In his encyclical letter, “Deus Caritas Est” (“God Is Love”), Pope Benedict XVI makes an important connection between the sacrificial love God has revealed in Jesus Christ and how the charitable activity of the Church manifests God’s love and is essential to the life of the Church.
The Holy Father states:
“As the years went by and the Church spread further afield, the exercise of charity became established as one of her essential activities, along with the administration of the sacraments and the proclamation of the word: love for widows and orphans, prisoners, and the sick and needy of every kind, is as essential to her as the ministry of the sacraments and preaching of the Gospel (“Deus Caritas Est,” n. 22).
Given this context, I believe we are challenged to reflect during this Advent and Christmas season on how we recognize and reach out in charity and service to seniors in our families, our parishes and those whom we touch in our local communities.
Pope Benedict exhorts us to ensure the grace of the sacraments and the Word of God we receive bear fruit in our charitable works for those in need. The love and life we receive from Our Lord must be proclaimed and shared in very concrete and practical ways.
How can we do this?
Treasure to the Church
Seniors in our midst are in particular need these days, and seniors also represent a great treasure of the Church — a veritable treasure-trove of wisdom, experience and love to be tapped into and shared in our families and parishes.
Our seniors represent the fastest and largest growing segment of our population in the Church. By 2030, one in four Minnesotans will be age 65 or older — double the current number. The number of those age 85 years and older will triple. This year, 10,000 baby boomers a day will turn 65, and the trend will continue for the next 20 years.
Seniors in our midst desire to stay at home safely and longer, while remaining connected to their families and local parish community.
Pope Benedict reminds us of our obligation as Catholics to minister to the needs of others. We cannot delegate charity and care of our brothers and sisters to the government. It is a personal obligation for each of us to care for the whole person in both body and soul.
Our seniors deserve to be treated as we would treat Jesus Christ himself: “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40).
The needs of seniors and their families must be critical elements of any parish ministry, and as an archdiocese we are beginning to take new action.
Catholic Senior Services is an archdiocesan-sponsored association of seven Catholic senior care providers in the archdiocese that are dedicated to facilitating better connections between seniors, parish communities and essential services.
We will be providing regular articles in The Catholic Spirit about senior issues, so please stay tuned. Visit http://www.catholicseniorservices.org or call the CSS Help Line at (877) 420-6461 for more information.
Deacon Dan Gannon is president and CEO of Catholic Senior Services.