When I was young, my parents used to travel a lot, leaving me and my four sisters in the care of my grandmother. What I remember most is sitting in our living room where she would tell us stories written by her about each of her grandchildren, through which she would teach us Christian values and Jesus’ love from the viewpoint of a child.
I come from a family of 17 cousins. I am used to living together as a family in which honoring elders is very important. Being part of a Catholic family has greatly helped me to grow in my faith, and now that my grandparents are older, I have found in faith a way to give back to them all that they have given me and taught me throughout my life.
5 Ways To Honor Your Catholic Grandparents
Here are 5 ways in which I find we can honor our Catholic grandparents while we, ourselves, keep growing in our relationship with God:
1. Share the Sacraments
I am getting married in six months and one of my fiancée’s greatest ideas for this day is that our grandmothers will be the ring bearers. It would be so cute to see our younger nephews and nieces doing it, sure, but for our grandmothers it will be so much more meaningful: it will show respect, honor, and will speak about how their own promise to marry before God has given us life and allowed us to do the same.
A great way to grow deeper in your relationship with someone is to attend the sacraments together. For your grandparents, it will show them that you share their faith and that they are part of the road that brought you to Grace. It can be as simple as going to mass with them on Sundays or, why not, during the week. You could also make them a main part of your wedding day, Confirmation, or your children’s Baptism! Whether you are a cradle catholic or not, your grandparents are a key piece of your identity and beliefs.
2. Ask questions about their faith and learn from their stories
Who doesn’t love a good story told by their grandparents? I personally enjoyed this a great deal and sometimes I regret not asking more questions when my grandparents were still able to answer them. There is so much wisdom and heritage that we can take from those stories, which are part of who we are.
Ask them about how they were raised in the faith, how their own Catholic (or non-Catholic) families were back in the day, which were those turning points in life that made them grow closer to Jesus, how they got into any special advocations, if they have gone through any faith crisis and how did they sort them out. You can also inquire about more common stuff like how they fell in love, had children and grandchildren, funny stories about their youth, and also moments of sadness when they lost their loved ones. It will help you reflect on your own life and path, find light in the darkness, and learn how to lean on God’s love through it all.
3. Pass down the faith and wisdom you received from your grandparents
Don’t keep those stories for yourself! Remembering and passing on our heritage is part of our nature as human beings and our duties as family members. Furthermore, for us Catholics, sharing our faith from generation to generation through oral tradition is a foundational element of the Church. A good way to do this is to write down the stories while your grandparents still have the health and energy to recount them. (You can even make them into a book! We did that and it has been an amazing blessing for the family).
Throughout human history, bringing people connected by blood and beliefs around a fireplace or a warm meal to listen to their elders speak has shown an invisible and mystic power. Don’t let technology, a busy life, and urgency take those moments away. God will surely make Himself present.
4. Practice the acts of mercy: visit them and take care of them
As a Latin American, duties towards our parents and grandparents are an important value our society holds. Families stay close and look after each other no matter what. Caring for our elders’ physical, economic, emotional, and spiritual needs is a fundamental part of who we are as Latinos, especially as Catholic Latinos.
As Saint Paul reminds us in his letter to the Corinthians, faith without love is useless. Sure, we can receive faith and stories from our grandparents, but if we don’t practice real and concrete acts of love for them, what’s the point? Aside from the duties we lawfully hold towards our elders, Jesus calls us again and again to dedicate our energy and time to the most vulnerable. Our grandparents, who were once strong and young, tended to us when we were babies, and are now in need of our love and support.
Gladly, Jesus left us the Acts of Mercy as a series of tips to make this call real in our everyday life. Feeding, sheltering, and clothing our grandparents, caring for them in sickness, and giving them a proper and Christian burial when they pass are some ways of honoring this duty. From a spiritual perspective, we can also share our knowledge with them (for example, you can take the time to teach them how to use a new technology!), comfort them in their sorrow, and bear their wrongs since we will not always be in agreement. And, last but not least, prayer, prayer, and more prayer!
5. Pray with and for them (in life and after death)
Prayer is such a powerful way to love each other, our living and our dead. This I have learned from my grandmother, who has always been a woman of deep and intense prayer life, and also happens to write beautifully and has composed several prayers herself. In one of my favorites, she prays to God for her 17 grandchildren and their present or future spouses, so they can find and live a love worthy of Heaven. Witnessing the devotion with which she prayed for me every day has inspired me to love her, and my other grandparents who already passed, in that same way. I have also discovered the power of praying with her since this is one of her favorite activities. Those have been the moments in which I have felt the strongest connections between us.
Besides setting time to pray our grandparents’ favorite prayers together (the Rosary, a specific novena, or a simple thanksgiving at the end of the day), we can pray for them. Let’s ask God to be their comfort and support in old age and in sickness while they are still with us and to embrace their souls in Eternal Glory once they die. We can even ask them to intercede for us in Heaven! Grandparents can’t say no to their grandchildren.
Honoring your Catholic grandparents can be a meaningful and fulfilling way to show your appreciation and respect for their guidance, love, and faith. Whether it’s through spending quality time together, supporting their spiritual practices, or expressing your gratitude, there are many ways to keep their legacy and faith alive. By taking the time to appreciate their life, you can strengthen your own relationship with God and your family bonds, and create lasting memories that will be treasured for years to come.