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Want to be a spiritual grandparent?

English Spanish Dolores Hanley McDiarmid Profile

This is the second year we celebrate the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly, designated as the fourth Sunday of July. Pope Francis chose this day because it coincides with the July 26 feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s parents and Jesus’ grandparents, Saints Joachim and Anne.

When we look at Saints Joachim and Anne, we are reminded that God is full of surprises. Jesus’ grandparents experienced the wonders of God and could not have been more surprised when Anne, who was barren and advanced in years, was found to be with child.

The parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary learned that even in their old age, God had a plan for their lives, a special plan that included giving birth to the Mother of God. We never know what God has planned for us and we should live with hope. God is a God of marvelous surprises.

Joachim and Anne are not written about in the Bible or in the Catholic Catechism. However instructions for grandparenting can be found in the Bible. Are you aware that God’s people are instructed to teach at least two generations about our Christian faith and God’s love for us?

The New American Bible speaks about the role of grandparents in Deuteronomy 4:9 which says: “However, take care and be earnestly on your guard not to forget the things which your own eyes have seen, nor let them slip from your memory as long as you live, but teach them to your children and to your children’s children.”

Also, Psalms 71:17-18 tells us: “God, you have taught me from my youth; to this day I proclaim your wondrous deeds. Now that I am old and gray do not forsake me, God, That I may proclaim Your might to all generations yet to come, Your power and justice, God, to the highest heaven.”

It is not only by blood that one can experience the gift of being a grandparent. In the 1980s, Sandra and Danilda, the young daughters of a co-worker and dear friend, spiritually adopted me as their second mother. I was always there, celebrating on their birthdays, when they received the sacraments of the Church, and on other special occasions.

One special tradition began as the girls were young and continued through their college years: Each Christmas we decorated a gingerbread man cake, took a family photo and then enjoyed eating the cake.

These two girls are now grown and Danilda is married with three children. When her first son was born, she told me I was Grandma Dolores. I am now the spiritual grandmother for her three children and the gingerbread man cake tradition lives on in a new generation. Yes, God is a God of wonderful surprises.

I have been wanting the children to remember me for something other than gingerbread and this desire was fulfilled this past Lent when Danilda asked if I could create lessons from the Bible for her children. The children, their parents and I enjoyed our faith-building time together so much that we hope to continue these sessions using Zoom, since they will be moving out of state. Our next topic will be learning to pray the rosary and including this in daily life.

Danilda expressed her gratitude and appreciation for the time and love given to her children: “My kids are so lucky to experience the love you provided for Sandra and me.”

Individuals who are retired, and have more time than when employed, could have the opportunity to lend a hand in the spiritual growth of children. They can provide families with additional love, encouragement, patience and can serve as mentors, historians, loving companions, and teachers of the faith.

I believe that the time in which we are living is a time like no other. Parents are working full-time jobs and trying to keep up with all the demands of raising their children in the Catholic faith. They need prayers from all of us and can benefit from the continued use of our talents and life experience.

Just as God had a plan for Jesus’ grandparents, Joachim and Anne, in their advanced years, I believe he has a special plan for all of us, especially in the retirement years. If you do not have grandchildren of your own, could God be calling you to become a spiritual grandparent? Remember, God is a God of wonderful surprises.

Dolores Hanley McDiarmid
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