The more time I spend around both the youth and the elderly the more heartbroken I become realizing that many of these people feel they have no place in the Church. I have often found that these two groups of people frequently feel alienated from the Church. They have a mistaken notion that the Church is for the middle aged. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Pope John Paul II’s Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Christifideles Laici, beautifully shows that each person, no matter his age, is a part of the body of Christ and can and must contribute to the health of the body.
The Holy Father is very clear that the youth are an important part of the Church. He says that the young “ought to be encouraged to be active on behalf of the Church as leading characters in evangelization and participants in the renewal of society. Bishop Rice, the auxillary bishop of St. Louis, summarizes point well in his homily when he reminds those to be confirmed that the older generation do not have the energy, vibrancy, and creativity they have so the Church needs them to use their energy, vibrancy, and creativity for the good of the parish and indeed the whole Church. I think the youth often underestimate the abilities they have. I think it would be beneficial to find ways to get them involved in the life of the parish and to hold up role models of young people in our world today who are making global impacts.
The Holy Father also reminds the older generation that they have a role to play in the Church. The older people can be a gift to the rest of the Church by “being a witness to tradition in the faith both in the Church and in society, the teacher of the lessons of life and the worker of charity.” He reminds those who are in good health and past the point of retirement that they now have the privilege of dedicating their time to the apostolate of the Church. Being retired and now having time on their hands they have the opportunity to use their time to serve the Church. Most importantly however, even those who are elderly and bedridden contribute to the Church and Her mission by their prayers.
All people regardless of their age and status in life are called to be active members of the Church. As a body, the Body of Christ, we, as a Church, are only operating properly when all the members of the body are participating. While the way we participate in the Church may change as we go through life we are called to participate throughout our life.