Grandmothers and Mercy
January is a time that reminds me of my deceased Grandmother. She passed away over 20 years ago on January 31. It is this time of year where I live with the Pennsylvania chill in the air that reminds me of her passing. I think many of us have fond memories of those people who not only touched our hearts during life, but continue to touch our souls after their death. “Nanny” was one of those people in my life. While growing in faith, I have connected more closely with Our Lady, and also with her mother St. Anne, the grandmother of our Lord. It’s a blessing to me to have the name “Anne” as it is a connection to St. Anne and also to grandmothers.
Grandmothers are a gift from God, and they have been given gifts of love and mercy to share with their children, grandchildren and the world for generations. We are now in the “Year of Mercy” which began at the beginning of this new liturgical year, at the start of the Advent Season. Pope Francis has declared that this is a year of God’s love, mercy, forgiveness and of reaching out to those in need. I believe there is much to ponder here when it comes to grandmothers and the action of the Holy Spirit in the world and God’s mercy. God continually shows us those people who pass through our lives who are in need of his healing touch. God calls all his people to show mercy to one another. Grandmothers, in their wisdom and loving hearts, can spread the love of God just by living out their daily lives through their vocations of love, family and acceptance of others, especially those in need.
Faith in Action: The Grandmother at Work for God
Life and love are a gift from the Lord at every moment. From the very moment of conception until natural death occurs, God has complete control of our destiny. Grandmothers, through their lives of faith have witnessed these facts. Yes, we have “free will” and sin exists. But, God’s hand is more powerful than all of the strongest and most intelligent men and women around the world. In our faith, we can’t help but become more humble in our hearts as life progresses. We can begin to let God’s goodness and his mercy become our companions and guide our very existence through the Holy Spirit. With this in mind, our mission of mercy is one that continues on through our lives and even after death when we meet the Lord and become part of the Communion of Saints with God. It is grandmothers who are the very wise women among us. They have seen joy and pain in their years, but their perseverance is something that attracts others to the faith.
This quote from Pope Francis is a reminder to me of how mercy is so integral in the world, and it reminds me that the role of being a minister of love and mercy is for all people regardless of age:
“In the Gospel, the essential thing is mercy…Jesus says this clearly, summarizing this teaching for the disciples: “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36). Can there be a Christian who isn’t merciful? No. A Christian must necessarily be merciful, because this is the center of the Gospel. -General Audience, St. Peter’s Square, September 10, 2014
Sometimes in our culture, there is an attitude that once a person reaches a certain age they can no longer be of any use to society and to themselves or others in making a difference for God or the world. We know as people of faith that this is a false statement. As long as God gives us breath and the gift of time, we have a purpose. And even after death, our purpose will continue especially if we were living our lives close to God and close to the Holy Spirit and His very will. Mercy is actually a gift from God that we receive from him and that we give as a gift to others. Grandmothers with the love of their hearts for their family and those around them have been given the gift of mercy to their families, as well as those around them. We can learn from our grandmothers just how to pass along that gift to others.
Our examples say much more to others than we can ever realize. I am sure there are grandmothers among us who also feel a sense of disappointment that some of their children and grandchildren have not grown in the love of God through good and virtuous lives and may have fallen away from the beliefs of the Church. What can one do to prompt or inspire other family members or friends to see the gifts that the Church has to offer? Education, catechesis, offering insight – they are all good. But, they are not always effective the way we wish them to be. Truly only God knows how a person’s heart can be touched by him. But one thing is for sure. Love, mercy and forgiveness are gifts we can offer at any age and are the very best evangelizers to the world.
I recently attended my mother-in-law’s 80th birthday celebration. As I looked around the room at all the people in attendance celebrating her life, I also thought of St. Padre Pio and his presence whom my mother-in-law prays to for intercession on a daily basis. And in my heart at that time, I realized in a more profound way that her example of faith will continue to have an impact on her family for many years to come. I think of my own dear mother, Nancy, who was in attendance that day, too. A woman who loves her children and grandchildren deeply and who is a great example of reaching out to the poor as she has been involved in volunteer organizations for the suffering, hospice patients, and also the homeless. Her faith in Christ has materialized through her efforts to bring love and mercy to those in need and in the love she has for others. These are women who continue to live the mission of love and mercy.
Let Us Pray for All Grandmothers in this “Year of Mercy”
Grandmothers need our love, too, and our mercy, as they grow older. Perhaps they are not quite as strong physically as they once were. But, that of course does not mean their hearts and souls are not strong with the love and mercy of God. Grandmothers are open vessels of love both of receiving love and giving love. It is important to note that a grandmother doesn’t necessarily have to be a mother or grandmother in a physical way, since women can also be “spiritual mothers” through prayer and intercession to others in their closeness with God. They do not necessary have to possess a biological connection to the ones seeking her love. A woman can be a dear “grandmother” to any friend or relative that the Holy Spirit presents to her heart through prayer and relationship. God is beyond limitations. Through the prayers and intercession of Our Lady, St. Anne, and all mothers and grandmothers of faith, we can make a difference for Jesus and the salvation of the world through love and mercy.
In this month of January, I offer a prayer for the New Year and beyond at this time for Grandmothers:
Lord Jesus Christ, Thank you for the gift of the “Grandmother” to the world. I ask you to bless all of these dear women of faith who by the love of God have given themselves to others through a lifetime of sacrifice, love, mercy and forgiveness. Lord, please strengthen them in their journey of life and of love. Help them to know and understand that the witness of their lives is indeed making a difference for their children, their grandchildren and the world. And through the intercession of Blessed Mary and St. Anne may they be given continued perseverance in life and in the passing of this life to life with you forever. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.