Catechesis of Pope Francis on old age
On 22 June 2022, during a general audience, Pope Francis meditated on the dialogue between the Risen Jesus and Peter at the end of the Gospel of John (21, 15-23) « It is a moving dialogue, from which shines all the love of Jesus for his disciples, and also the sublime humanity of his relationship with them, in particular with Peter: a tender relationship, but not melancholic; direct, strong, free, open. A relationship as men and in truth »
Pope Francis explains: « The first passage is Jesus’ warning to Peter: when you were young you were self-sufficient, when you will be old, you will no longer be so much the master of yourself and your life […] And your witness, Jesus says, will also be accompanied by this weakness. You have to be a witness to Jesus even in weakness, illness and death […]
This conversation between Jesus and Peter contains a valuable teaching for all disciples, for all of us believers, and also for all the elderly. From our frailty we learn to express the consistency of our witness of life in the conditions of a life largely entrusted to others, largely dependent on the initiative of others. With sickness, with old age, dependence grows and we are no longer as self-sufficient as before; dependence on others grows and there too faith matures, there too Jesus is with us, there too that richness of the faith well lived on the road of life springs forth.
But again we must ask ourselves: do we have a spirituality truly capable of interpreting the season — by now long and widespread — of this time of our weakness, that is entrusted to others more than to the power of our autonomy? How do we remain faithful […] to the promised love, to the justice sought in the time of our capacity for initiative, in the time of fragility, in the time of dependence, of farewell, in the time of moving away from being the protagonist of our lives? It’s not easy to move away from being the protagonist. It’s not easy.
This new time is also certainly a time of trial — beginning with the temptation — very human, undoubtedly, but also very insidious — to preserve our protagonism. And at times the protagonist has to diminish, has to lower him or herself, to accept that old age reduces you as a protagonist. »
Pope Francis invites – including himself in this vow – the elderly not to envy the young people who follow their path but to remain
« faithfulness to sworn love, […] Learning to take leave: this is the wisdom of the elderly. […] But to take leave well, with a smile. To learn to take one’s leave in society, to take one’s leave with others. The life of the elderly is a very slow but joyful farewell: I have lived life, I have kept my faith. This is beautiful, when an elderly person can say this: “I have lived life, this is my family; I have lived life, I was a sinner but I have also done good”. And this peace that comes, this is the farewell of the elderly person. »
« Let us look to the elderly, let us look upon them, and let us help them so that they may live and express their wisdom of life, that they may give us what is beautiful and good in them. Let us look at them, let us listen to them. And we elders, let us look at the young always with a smile. They will follow the path, they will carry forward what we have sown, even what we have not sown because we have not had the courage or the opportunity. They will carry it forward. But always this mutual relationship. An elderly person cannot be happy without looking to young people, and young people cannot carry on in life without looking to the elderly. Thank you. »