Pope: Faith is transmitted by listening to the testimony of the elderly

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Pope Francis blesses a boy during his general audience in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall on March 23, 2022. (CNS Photo by Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Passing on the faith from generation to generation requires personal and direct listening to the lived experiences and stories of faith of older people, Pope Francis has said.

“Today, the catechism of Christian initiation draws generously from the Word of God and transmits precise information on the dogmas, the morals of the faith and the sacraments,” the pope said during his weekly general audience on March 23. .

“What is often missing, however, is a knowledge of the church that comes from listening to and witnessing to the true story of the faith and life of the church community, from the beginning to the present day,” he said. he declared.

The pope’s catechesis was part of a series of talks devoted to the meaning and value of “old age” and focused on the role of memory and personal witness in the transmission of faith.

“Listening personally and directly to the story of lived faith, with all its ups and downs, is irreplaceable,” Pope Francis said.

The pope gave an example from his own experience saying, “I learned hatred and anger for war from my grandfather,” who fought in northern Italy in World War I. “He gave me this rage at war because he told me about the pain of a war,” and this can only be learned by passing it on from one generation to the next.

Being able to learn more about the faith from written records, films and the Internet is helpful, he said, but it “will never be the same” as communicating face-to-face through through storytelling.

Elderly people, in particular, who have so much experience and receive “the gift of a lucid and passionate witness” to their own history are “an irreplaceable blessing”, the pope said.

A transmission of the faith in the first person, “which is the true and proper tradition”, is sorely lacking today and the situation is only getting worse, he said, because today’s culture considers that the elderly are useless and “must be rejected”.

Moreover, he said, this way of transmitting the faith from generation to generation seems to be hindered in families, society and Christian communities themselves because of today’s emphasis on ” politically correct”.

When the transmission of faith lacks “the passion of ‘lived history,'” he said, “how can it lead people to choose love forever, fidelity to the word given, perseverance in devotion, compassion for hurt and discouraged faces?”

However, he said, these testimonies must be honest and faithful to the Word of God.

Testimonies that are not faithful are those that reflect an “ideology that bends history to its own patterns”, promotes “propaganda that adapts history to promote its own group” or transforms history into “a court in which the past is doomed, and all future is discouraged.

“No. To be faithful is to tell the story as it is; and only those who have lived it can tell it well”, which is why it is so important that everyone, especially children , listen to the elderly, he said.

The right kind of testimony is found in the Gospels and Acts of the Apostles, which “honestly tell the blessed story of Jesus without hiding the mistakes, misunderstandings and even betrayals of the disciples,” he said.

The story of Moses is also an example of telling the story of faith as “a story capable of recalling God’s blessings with emotion and our failures with sincerity,” the pope added.

Catechesis, he said, should include “the habit of listening: the lived experience of the elderly; to the frank confession of the blessings received from God, which we must cherish; and to the faithful testimony of our own failures in faithfulness, which we must repair and correct.

The faith cannot simply be transmitted with books, but transmitted “from hand to hand” with the familiar speech, stories and testimonies between grandparents and grandchildren, between parents and their children, he said. declared.

“This is why the dialogue in a family is so important, the dialogue of children with their grandparents, who are the ones who have the wisdom of faith,” he said.


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