GDC 186: “Old age, gift of God to the Church”

After a few sections on the young, the GDC focuses three on catechesis for the aged with a brief section covered in the predecessor document, the General Catehchetical Directory #95 and John Paul II’s Christifedeles Laici #48.

186. In many countries, the growing number of old people represents a new and specific pastoral challenge for the Church. Not infrequently the old are seen as passive objects and possibly even as an encumbrance. In the light of faith, however, they must be understood as a gift of God to the Church and to society, and must also be given adequate catechetical care. In catechesis, they have the same rights and duties as all Christians.

Not just rights. Duties too.

Attention must always be paid to the diversity of personal, family and social conditions. In particular, account must be taken of factors such as isolation and the risk of marginalization. The family has a primary function, since it is here that the proclamation of the faith can take place in an environment of acceptance and of love which best confirm the validity of the word. In any event, catechesis addressed to the aged will associate with the content of faith the caring presence of the catechist and of the community of believers. For this reason, it is most desirable that the aged participate fully in the catechetical journey of the community.

It is one thing to tout the family as an ideal locus, even a primary one. But the reality is that western society has devalued the extended family in favor of independence, mobility, and the treatment of people, even providers, as commodities.

Some good things here: old people have responsibilities, even to the effort of evangelization; the importance of the Word; the relationship with the catechist and the faith community. I suspect that in many parishes, assumptions continue–assumptions based on a notion that believers can graduate from faith formation.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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