Ave Maria, it’s a girl!
Editorial: Need of each other
Young and old can sometimes have a real bond. Perhaps they feel, strange as it may seem, that they have more time than those in the busy middle – the young because they really do have time; the old because, knowing they have little, put first things first and this includes relationships.
Such a bond may go some way towards explaining the appeal of World Youth Day 2002, in Toronto, Canada, this past week. Pope John Paul II has, we know, a special affection for the young people of the Church and many seem to respond to him with similar warmth.
But, while the commendable aim of World Youth Day is to encourage the youth of the Church – something the Church has not always been terribly good at – this latest World Youth Day also conveys a second powerful message about age and what it means to grow old today.
Western culture is obsessed with youth, but it treats it as a commodity and is mainly concerned with using youth to sell products and with selling to youth, even when that ‘youth’ is really middle-aged. As a result, it disregards old age. In such an atmosphere, it is hardly surprising that the societal push for euthanasia is becoming stronger.
Many older people seem to be asking themselves whether they are of any use now they are past their sell-by date. There is evidence that many of those who request euthanasia do so because they see themselves as being of no value, as a mere burden to others.
Into this modern moral abyss steps an “elderly priest” (this is how the Pope modestly styles himself), who, though very frail indeed, shows how an older person can be considerable use – even to the young!
He also shows that just because people slow down with age, this is no reason for older people to give up on contributing to life.
An antidote to the tyranny that is air-brushed modern beauty, the Pope walks the world stage in beautiful ecclesiastical robes, but now bent with age and no longer possessed of the youthful vigour that once was his. Others help him as he stumbles and, in so doing, show us all that interdependence – our need of each other – is the true Gospel virtue, not independence.
And young people – at least at this World Youth Day – do not turn away from this ageing, frail man, but instead embrace him. As does the world’s media, which embraces all things; poignancy and human warmth as much as human folly.