Being a grandparent is often described as one of the most fulfilling and rewarding aspects of a life well lived. How many grandparents describe the experience as “all of the fun and none of the hardship of parenting”? As Catholics, grandparenting takes on a bigger and more vital role than spoiling our beloved grandchildren with sweets and gifts. Grandparents have a powerful influence over the faith development of these precious souls. Many even find themselves alone in passing on the faith, if their children have stopped practicing.
Now, with social distancing and many grandparents members of the at-risk population, it is harder than ever. Without Sunday Mass and religious education classes to attend, how can grandparents continue to foster the faith in their grandchildren and be present to them?
According to Marilyn Henry of the Catholic Grandparents Association, an international organization that helps unite people as they purse the vocation of Catholic grandparenting, there are specific crosses grandparents face in the current crisis.
“As a devout Grandmother of eleven ranging in age from 21-5, I have a vested interest in doing all I can to pass down my most treasured and only lasting gift -my faith. As volunteer Ministry Coordinator for the CGA, I hear and sense the sadness of Grandparents worldwide who feel like they're failing, even in "normal" times. Added to that now, is Grandparent's own anguish at being separated from the Sacraments which they love and depend on for strength and courage.
As we grow older, we especially look forward to events at which we can share our faith with our family - many of these are now postponed or will happen without a Grandparent present. After many years of prayer and hoping, my husband and I were to attend Confirmation of one of our granddaughters this April - which has now been postponed.
As we move through this crisis, we're reminded of the sacrifices of generations past whose faith carried them through famine, plagues, war and strife in a world we can only imagine through stories written and re-told. What will our grandchildren learn from us? We know that when we reach the other side of this unimaginable sadness, we will need each other more than ever.”
We owe it to ourselves, our grandchildren, and our God to seek the opportunities in these trials and ask what God would have us do. Here are a few ways we can reach out.
Stay on top of technology
Grandparents run the gamut of skill sets when it comes to technology and social media. If you were waiting for a time to master these tools, this is it! Facetiming, Zoom meetings, texting, and social media connections can keep you and the grandchildren close when you can’t visit. Without school, kids need to connect and so do you! Also, on social media, you can share edifying posts with them and help them grow in faith. You could even watch Mass together on livestream.
Marilyn tells us that with her grandchildren living in various parts of the country, some in college, and many with sports and activities, the pandemic created a rare opportunity for her to Zoom conference with all eleven of them at once. This is a great example of how God has rare opportunities waiting for us in this crisis, particularly in terms of building the Domestic Church.
Send a meaningful gift
We can’t spoil our grandchildren in person, but what about ordering a gift to promote the faith? Books, online classes, movies to stream, rosaries, or religious imagery may really strike a chord with your grandchild as they navigate this confusing time. There are a plethora of Catholic educational toys on the market as well, even lego sets!
Marilyn gave her two young grandchildren a punch out Mass kit. Watching Mass on TV wasn’t engaging for the five and nine year old. They felt more connected by following along with their kit. Their Mass experience went from passive to interactive. (See pictures below)
You don’t need modern technology to simply call your grandchildren. Ask how they are doing. Listen if they are sad, scared, or frustrated. Let them know you love them and God loves them. Tell them you pray for them or offer to say a special prayer or novena. Invite them to learn a new prayer or devotion. Reassure them that you are safe and being careful and responsible. Many children are afraid of losing a grandparent to COVID-19.
For more information about the support groups and other ministries of the Catholic Grandparents Association, visit http://www.catholicgrandparentsassociation.org/
You can request to be added to their mailing list by emailing a request to firstname.lastname@example.org