Today, 26 July, is the feast day of Anna and Joachim, the maternal grandparents of Jesus. This gives us a great opportunity to consider the importance of grandparents in the life of a child.
I was fortunate in my growing up years to never live more than an hour from my four grandparents. They were, each of the four of them, very unique people, and I can easily think of many things I learnt from each of them. I am sure that they had no idea of how much I learnt from them.
I remember watching with interest the difference in my own parents when they themselves became grandparents. It was almost as if my three siblings and I had been their trial-run for this new and important role, a grand role they now had the time to savour, enjoying the hours and sometimes days they could spend with their grandchildren. Grandparents seem to understand the importance of wasting time with children. I’m distracted now remembering the passage from The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint Exupery): “It is the time you have wasted for your rose, that makes your rose so important.”
Today many grandparents live a great distance from their grandchildren, but thanks to modern technology (email and skype) this is not the problem it once was.
I am convinced that grandparents have a role that is rarely claimed in the passing on of faith. Increasingly Christian parents do not have the same knowledge of Christian faith as earlier generations and as a result they struggle even to teach their children to speak with Jesus in an intimate and tangible way.
It is also unlikely that these parents will provide a knowledge of the gospels and the bible for their children. This is not helped by the fact that many Godparents are chosen for reasons of friendship instead of as Christian role-models. This gives a great opportunity for grandparents to share the role of providing their grandchildren with personal, practical and positive experiences of faith. Giving attractive books of bible stories as birthday or christmas gifts can be a great way to start, then when you visit, read these stories to and with the children. They will ask questions and this gives a great opportunity for you to share your own experience of faith with them. Tell them about how, when and why you pray.