Pope Francis has initiated a World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly which was held this year on Sunday, July 25th with the theme, “I am with you always” (Mt 28:20).
Speaking about the day, His Eminence Cardinal Kevin Farrell said, “The World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly is a celebration. We really needed it: after such a difficult year we truly need to celebrate, grandparents and grandchildren, young and old. ‘We should celebrate and rejoice’ says the Father in the parable. A new page opens after dramatic months of difficulty. Pope Francia invites us to take a step further, he speaks to us of tenderness. Tenderness towards the elderly is needed because, as the Holy Father recalls in the message we present to you today, the Virus ‘has been much harsher with them’. For this reason, the Pope hopes that an angel will visit, and will come down to console them in their solitude, and he imagines that this angel looks like a young person who visits an elderly person.”
Dr. Vittorio Scelzo added, “In these days we will launch a social campaign and invite everyone – especially the younger people – to tell about the visits and initiatives that will develop using the hashtag #IamWithYouAlways.”
Below are some of the kinds of tweets I found when searching this hashtag. It is wonderful to see this civilizing initiative of valuing the elderly more profoundly.
Sometimes I wonder about how we will look back at this Covid period of our lives.
Will this time be regarded as “lost years” or “missing years”?
Will we be able to recall events clearly or will they be blurred, absent the ordinarily vivid and communal expressions of milestones?
And, will trauma and grief be suppressed by gradual good humour and selective nostalgia?
In The Year of Our Lord 1943, Alan Jacobs writes about the effects of the end of World War II saying, “As war comes to an end, and its exigencies cease, and people return to a freedom absent for so long that its return is discomforting, they think of the apparent lawlessness of Nature and Man alike…”
A few pages later, Jacobs says:
One of the most well-known Hebrew songs, Kol Ha’Olam Kulo has these simple lyrics:
The whole world
is a very narrow bridge
a very narrow bridge
a very narrow bridge
The whole world
is a very narrow bridge –
A very narrow bridge.
And the main thing to recall –
is not to be afraid –
not to be afraid at all.
And the main thing to recall –
is not to be afraid at all.
Today there is a very interesting piece published in The New York Times titled, “There’s a Name for the Blah You’re Feeling: It’s Called Languishing.”
This article describes the paradoxical combination of restlessness and lethargy that many people are now experiencing as “languishing.”
It turns out the etymology of the word is “to fail in strength, exhibit signs of approaching death” and the word is derived from the Latin word languere meaning to be listless, sluggish, and lacking in vigour.
The whole New York Times piece is very much worth reading because the author is not only articulate in describing the phenomenon but is also edifying in proposing some possible antidotes.
Adam Grant writes:
Jozef De Veuster was a Belgian Catholic who asked God to be sent on a mission.
Having done his formation for the priesthood in Belgium, he was then sent to Honolulu and was ordained two months later.
He took the name Damien and began his priestly ministry in the Hawaiian Islands.
During Fr. Damien’s time, there was a public health crisis. Mortality rates were high due to infectious diseases for which there was no herd immunity. Chinese workers were suspected of having brought the disease to the islands. The outbreak was not well understood and experts were unsure as to how it spread, whether it could be cured, and whether transmission could be stopped. The government passed mandatory quarantine legislation, even sending some people to isolate in remote locations. The officials insisted that these were not prisons, but there was certainly not enough medical supplies or doctors and nurses. Some experts thought the lepers would be better off dead. One health official conjectured, “It would seem that even demons themselves would pity their condition and hasten their death.”
This evening my aunt, who is a primary nurse at the Rockyview General Hospital, shared with me a bit about her experiences as a nurse both before and amidst the pandemic.
In particular, she told me about a program initiated in 2015 called No One Dies Alone. This project of Alberta Health Services is a effort to ensure that any patient, who is without family or friends to visit them as they approach death, is met with some form of intentional companionship.
My aunt told me that, throughout the entire pandemic, she does not think anyone has died alone at her hospital. Most have had family and friends who were able to visit and for those who did not, they were accompanied by volunteers or clergy.
I recently asked a young woman about what ways she has found to profit from the situation of living during a pandemic.
Her immediate answer was that she came to truly value attending church because this is something that had been taken away during to the periods of lockdown. Prior to the pandemic, she would often skip church because of her erratic work hours, but once she had experienced the loss of this possibility that was not on her own terms, she resolved to make church attendance, when possible again, a non-negotiable commitment in her life.
This is a testament that we value that which costs us.
If something costs us nothing, it is natural to expect that we will not value it highly.
And so I am also reminded of the ardour with which persecuted Christians attend church.
This evening over dinner, my friend and housemate shared a news story from a month ago about a university student in Montreal who was surprised to discover that his current art history professor had, in fact, already been deceased for two years.
Aaron Ansuini had been following an online course through Concordia University when he Googled the professor to find his email address but instead found his obituary.
The university says the prerecorded material was in no way meant to be deceptive. Nevertheless, the student’s Twitter thread recounting his surprise amassed hundreds of thousands of likes and retweets.
There is a miscellaneous text by Janusz Korczak (the Polish Jew who perished in Treblinka along with 200 children and staff of the orphanage he directed) that is titled, “How I Will Live after the War.”
In it, he notices how “about fifteen of them are keeping journals.” Most of the journals document life day-to-day and, occasionally, there are reminiscences about the past. However, “only once did someone write about what he was going to do after the war.”