Don't silence your grandparents
by Ken Rolheiser
Don’t silence your grandparents

“One of the most powerful handclasps is that of a new grandbaby around the finger of a grandfather,” Joy Hargrove.

I could not believe the strength of my new grandson as he clasped my finger this August. I had just asked my sister to reach out from heaven and help little Samuel settle down. He did, and for a moment I felt my sister was sharing a “thank you” clasp.

Recently I had to leave the warmth of my bed to jot down some inspiration about grandparents. I mused on the essential message my Grandfather Rolheiser brought over from Russia. To me it was communicated in silence and strength, just as my grandmother’s message was of tenderness and love.

The key to the culture and values of my grandparents was in the Christian Faith they passed on in prayer, song and traditions. This was the message I was compelled to write: Don’t silence your grandparents!

It struck me that for many today the music, entertainment, work and busy lifestyles leave no time for the quiet strength which was the faith of our fathers. Sunday morning was church time, summer and winter, seeding and harvesting. The Lord’s day was sacred. Chicken noodle soup after Mass was a tradition, and favourite uncles would drop by for supper. I always said my mother was a great evangelist.

Be on your guard! Let your children hear their grandparents’ messages. Let them live the faith of their elders. Don’t drop the ball. Make the time to honour the traditions of the elders.

In an audience with Pope Francis this September Leona and Rudy Gonzales shared the love and respect they have for their elders. Among the indigenous peoples grandfather is an exalted term. Prayers are often begun with “Grandfather”, a term synonymous with Chief, Blessed, Hallowed and Supreme.

People who seek Grandfather’s wisdom learn to live in harmony with all people who live on Mother Earth. Respect of Grandparents is a first step towards guiding family members towards the love of God.

The Anishinaabe in Ontario share the Teachings of the Seven Grandfathers, captured in Edward Benton-Banai's book The Mishomis Book:

Wisdom: To cherish knowledge is to know Wisdom. Wisdom is given by the Creator to be used for the good of the people.

Love: To know peace is to know Love. Love must be unconditional. When people are weak they need love the most.

Respect: To honour all creation is to have Respect. All of creation should be treated with respect. You must give respect if you wish to be respected.

Bravery is to face the foe with integrity, to have a fearless heart even when the consequences are unpleasant.

Honesty in facing a situation is to be brave. Be honest first with yourself, and you will more easily be able to be honest with others.

Humility is to know yourself as a sacred part of Creation. In the Anishinaabe language this word can also mean "compassion." You are equal to others, but you are not better.

Truth is to know all of these things. Speak the truth. Do not deceive yourself or others.

I conclude with an excerpt from “Grandfather Great Spirit”:

Grandfather Great Spirit
Fill us with the light.
Give us the strength to understand,
And the eyes to see.
Teach us to walk the soft Earth
As relatives to all that live.

(565 words)