By Cian Molloy - 11 September, 2017
Grandparents are in a unique position to offer loving advice and even correction, said Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh in Knock on Sunday.
The Archbishop was speaking at the annual pilgrimage of grandparents to Ireland’s national Marian shrine, and before the event he had done some research, asking people about what it was like being a grandparent.
He said: “Bridging the generation gap as a grandparent isn’t always easy, especially knowing when to speak and what to say. Every new generation brings change, new challenges, and different ways of thinking. Older people can be labelled as being ‘un-modern’, not ‘with-it’, and even accused of ‘interfering’. It can be difficult to connect with your children and grandchildren in their struggles to cope with the pressures of today.”
Among the people he talked to was a grandmother who had asked him to pray for her daughter and son-in-law because, although they lived in a lovely four-bedroom house with all mod-cons, work demands were putting their relationship under pressure. The granny was looking after the grandchildren four days a week, as well as doing babysitting on Saturdays “because the parents feel the need to relax with friends after the exhaustion of their busy week”. The granny was also taking the children to Mass and was helping with one child’s preparation for First Communion.
These children all had their own rooms, TVs, iPads and headphones, and she told the Archbishop: “It was so different when we were growing up. Everyone seems so isolated today.”
The Archbishop told the grandparents assembled in Knock: “Perhaps some of her story is familiar. I encouraged her to keep on loving and talking to her children and grandchildren, gently seeking moments to bring them together. Although family is all about relationship, it can still be difficult to make connections in a generation which can be so individualistic, emphasising ‘me time’, my space, my needs, my independence, my rights.
“What’s needed of course is opportunities together as a couple and family, to work on our needs, our future, our happiness. It is true heart-to-heart communication like this that builds and holds family together.
“Sometimes, as grandparents, you may wish to step in and say something, to point out gently and in love what you think is right and wrong. You want to offer the wisdom and even the pain of your own life experiences, especially when you are worried that your children and grandchildren could be putting the future of their family at risk.”
The Archbishop said he believes it is possible to offer correction and point out what is right and wrong, but he warned: “Unless we do so with love, tenderness and mercy, we will simply be seen as interfering, we will be told to ‘back off’ and our efforts will fall on deaf ears. To correct with love – that’s where you grandparents come into your own. You are not, of course, there to replace the consciences of your children and grandchildren, but neither should you shy away from helping them to form their consciences. Saint Paul in today’s Second Reading has good advice for all of us: ‘Love is the one thing that cannot hurt your neighbour; that is why it is the answer to every one of the commandments’.
“As grandparents, you are in a unique position to offer loving advice and correction, even. By word and example you can teach your children and grandchildren that families are built on mutual love, respect, loyalty, sincerity, trust and cooperation.”