Pope Francis: ‘When you are old, you are no longer in control of your body’
Pope Francis’ general audience in St. Peter’s Square, June 15, 2022. VATICAN MEDIA
By Catholic News Agency
June 15, 2022
VATICAN— Pope Francis said on Wednesday that the elderly must accept their physical limitations, noting that he now has to walk with a cane.
In his general audience address on June 15, the pope said that old age is invariably marked by fragility.
“When you are old, you are no longer in control of your body. One has to learn to choose what to do and what not to do,” he said.
“The vigor of the body fails and abandons us, even though our heart does not stop yearning. One must then learn to purify desire: be patient, choose what to ask of the body and of life.”
He added: “When we are old, we cannot do the same things we did when we were young: the body has another pace, and we must listen to the body and accept its limits. We all have them. I too have to use a walking stick now.”
Pilgrims responded with applause to his reference to his recent health struggles.
The 85-year-old pope has walked short distances at recent general audiences with the help of a cane. Due to ongoing knee pain, he has appeared in a wheelchair at other public events since May 5.
The pope’s live-streamed catechesis was the 14th in a cycle on old age that he began in February. He entered St. Peter’s Square in a jeep, stopping to invite children in white hats to join him for part of his journey among the pilgrims.
The vehicle drove up to a raised platform in front of St. Peter’s Basilica, where the pope was helped to walk up to the white chair where he gave his address.
Pope Francis’ catechesis focused on Jesus’ healing of Simon Peter’s mother-in-law, as described in Mark 1:29-31.
He noted that the Gospel writer did not say if she was suffering from a mild ailment or something more serious, observing that “in old age, even a simple fever can be dangerous.”
The pope underlined the significance of Jesus’ decision to visit the sick woman with his disciples rather than alone.
“It is precisely the Christian community that must take care of the elderly: relatives and friends, but the community. Visiting the elderly must be done by many, together and often,” he said.
“We should never forget these three lines of the Gospel [Mark 1:29-31], especially now that the number of elderly people has grown considerably, also in relation to the young, since we are in this demographic winter, we have fewer children, and there are many old people and few young ones.”
“We must feel a responsibility to visit the elderly who are often alone, and present them to the Lord with our prayers. Jesus himself will teach us how to love them.”
The pope then underlined a consistent theme of his reflections on old age: that society’s “throwaway culture” seeks to “cancel out” the elderly.
“Yes, it does not kill them, but socially it eliminates them, as if they were a burden to carry: it is better to conceal them,” he said.
“This is a betrayal of our own humanity, this is the worst thing, this is choosing life according to utility, according to young and not with life as it is, with the wisdom of the elderly, with the limits of the elderly.”
He went on: “The elderly have much to give us: there is the wisdom of life. There is much to teach us: this is why we must teach children that their grandparents are to be cared for and visited.”
“The dialogue between young people and grandparents, children and grandparents, is fundamental for society, it is fundamental for the Church, it is fundamental for the health of life.”
“Where there is no dialogue between the young and the old, something is lacking and a generation grows up without past, that is, without roots.”
Pope Francis said that the healed woman offered the disciples a lesson by rising from her sickbed and serving them.
“Even in old age one can, or rather one must, serve the community,” he commented.
“It is good for the elderly to cultivate the responsibility to serve, overcoming the temptation to stand aside. The Lord does not reject them; on the contrary, he restores to them the strength to serve.”
Concluding his address, Pope Francis said: “Please, let us make sure that the elderly, grandparents, are close to children, to the young, to hand down this memory of life, to pass on this experience of life, this wisdom of life.”
“To the extent to which we ensure that the young and the old are connected, to this extent there will be more hope for the future of our society.”
A summary of the pope’s catechesis was then read out in seven languages.
Addressing English-speaking Catholics, he said: “I greet the English-speaking visitors taking part in today’s audience, especially the various pilgrimage groups from the United States of America.”
“Upon you and your families, I invoke the joy and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ. God bless you.”
Before offering his final remarks, the pope urged pilgrims to pray for the victims of war in Ukraine.
“And please, let us not forget the martyred people of Ukraine at war. Let us not get used to living as if the war is a distant thing,” he said.
“May our remembrance, our affection, our prayer, and our help always be close to this people who are suffering so much and who are experiencing a true martyrdom.”
Addressing Italian pilgrims at the end of the audience, he noted that Catholics around the world are preparing to celebrate the feast of Corpus Christi.
“Tomorrow we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, which in Italy is transferred to next Sunday,” he said.
“May the Eucharist, mystery of love, be for all of you a source of grace and light that illuminates the paths of life, support amid difficulties, sublime comfort in the suffering of each day.”
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