Put Out into the Deep

Grandparents Instill Love and Faith

My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,

Grandparents Day has been celebrated on the first Sunday after Labor Day for almost 30 years. The celebration originated through the work of Marian McQuad, a native of West Virginia and a wonderful mother of 15 children, 40 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

In 1973, the governor of West Virginia proclaimed the day into state law. In 1978, the first National Grandparents Day was signed into law by President Jimmy Carter and has been celebrated as a secular holiday ever since. Two of the main purposes of this celebration are to give grandparents an opportunity to show love for their children’s children and also to help children become aware of the strength, information and guidance that grandparents can offer.

In my own life, I cannot underestimate the influence that my grandparents had on me. I was very fortunate to not only have known, but to have also lived with my mother’s parents. I was also fortunate to have known my paternal grandparents and even a great-grandmother. Each one of these persons contributed a value and knowledge base that are unique.

First, I had the opportunity to listen to their immigrant stories, and each one was very different. This gave me a true appreciation for the immigrant experience, which, in many ways, is not very different now as it was at the beginning of the 20th century. From each grandparent, I was able to learn something from the past, as well as some of the important virtues that make life liveable — patience, caring and the ability to suffer and understand its spiritual meaning. So many religious and human values were given to me by my association with my grandparents. It is unfortunate today that many children, because of living at a distance, do not know their grandparents well.

In the Christian sense, we know the grandparents of Jesus, Joachim and Anne, who, as the parents of Mary, gave her the life experience that made her open to the Holy Spirit. It was through this teaching that Mary brought redemption into the world by her willingness to do God’s will in all things. Grandparents are truly unique and can help us understand, because of their wisdom and experience, the real meaning of life itself. Today’s world is one where grandparents in many ways take on greater responsibility. The unfortunate breakup of families, many times, leaves the grandparents as caretakers of their grandchildren. Grandparents become most responsible for their grandchildren’s upbringing.

Recently, I attended the World Meeting of Families held in Milan, Italy. A group approached me regarding establishing a branch of a grandparents organization which originated in Ireland. This group of well-motivated people were truly concerned about how the faith would be passed on to their grandchildren, since it seems that grandparents today have become the chief agents of communicating and witnessing of our faith to their grandchildren. I expressed my interest to this group of people, and I am happy to let you know that we soon will have a branch of this organization in our own diocese here in Brooklyn and Queens where grandparents can receive the support that they need in becoming transmitters of the faith, especially in this Year of Faith.

As you know, I am not a grandfather. But I am a great uncle. I have three nieces and two nephews and can now boast about my five great-nieces and three great-nephews. In early August, I baptized the latest set of twins, as within the eight are two sets of twins. Nikolas Richard and Mila Angeline were baptized at the Cathedral-Basilica of St. James. Somehow the oldest great-nieces and great-nephews were attracted to the bishop’s chair, as they have witnessed other baptisms at St. James and were at the Mass celebrating the 40th anniversary of my priesthood. They boldly wanted to sit in the cathedra. Well, I decided that I should sit in that chair with them gathered around me. It was a memorable day for me in my role as great uncle to my brother’s and sister’s growing families.

Grandparents do, by their vocation, put out into the deep. They have deep knowledge and wisdom that comes with the passage of years and life experience. I take this opportunity today as we invoke the intercession of SS. Joachim and Anne, patrons of grandparents, to help all grandparents to communicate the faith to their grandchildren, to teach their own children the patience and love that they, themselves, exhibited with their children so that grandchildren truly will grow in an atmosphere of love and faith.

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