“Respect your ancestors, for you are the result of a thousand loves.”
This is one of my favourite Irish proverbs. I am so grateful to my ancestors for all the struggles and pain they went through to maintain their faith and pass it on down through the generations to me.
One of my grandmothers had to leave school at the age of 12 to work in a cotton mill. She worked hard all her life, overcoming poverty, surviving war and still passed on her faith to her children and grandchildren.
My other grandmother was a farmer’s wife, working alongside her husband in a house with no electricity or running water, but still organized her family to get dressed up every Sunday and travel a fair distance to Church. Sunday was a day of rest and celebration for my grandmother.
I am grateful to my two grandmothers for their example of strength and faith.
During Pope Francis’ recent visit I was struck by the beauty and strength and dignity on the lined faces of the many elders in attendance. Pope Francis spoke with love and respect to those elders. He asked them for forgiveness for the terrible wrongs done to them. Their dignity and pride in their ancestors is an example to us all.
I was deeply moved by the exquisite clothing worn by many of the elders, especially at Inuvik. In a CBC interview one of the Inuvik elders said “I am grateful to the Pope for giving us a stage so that we could show the whole world the beauty of our culture”.
Pope Francis also spoke about Saints Joachim and Anne, the grandparents of Jesus, as role models for all grandparents.
There are many references to ancestors and grandparents in scripture:
For example, in Sunday, August 7’s, reading from the Book of Wisdom 18:6, we read:
“The night of the delivery from Egypt was made known beforehand to our own ancestors so they might rejoice in sure knowledge of the oaths in which they trusted.”
In the second reading, from Hebrews, 11:2, “By Faith our ancestors received approval”.
Some other scriptural references:
Psalm145, verse 4: “One generation commends your works to another. They commend your mighty acts.”
In 2 Timothy 1:5, we find: “I am reminded of your sincere faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now I am sure dwells in you as well.”
Grandparents have always had a role to play in the life of the Church. At a recent Vatican conference entitled “The Richness of Many Years of Life” one of the speakers, Catherine Wiley, is quoted as saying, “We Catholics have the greatest story ever told and this is something that the older generation can pass on to their grandchildren. The only way to do it is to introduce your young people to the story of Jesus.
Passing on the faith gets harder and harder in the way that we were brought up in the faith, but the opportunities and challenges are magnificent because we live longer, we have more time to spend, more care to give, more wisdom to learn.”