Today (2nd February) is the feast of the Presentation of the Christ Child in the Temple.
We focus on a wonderful story in which two people who are in the later years of their lives, are central. The wisdom and prophetic messages given by Simeon and Anna to the young mother Mary were the result of years of prayer and patience. They had no ambitions but to be present, to witness the glory of God coming into the world.
Fr John Cullen, the Chaplain at Nazareth House Hammersmith, here reflects that for those in later life, our willingness to be present with them, and to listen, makes all the difference.
As a chaplain in the Nazareth Care Home in Hammersmith, I meet residents who continue to offer a unique and hidden service to the Church. Their gifts should be acknowledged and appreciated. Caring for older people begins by making sure that that they are valued, acknowledged, recognised and not excluded from participation.
The fact of spending time listening to, caring and accompanying older people who are nearing the end of their lives, invites us to slow down, to listen and to reflect on the meaning and transience of our own existence.
It is important that we don’t forget the lessons of the pandemic, when older people, especially in Care Homes, were exposed to greater risk, because they were not adequately factored into the health protocols of public policy.
In the Gospel, Jesus told his disciples, “The greatest among you is the one who serves”. When we use our gifts and time to serve others – we also serve God. It shows appreciation for the gifts that we have received.
Let us never forget that so many older people quietly bear witness to the Gospel by their presence, their prayer and their patience in the face of the prolonged suffering, personal loneliness, family disruption and reduced mobility. Those who have become frail and fragile due to old age deserve the very best that society can offer to them. Now, it is our turn to serve them. This should never be seen as a burden – but as a privilege.
As a community, we greet all those older members among us who are unable to join us for Mass in person. Please let us know if we can offer practical, pastoral or spiritual assistance.
Know and believe that your Presence, Prayer and Patience are precious gifts at this moment for the Church, as well as in the history of our fractured world.
“The whole of society must hasten to take care of its elderly. They are its treasure.” Pope Francis.
Caritas Westminster is working with the Irish Chaplaincy and other organisations to support parish and community groups which work to include older people.
Join us at our conference on Thursday 20 April: “Animating Seniors Groups”