Our second of two posts reviewing the Aparecida bishops’ views on the elderly. While the push for intentional discipleship has only recently caught on, the bishops regard some of the elders as paragons of that lifestyle. Let’s read:
449. Many of our elders have spent their life for the good of their family and the community, out of their place and vocation. Many are true missionary disciples of Jesus by their witness and their works. They deserve to be recognized as sons and daughters of God, called to share the fullness of love and to be loved in particular for the cross of their sufferings, diminished capability, or loneliness.
Their families are challenged here:
The family must not see only the difficulties entailed in living together with them or serving them. Society cannot consider them as a weight or a burden.
A reminder that care for older persons is a justice issue, and the promotion of justice is also a political issue:
It is regrettable that in some countries there are no social policies to care sufficiently for older people who are retired, living on a pension, ill, or abandoned. Therefore we call for the design of just social policies in solidarity to deal with these needs.
Can elders continue as agents of the Gospel mission? I would certainly think so. The bishops do:
450. The Church feels committed to seek comprehensive humane care for all older people, also helping them to live the following of Christ in their current condition, and incorporating them as much as possible into its evangelizing mission.
An interesting point:
Hence, while it gives thanks for the work now being done by nuns, religious men, and volunteers, it wants to renew its pastoral structures and prepare even more agents so as to expand this important service of love.
I wonder what this means. Do the bishops see the elderly as a continuation of the cloistered apostolate, praying for the needs of the Church and world from their homes if they are no longer mobile or healthy? Or do they see older people as having more leisure time for service as “agents” of Christ in the world? It’s a worthy discussion for any American parish.
For deeper examination, an English translation of the 2007 document from the Aparecida Conference.