VATICAN CITY — With the launch of a new book, Pope Francis is calling for a new alliance — between young and old — to change the world.
In an effort to counteract today’s “culture of waste” that too easily marginalizes or ignores the young and the elderly, the book by Loyola Press creates a model of storytelling, dialogue, connection and reflection to help inspire these two groups to come together and rediscover older people’s lost “treasure of their wisdom.”
Packed with large full-color photographs of the elder contributors, the coffee-table-style book, titled, “Sharing the Wisdom of Time,” was released Oct. 23 at a book launch in Rome, with the pope scheduled to attend.
The 175-page book fleshes out what Pope Francis said he feels “the Lord wants me to say: that there should be an alliance between the young and old people.”
This alliance entails elders sharing their past experiences, advice, insights and dreams with younger people who are hungry for guidance and support as they prepare for their future, the pope said in the book’s preface.
Older people need to be “memory keepers,” forming a choir of praise and prayers supporting the people around them, he wrote, especially younger people, showing them the secrets to not just survival, but finding meaning and living life to the full, he said.
The pope calls on young people “to listen to and bond with their elders,” and the book offers a starter course, of sorts, offering scores of stories and wisdom from older people from 30 countries and from every walk of life: retired lawyers and engineers, farmers, garbage pickers, activists, refugees and a spiritual elder of the Lakota People in the United States. They speak of their experiences with racism, forgiveness, imperfection, conversion, beauty and joy despite the setbacks.
The stories are spread over five thematic chapters: work, struggle, love, death and hope, and each chapter begins with the pope reflecting on each theme. People’s stories are interspersed with the pope’s own reflections on an individual’s story, showing a model of how to mine its message for nuggets of advice that may mirror or be applied to one’s own life.
The book also includes a few stories by younger people sharing, “What I learned from an elder” and how an older person acted like an anchor, offering hope, support or inspiration in their lives.
The book invites readers to find opportunities to dialogue with elders and to visit www.sharingwisdomoftime.com for ideas and suggestions on how to spearhead intergenerational conversations, events and projects at home, in their communities and their parishes.
Some of the words of wisdom by the pope in the book:
— “Failure is the source of much wisdom,” he said. “No complaining allowed! It does not help. It does more harm than good.”
— “Our life is not given to us as an already scripted opera libretto,” where all the scenes are predetermined and fixed. “Failures cannot stop us if we feel the fire in our heart” to move forward and learn from mistakes.
— “The success of life is not glory but patience. Sometimes you need a lot of it.”
— “Our God wants to join us in our history,” he said. Just being content with survival and “not wanting to make history is a parasitic attitude.”
— Speaking about refugees who have faced insecurity with discernment and courage to leave their homes, they “will not let themselves be overcome by difficulties.” They refuse to accept defeat, “there is no wisdom in just giving up.”
— One person cannot solve all the problems in the world, but she or he can oppose it with being good, kind and caring to oneself and others. “You can fight with the smile and with the readiness to be kind to others.”
— “Learn the wisdom of getting help. You experience the solidarity that allows your heart to dream” and pull one out of despair.
— “Failure is not the last word. Failure always has a door that opens; woe to you if you turn it into a wall. You will never be able to get free.”
— “Sometimes we turn our little misadventures into epic dramas,” but people need to put things into their proper perspective and maybe have a good sense of humor. “Love is creative and it will not be overcome by the disasters and pitfalls of life.”
— “We can look at death and feel rich, because God lavishly ‘wastes’ his grace poured out on us.”
— “If God did not forgive sins, the world would have ceased existing a long time ago.”
— It is easy to judge others who have sinned, but “what I see are people who have lived,” he said. “Hope can be read in wrinkles.”
— On life being like a tapestry, “there is good and bad, death and life. If I look at my life, I like to think that the Lord would say with a smile, ‘Look what I did with all your mistakes,’” giving the tangled threads new shape and meaning.
— “Hypocrites will be scandalized by the miracles God works with our mistakes.” Reversing a situation from sin to grace “is one of the most wonderful ways God acts in our lives.”
— “Complaining rusts out the soul,” so do not pine over lost opportunities and temporal glory, remember the true final destination is to be with God.
— “Faith is not paying a toll to go to heaven.” God wants people to go forward with his love and “give us back to ourselves. God does not want anything ‘from’ us; he wants everything ‘for’ us.”
The book can be purchased online in English.