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Celebrating Grandparents

mary_anne_thumbSr. Vivienne Kellet gives an account of a special day for grandparents in her parish in Birmingham, England.

"One day early in July the parish priest handed me a sheet of A4 paper and said, “Have a look at that and tell me what you think.”  I looked, and discovered it to be a notice about the feast of Saints Anne and Joachim.

Our church is dedicated to St Anne, so I was not surprised that Father Pat would want to mark the occasion of her feast on 26th July.  More than that, he intended to include her husband in the celebration.  However, the real stroke of genius was this – he wanted to celebrate all the grannies and granddads who make up a large part of the parish community.  The paper in my hand was a first draft of an invitation to an evening Mass and a get-together afterwards in the parish hall.

What did I think? Well, I thought it was a brilliant idea as well as a sign of Father Pat’s awareness of all that families owe to the older generation and the value he attaches to all the elders at St Anne’s. Did I know anyone who could produce a really classy invitation?  Yes, I did - John - an obliging and talented friend.  By the following evening I had a sample for Father Pat to show to the Parish Pastoral Council.  It included a coloured picture of Sts Anne and Joachim and their daughter as a little girl.  None of us had ever seen it, nor anything like it, before and all wanted to know where it had originated.  Later I discovered John had simply asked Google!  No problem at all!  Moreover he printed the 150 copies we thought would be needed.

From then on, the forthcoming celebration was mentioned frequently, to encourage the parishioners to gather as many as possible of their children and grandchildren around them for the Mass.   The elders of our church were made to feel very special and to say they shone with gladness is no exaggeration.

When we gathered for the Mass on the feast there was a buzz of excitement and happiness that seemed to me to resemble Christmas Eve.  I think the grandchildren were largely responsible for that.  They were all dressed up for the occasion and although some of the parents on the way into church whispered their anxiety about possible bad behaviour the kiddies were as good as gold.

For the Liturgy of the Word Father Pat chose the readings of the day rather than those of the feast. The latter spoke only of “illustrious men” and the parish is dedicated to St Anne!  So we had the example of Moses as the leader of the community, his relationship with God and his role as intercessor with the God of tenderness and compassion who cares for his people.  We heard of Moses praying for his people, as grandparents do for theirs, acknowledging faults and asking for forgiveness.  The passage ends with Moses writing the Ten Words (Commandments).  The Gospel of the darnel in the wheat reminded us that there is good and bad in each of us but our God is patient with us and will in the end destroy the bad and save the good in us – as grandparents are conscious of faults in their families yet love them to the end when the good in them will “shine like the sun” in the Kingdom of their Father in heaven.

In his homily, Father Pat spoke of all that the older generation continue to contribute to their families by their love, their prayers, the babysitting, picking little ones up after school and in a host of other ways support and encourage the middle generation. He also thanked them for all the many ways in which they contribute to the life of the parish."

Afterwards, in the Parish hall, while the grown-ups sat about chatting, there was plenty of space for the children to run about, dance, chase each other and generally let off steam. This was the first time we celebrated the grandparents of our Lord and the grandparents of the parish together.  I have a feeling it will grow into a tradition.

The photos are of a statue of Mary and Anne used at the event, made by Sr. Vivienne and much admired on that occasion.