An awesome catechesis about grandparents and the elderly by Pope Francis at today’s general audience! He said that today he would be considering the difficult current situation faced by the elderly, but noted that next week he will present a more positive view of the vocation that corresponds to this stage in life.  I give a lot of the papal catechesis because it is so wonderful. After all, we all had grandparents, we all know some elderly!

I have to say that, in the almost two years that he has been Pope and presided at the Wedneseday general audiences, Francis’ catecheses on the family in recent months have been my favorite!  His messages hit home becaue we all are in some way part of a family. For sure, we had a mother and father and they had mothers and fathers (our grandparents) and so on. Many people are blessed to become parents, many of us are blessed with siblings, aunt and uncles, cousins, a huge extended family.

Thus, the Holy Father’s words on mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, children and  grandparents touch, in some way, the most intimate, personal aspects of our lives – the family.


For reasons unknown to me I cannot access the photos I took at Santa Maria in Trastevere when I filmed a “Joan’s Rome” spot there a couple of years back. Many thousands of my photos are on my external hard drive and I can only seem to access drive F: occasionally. It seems to decide by itself when I can access it and when I cannot (though I know that is not a technical answer!).

In any case, here is a link to that Joan’s Rome video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Le8w4TnjteY

Santa Cecilia in Trastevere, as far as I am concerned, is one of the must see churches in Rome. Too many pilgrims and tourists don’t even know the Trastevere area, much less this beautiful church! Trastevere (the name means “across the Tiber – tevere being Italian for Tiber) and Trastever is across the Tiber from central Rome but is on the same side of the river as the Vatican.  It is a very old section of Rome and you can run into families who have lived here for ten or more generations!

You might be more familiar with the name of Santa Maria in Trastevere. another ancient basilica that is about a 15-minute walk from Santa Cecilia. Viale Trastevere divides the Trastevere neighborhood into two parts.

Click here for an interesting link on Trastevere (and try to visit the next time you are in Rome – there are TONS of terrific restaurants!): http://www.italyguides.it/us/roma/rome/trastevere/trastevere.htm

Two great links for learning more about Santa Cecilia: http://blenzinrome.blogspot.it/2014/03/wednesday-of-second-week-santa-cecilia.html


Now a totally secular note: if you have just visited Santa Cecilia and you have been wanting to buy a beautifully crafted, handmade Italian tie (or ascot, foulard or scarf), go to La Cravatta where they have been making and selling them in the same family for many decades: Via Santa Cecilia, 12.



This morning in St. Peter’s Square, in his continuing general audience catecheses on the family, the Holy Father spoke of the elderly, especially grandparents, focusing on the challenges and difficulties faced by the elderly in today’s world. (photo: news.va)


Reflecting on the fact that life expectancy has increased in modern societies, Francis decried a widespread lack of respect and consideration for the elderly and their dignity. He recalled the words of Benedict XVI during his visit to a residential home for the elderly: “The quality of a society … is also judged by how it treats elderly people and by the place it gives them in community life,” and exclaimed: “A civilization can sustain itself if it respects wisdom, the wisdom of the elderly. On the contrary, a civilization in which there is no place for the elderly or in which they are discarded because they create problems … carries the virus of death.”

Nowadays, he said, people tend to live longer, but often our societies not only fail to make room for the elderly, but even consider them a burden. “A certain culture of profit insists on making the elderly appear to be a burden, an extra weight. They are not only unproductive; they are an encumbrance, and are to be discarded. And discarding them is sinful. We do not dare to say this openly, but it happens.”

“But rather than a burden,” affirmed Francis, “they are, as the Bible tells us, a storehouse of wisdom.”

And recounting an anecdote of the days he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, Pope Francis told of a visit to a home for the aged where he stopped to chat to one of the guests and asked her how her children were doing: “Well” answered the old woman. “Do they come to visit you?” he asked. “Oh yes, always” she replied. “And when was the last time they came?” he continued. “At Christmas,” she said. To which the then-archbishop replied: “That was August… Eight months without a visit from her children, for eight months she was abandoned. We can call this a mortal sin, right?” he said.

Pope Francis then told another personal, touching, rather amazing story:

“Once, as a child, my grandmother told the story of an old man, a grandfather, who, as he ate, would drop some food on himself as he was having trouble bringing the soup spoon to his mouth. His son, the father of this family, decided to move him from the family table into the kitchen where he made him a special table where he would not be seen, where he could eat alone. And that way he would not make a bad impression when friends came over for lunch or dinner.  Several days later, the father comes home from work and sees his youngest son playing with wood, a hammer and some nails, trying to make something.  “What are you making? asked the little boy’s father. “I’m making a table, Daddy.” “A table, why?” “For you, so that when you become old, you can also eat there!”

“Children have a better conscience than we do” said Pope Francis.

“It’s is a mortal sin to discard our elderly,” he insisted. “The elderly are not aliens, we are them, in a short or in a long while; we are inevitably them, even although we choose not to think about it. .. If we do not learn to look after and to respect our elderly, we will be treated in the same way,” he warned.  “A society where the elderly are discarded carries within it the virus of death” he said.

In the tradition of the Church, there is “a legacy of wisdom that has always promoted a culture of closeness to the elderly, a willingness to provide affectionate and supportive accompaniment in this final stage of life. This tradition is rooted in the Sacred Scripture. … We must reawaken our collective sense of gratitude, appreciation and hospitality that enable the elderly to feel like a living part of the community. The elderly are men and women, mothers and fathers who have walked the same road before us, in the same house, in our everyday struggle for a dignified life. They are men and women from whom we have received much.”

“Where there is no honor to the elderly, there is no future for the young,” said Pope Francis.

(sources news.va, Holy See Press Office)