As Pope Francis requested, we celebrate the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly on 24 July to coincide with the feast of Saints Joachim and Anne on 26 July.
To honour this day, I would suggest that we light three candles. I happily share with you the three candles that would top my list.
I would start with the candle of Gratitude, because age is a gift, a privilege not given to everyone. So many people have died before their hair could turn silver. Those who reach old age are among the blessed. The Pope speaks lovingly about those who have stayed the course, and still manage to be grateful for the ups and downs of the journey. Those of us in our wisdom years who age well, he compares to fine wines, with so much to offer to our loved ones, especially our grandchildren. This candle honours our lived experience, and what it has taught us. The gift of years allows us to come to peace with ourselves and our story, and if we cherish this gift, it can help to set us free,
My next candle would honour the idea of Letting Go. We find it hard to be free when we carry mental baggage. Maybe we harbour old hurts, or memories that get in the way of a happy life. Perhaps we need to forgive ourselves. When we can let go, we learn to march to the tune of a different drummer. We make space for something new to happen and discover the path to serenity. In our wisdom years, the lens of time and experience can help us to be less dogmatic, more open, more liberated. It’s only when we learn to let go that we become more able to hear, in the words of Mary MacKillop, God’s “whisperings to our hearts”.
Those first two candles lead us to the candle of Reflection. It is a blessed gift to have left behind the world of busyness, speed and deadlines. Like Mary in Luke’s gospel, we now have time to ‘remember all these things and treasure them in our hearts’. With more time for reflection, the scattered pieces of our broken selves can gradually be brought together. We discover how healing it can be to recall the example of those we have loved and lost and seek their help as we search for the sacred in our own lives. If we seize and savour these contemplative years, they can bless us with a serenity and contentment that we have not experienced before. And in the process, we will give the world back to God a bit better than it was before we were here.
Sue Kane is the co-author of the books A Daily Cuppa with Mary and Julian, The Little Brown Book, The Little Brown Book Too and The Pocket Contemplative. They feature quotes, spirituality, and wisdom of Mary MacKillop.