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DEAR FATHER | No matter our stage in life, we are called to bear spiritual fruit

I’m elderly now and although I love my family, I sometimes wonder why am I still here. What do I have left to offer to our Lord?

If we haven’t given much thought to this question, it can seem a little unpleasant, especially if we’re younger or haven’t found ourselves in this particular place.. When we’re younger, sometimes we feel disconnected from older generations and wonder about the common ground we share. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the societal differences between our generations, and we can forget the common spiritual ground that we all share, no matter what age.

Sometimes, we forget that a parish family goes beyond the physical walls of the church building and includes those who aren’t physically able to attend Mass anymore as they are homebound or in assisted living homes. The elderly in our Church can, at times, go unnoticed, unappreciated or seemingly forgotten. Pope Francis announced in January 2021 that each year, on the fourth Sunday of July, the Catholic Church would celebrate a World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly. The reason it’s toward the end of July is that the date falls close to the liturgical memorial of Sts. Joachim and Anne, the parents of our Blessed Mother Mary and grandparents of Jesus. July (and the warm weather it brings) may still be months away, but this annual celebration should serve as a reminder to all of us of the important role our elderly parishioners have in the life of our Church.

The theme for the celebration is different each year, and in 2022 itwas “in old age they will still bear fruit” (Psalm 92:15). This is a great reminder for all of us, no matter what age, that we have been called by Christ to bear fruit. Throughout Scripture, we hear various parables regarding pruning, vines, fruits, seeds, etc. The point is that Christ desires us to remember that we are called to bear spiritual fruit. But we must remember that this command from our Lord sometimes differs from our worldly understanding. Bearing fruit is not synonymous with being productive in the worldly sense. As we age and our physical abilities lessen, we remember that the Lord still desires us to bear good fruit! Jesus doesn’t expect us to go out and physically labor in service like we maybe could when we were younger. Still, Jesus desires us to continue to grow spiritually and share those fruits we receive from the Holy Spirit with the other members of the Body of Christ.

I encourage elderly Catholics to remember that they are some of our greatest prayer warriors! If we find that we may not have the physical stamina or strength anymore to do the laborious tasks that we were once able to do, it doesn’t mean that we don’t have anything to contribute to Christ and His Church. Along with the power of intercessory prayer, we can continue to impact the hearts of others through the way we seek to be living examples of hearts that Christ has transformed. A joyful witness of the faith can make a lasting impression on so many! So, if we ever ask the above question, let us remember that God calls us to bear fruit still, no matter our age or physical abilities. The Lord will never call us to something we can’t handle, so let us trust in our loving relationship with Him and that through Him, we may bear much fruit!

Father Dan Kavanagh is director of the Catholic Deaf Ministry in the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

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