Grandparents of Today


Only Selfless Love,  song composed for 2003 World Meeting of Families by Jamie Rivera

Today in the world where life is born
There’s a struggle that is fought
To be welcomed, to be cared for, to be at home

Today when all life seems bought and used
There’s a struggle to belong
To be free and to be a gift to everyone

We call all families
Rise up and raise your hands as one
Come show the world the love that binds all God’s children into one

We call all families
Share the treasure that’s in your hands
What can save us now, what can lead us now, what can make us all be one

Only selfless love, Jesus show the world
That only selfless love can bring a hundred fold
Of fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, homes

Where peace and mercy reign
Where faith and hope remain
Where life begins and ends in God’s embrace

Calling all families
Let’s make it happen…             Source: Musixmatch

(This is the opening song in the programme FAMILY MATTERS on RADIO VERITAS, South Africa)   

This week the focus in this newsletter and in the FAMILY MATTERS, RADIO VERITAS programme is very much on grandparents as Sunday 26 July is the feast of Sts Joachim and St Ann, the grandparents of Jesus.  In fact we know almost nothing about the parents of Mary, other than from tradition in the Orthodox church.  I loved the picture that I came across showing how excited Joachim was to find Anna pregnant.   Joseph, of course, didn’t feel quite the same when he discovered Mary to be pregnant.  Maybe this is being a little flippant, but it does illustrate that parents and grandparents do have very different reactions to the news of a pregnancy and to how they deal with the birth and growth of the child.  There are umpteen parenting courses offered everywhere, but not much  for grandparents.  I belong to the international Catholic Grandparents Association started in the US by Daniel Norman McNamara [email protected].   A variety of resources are offered from around the world.  

Who are grandparents for us?

My own insights and experience are more local, but nevertheless in general family experience is most often dependent on cultural background with important religious and economic aspects too. Pope Francis writes, “A family that fails to respect and cherish its grandparents, who are its living memory, is already in decline; a family that remembers has a future. Amoris Laetitia 192,  a statement that should be unpacked more fully.

Just as we all have parents we did all have grandparents who we may or may not remember. I don’t remember mine as I was young when we came to South Africa as immigrants.  Nowadays with so much immigration and emigration amongst many sectors of our population chances are that many grandchildren hardly know their grandparents in the flesh, although phone, email, skype, facebook and now zoom have built and are able to strengthen a lot of intergenerational relationships.

Family structures range from extended to nuclear, with the extended family still being much the stronger amongst black families, who are the vast majority of our population. A type of nuclear family is a growing form everywhere due to urbanization. Many black adults today, were brought up by grandparents because of migrant work realities, schooling opportunities as well as HIV/AIDS impact.  Single parent families, now an increasingly common form and mainly mother-headed, is often a three-generation family. 

Economically the older generation still contributes greatly to their children and grandchildren, especially now in situations of growing poverty due to the effects of the virus.  But this is not only for the very destitute who are dependent on granny’s pension, relief payments, grants and food parcels. Middle-class families of all races are suffering job losses and financial hardships and anxiety. The grandparent generation has ideally been building up their savings towards their own final years to avoid being dependent on their children. How many of us are now having to consider using these savings to support our children once again?     

Relationships matter most.

Much can be said about family structures and finances and the grandparents’ place, but the focus here and now is mainly on relationships and how these contribute to family well-being.  

Pope Francis speaks lovingly of how his grandmother contributed to his faith formation.  I like the short 7 word prayer she taught him that is still a favourite, “Jesus, make my heart more like yours.”  As the article in explains, it is so much simpler and more relatable than the more formal,  “Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like unto thine.” Being relatable, passing on their faith, teaching prayers, praying with and for grandchildren is one of grandparents’ most precious gifts.   

In a group, possibly a sodality or prayer group when asked to share about their grandchildren, many of us like to share how wonderful they are, how cute, gifted, beautiful and successful.  Sometimes we do share our concerns.  Not all the young ones can or even want to be great achievers. Most are, and choose to be, average but happy.  Some choose to be drop-outs, substance abusers, smokers, drinkers, gamblers even.  Their world is different from our world and even that of their parents, our children.  I do believe that our greatest gift is to love them irrespective and unconditionally.  That may not be easy, as some of us, at least, are inclined to judge and offer advice, wanted or unwanted to them and their parents.  

MARFAM has published many articles, prayers and reflections over our 25 years. Some are more serious and some more light-hearted because being a grandparent is meant to be one of the special joys of living. Those of us who have grandkids, know the pains and the joys, while other older people today wait patiently or even beg their children to give them a grandchild, please!   

Downloadable MARFAM Resources from or search the website.

  • For Sunday 26th July, PRAYER AND BLESSING FOR GRANDPARENTS AND GRANDCHILDREN even while parish churches are still closed to prevent any risks from the virus,
  • MOVEMENT OF PRAYER OF GRANDPARENTS FOR GRANDCHILDREN,  even beyond this time we can form small support groups or pray in solidarity with others. 
  • Way back in 2001, when my family was 20 years younger, I put my down some of my thoughts in a prayer.  I think I still agree with these BEATITUDES FOR GRANDPARENTS.   

Blessed are the poor in spirit …. as they will not see their grandparents as a mealticket to the future.
Blessed are the gentle,. as they will recognise and be patient with the weaknesses of old age.
Blessed are they who mourn, and who comfort the bereaved and lonely in their loss.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for justice,  that the old and weak will not be cast aside butbe treated with dignity and respect.
Blessed are they who are merciful and who forgive the old for the faults and failings of yesteryear.
Blessed are the pure in heart, who see the old and young as they really are.
Blessed are the peace-makers and the agents for reconciliation between generations.
Blessed are they who accept with grace the wisdom of old age.
Blessed are they who can look back on a life of integrity and know they are loved.
Blessed are they who do not judge their young, so that they will not be judged.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because they do what is right, standing up with courage to defend what they have learned through the years.
Blessed are the old and the young, children, parents and grandparents who acknowledge with gratitude the great gift of life they have been given to share.        ……… for the Kingdom of God is theirs.

    TRowland  26 July 2001    FAMILY WEEKLY 22 JULY 2020

Commemorating old and young

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