As the grandfather of 26 grandchildren and the great-grandfather of 2 great-grandchildren, I am happy to celebrate the third World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly.
The day of this celebration is July 23, the Sunday before the Feast of Saints Anne and Joachim, the grandparents of Jesus. The theme of the day is, “His mercy is from age to age.” (Luke 1:50). This theme takes us back to the joyful meeting between the young Mary and her elderly cousin Elizabeth. (See Luke 1:39-56). “The Holy Spirit blesses and accompanies every fruitful encounter between different generations: between grandparents and grandchildren, between young and old. God wants young people to bring joy to the hearts of the elderly, as Mary did to Elizabeth, and gain wisdom from their experiences. Yet, above all, the Lord wants us not to abandon the elderly or to push them to the margins of life, as tragically happens all too often in our time.” (Message of His Holiness Pope Francis for the Third World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly, May 31, 2023, found HERE).
Pope Francis also wrote in that message,
Celebrate this day and make it the occasion of a joyful and renewed encounter between young and old. To you, the young who are preparing to meet in Lisbon or to celebrate World Youth Day in your own countries, I would ask: before you set out on your journey, visit your grandparents or an elderly person who lives alone! Their prayers will protect you and you will carry in your heart the blessing of that encounter. I ask you, the elderly among us, to accompany by your prayers the young people about to celebrate World Youth Day. Those young people are God’s answer to your prayers, the fruits of all that you have sown, the sign that God does not abandon his people, but always rejuvenates them with the creativity of the Holy Spirit.
The Vatican will offer a plenary indulgence to mark the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly. The indulgence can be received by grandparents, the elderly, and all Catholics who, “motivated by the true spirit of penance and charity,” participate in Pope Francis’ July 23 Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica or another Grandparents’ Day celebration, or who visit the elderly.
An indulgence is defined by The Catechism of The Catholic Church as “a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven.” The usual conditions for a plenary indulgence require the individual to be in a state of grace, have complete detachment from sin, and pray for the pope’s intentions. The person must also sacramentally confess their sins and receive Communion, up to about 20 days before or after the prayers for the indulgence.
Those who would like to participate in the indulgence, but are unable to leave their homes due to sickness, age, or another serious reason, can unite themselves spiritually to the celebrations of the day through “offering to the Merciful God their prayers, pain, and the suffering of their lives” while watching the pope’s Mass or another celebration on TV or online. (Decree from the Vatican’s Apostolic Penitentiary, July 5, 2023).