Back when the General Directory for Catechesis came out (1997), many aspects of it captured our imaginations and piqued our curiosity: the primacy of adult faith formation, the concept of apprenticeship, the catechumenate as the model for all catechesis, the importance of sacred art, and so on. One concept that caught my attention but I believe has been vastly overlooked is the attention given to catechesis for the elderly, or the “aged” as the GDC prefers. Among some of the critical points made in the GDC about catechesis of the aged are the following:
- The number of aged people is growing, and there is a dangerous tendency to consider the elderly as “passive objects” or “an encumbrance.” (186)
- We must see to it that “the aged participate fully in the catechetical journey of the community.” (186)
- Because of their state in life, catechesis for the aged must be a “catechesis of hope.” (187)
- We need to help those who are elderly to discover and share (especially with those who are young) the wisdom they carry. (188)
- We must foster a dialogue between generations within the family and within the community. (188)
Perhaps the most poignant part of the GDC‘s treatment of catechesis for the aged is the following:
It is always a personal benefit and an enrichment of the Christian community, when the old bear witness to a faith which grows even more resplendent as they gradually approach the great moment of meeting the Lord. (187)
A good resource to help you initiate a plan for helping those who are elderly to “participate fully in the catechetical journey of the community” is the wonderful book Sharing the Wisdom of Time by Pope Francis and Friends. Sharing the Wisdom of Time is a collection of stories from elders from over 30 countries around the world. In this beautiful book, elders share their wisdom carved from lifetimes of experience. Every story is a testament to the power of faith, perseverance, human resilience, and love. Pope Francis contributes as a fellow elder, offering the Preface and his own story in each chapter, while also reflecting on dozens of others’ stories.
Visit www.SharingWisdomofTime.com to learn more about the book, the stories in it, and resources for encouraging intergenerational conversations in families, churches, schools, and communities.