NEW YORK – On the very first World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly, Cardinal Wilton Gregory stressed the wisdom that the elderly and grandparents carry with them each day, and encouraged all Catholics to “become more observant of their needs.”

“Being observant of the needs of others is something that grandparents always do with great aplomb for their grandchildren. They notice, grandparents, sad faces, longing eyes, and hopeful expressions,” said Gregory, the archbishop of Washington.

“We in turn, on this grandparents and elderly neighbors’ celebration, are called to notice when our older loved ones may need special help,” he continued. “A cheerful word, an unexpected visit, a surprise phone call, a message sent on one of the social media platforms.”

Gregory made the comments in his homily Sunday at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington D.C. during a Mass dedicated to grandparents and the elderly. Sunday marked the first annual World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly.

Pope Francis announced that he was establishing the day in late January. It will be celebrated annually on the fourth Sunday of July to coincide with the feast of Saints Joachim and Anne, Jesus’ grandparents. The theme for the first World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly was “I am always with you.”

In his homily, Gregory said the annual day “reminds us that we need one another at different moments in life, but always with generous and tender attention,” which he segued into a broader message on what the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly reminds us to do.

“Our Holy Father in designating this special moment for grandparents and the elderly wishes all of us to deepen our concern for one another, to intensify our respect for those who have so many wonderful stories of faith to share, and to realize once again that the church is a family that only improves when we make room for all those who belong to Christ and belong to one another,” Gregory said.

The cardinal then closed his homily with a simpler message to the faithful, that “this Sunday we praise God for Grandma and Grandpa.”

“We ought to do it more often,” Gregory said.

Other prelates from around the country weighed in yesterday and during the week called on Catholics to pray for grandparents and the elderly.

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio asked Catholics on social media to “join me in prayer for the love & wisdom of our grandparents & the elderly.”

Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington released a statement last week encouraging Catholics to “call or visit your grandparents sometime during this week if they are living, pray for them if they are deceased, or offer to help an elderly neighbor.

“They have wisdom to share, and we should extend our respect for their experience and their God-given divinity,” Burbidge said.

Auxiliary Bishop Elias Lorenzo of Newark offered a prayer on his social media.

“Lord God almighty, bless our grandparents with long life, happiness, and health,” Lorenzo wrote. “May they remain constant in your love and be living signs of your presence to their children and grandchildren. Through Christ our Lord. Amen!

Gregory in his homily Sunday spoke at length about the elderly’s gifts and wisdom.

“If you, like I do, have personal memories of the wonderful gifts of your grandparents, your hearts are now filled with happy and grateful thoughts of all that they have done for us in our youth and whose memories continue to guide and inspire us even today,” Gregory said. “However, our elders and even grandparents also link us to our heritage of family and faith.”

Gregory also brought up the famous men and women in the Old Testament who achieved lengthy ages. While grandparents and the elderly may not reach those inflated ages, he said, their lives are also a blessing for us.

“Through memory, they can bridge the past, but they are also able to cross over into tomorrow, in those moments that they spend with their grandkids,” Gregory said. “They are living links from the past to tomorrow.”

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