and families, for political leaders, for the Pope and the Church. I’m sure many have experienced the pain and aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, the brutal persecution for being Catholic in the country that gave us Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Ignatius of Loyola and so many more. Their faith is humbling.
Pope Francis has mentioned many times how much the Church needs our older brothers and sisters in Christ. We need our grandparents! They have held onto the faith when it has come under fire from political and ideological persecution and aggressive secularization, and when there was no one to spread the Word, they did. My first memory of the Church, of God, is from when I was 5 years old. My paternal grandmother was babysitting my sister and I, and needed to keep 2 mischievous and curious little girls occupied. So after my sister and I accidently knocked over the Christmas tree, she decided we should leave the house and go to the parish where my grandfather was a deacon, to look at the Nativity and the stained glass windows. That was my first time in a Church and I remember it vividly; the velvety red carpet, the smell of incense, creaky wooden pews, the quiet and the afternoon light filtering through the stained glass adding to the otherworldly ambience. It impacted me deeply and I didn’t want to leave, and recall asking to go back every time grandma babysat. I don’t think she knew it before she died, but my first memory of falling in love with the Church was because of her. How many of us have fond memories of going to grandma’s house and seeing that picture of the man with his heart outside his clothes or the statue of that really pretty woman in blue or associating the clink of rosary beads with grandpa? As we deepen in our mission to evangelize the family and society, let’s give thanks for those important early imprints of the faith. In this Year of Mercy, it could be good to recall how God has and continues to transmit His mercy to us through those older in the faith.
“We pray for our grandfathers, our grandmothers, who so often play a heroic role in the transmission of the faith in times of persecution. When mom and dad weren’t home or when they had strange ideas, which the politics of the time taught them, it was the grandmothers who passed on the faith.” (Pope Francis, November 11, 2013)