The Sunday just past overtook the usual 26 July feast of Anna and Joachim, the parents of Mary and grandparents of Jesus, so I am quietly and gratefully celebrating the feast today because it gives us a great opportunity to remember 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 all my 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 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.
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, although nothing makes up for the time spent in the actual presence of the other.
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 knowledge of the gospels and great Old Testament Bible stories for their children. This is not helped by the fact that many Godparents are chosen for reasons of friendship rather than for the example of their faith. 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.
And I am also remembering today the many grandparents who are distanced from their grandchildren by the breakdown of their children’s relationships. In this situation grandparents have the most intimate and constant role of all, that of prayer for their children and grandchildren.