Grandparents Are a Powerful Spiritual Force in Their Families

Happy Grandparents’ Day! May you be blessed with boundless love for your grandchildren as you strive to help lead them to eternal happiness in heaven.

Francisco Goya, “The Blessed Virgin With Sts. Anne and Joachim,” ca. 1774
Francisco Goya, “The Blessed Virgin With Sts. Anne and Joachim,” ca. 1774 (photo: Public Domain)

Grandparents can be an unparalleled spiritual influence in families overflowing with love and wanting heaven for their grandchildren. How that plays out differs from family to family depending on how the faith is practiced between the generations. For some families, it’s a uniting force where grandparents help the generations stay the Catholic course. For others, it’s more complicated. It should also be noted that it’s not always the older generation that is more serious about faith, but it is the more common scenario.

The starting point is that grandparents hold a precious God-given role in families; one celebrated in both our country and our Church . This year, inadvertently, Catholics had two celebrations for grandparents. The first Sunday after Labor Day was proclaimed National Grandparent’s Day in 1978. In 2021, Pope Francis established the celebration of the World Day for Grandparents and Elderly on the fourth Sunday of July, near the feast day of Sts. Joachim and Anne, the grandparents of Jesus.

The U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops, (USCCB) approved the transfer of World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly in the U.S. to the first weekend after Labor Day to coincide with National Grandparents (and the Elderly) Day in the United States as many local communities, schools and parishes have celebrated for some time.

Legacy of Faith

Honoring grandparents is, of course, a beautiful practice. But many of today’s Catholic grandparents are unsure how to honor the faith with their grandchildren if their own children have strayed.

Dan Spencer, father to four adult children and grandfather to 15, is the founder and president of Legacy of Faith ministry which offers a variety of resources to help guide and inspire grandparents. In an interview with the Register, he noted, “Grandparents are second only to parents in their ability to influence grandchildren. Yet, few have any training in their role to influence their grandchildren to remain Christian.”

He added further: “Over 75% of households are two-income households and over 20% of households are headed by single parents. The role of grandparents can bring much-needed stability to these families.”

“Faithful Catholic grandparents want their grandchildren to grow up healthy, happy and holy,” he said. “But grandkids are increasingly abandoning their faith at the rate of over 40%. This leaves faithful grandparents feeling frustrated, confused, and ill-equipped to know how they should respond.”

The time has come for grandparents to engage in a renewed participation as “senior saints,” according to him. To face that challenge, Spencer explained, requires understanding we are in a post-Christian culture that requires a new urgency about how to engage the culture and our families.

“Legacy leadership is about taking the position of being the initial architect of a multigenerational family faith tradition,” he said. “Grandparents by their modeling and mentoring show a way for grown children to take the reins when their time comes.”

Grandparents need a collaborative spiritual vision of the ultimate spiritual destination, Spenser explained. “My family’s vision statement is to spend eternity together in heaven. That will not change from generation to generation. “

Praying Grandparents

The chapter “The Power of Grandparents” in my co-authored book What Would Monica Do? celebrates the influence of grandparents, especially through the power of prayer. It is noted that St. Monica, who prayed for many years for the conversion of her son Augustine who became a great saint, was also a grandmother to his son Adeodatus whom she instructed in the faith. 

The chapter shared stories reflecting the power of praying grandparents. One story recounted an EWTN Family Celebration in Ohio where several converts shared their dramatic conversion stories. Someone in the audience asked: “None of you were raised Catholic, so what was the source of your conversions?” 

Two of the three speakers responded that they had Catholic grandmothers praying for them despite their own parents not practicing the Faith. One of the speakers chuckled and said, “Never underestimate the power of a praying grandmother.”

In Paul Darrow’s conversion story of going from a same-sex-attracted model living a hedonistic lifestyle, brushing shoulders with all “the beautiful people,” to becoming a devout and chaste Catholic, he mentioned his Polish Catholic grandmother who prayed for him.

The chapter also noted that Sts. Anne and Joachim are the parents of the Blessed Mother and grandparents of Jesus. We can ask for their prayers, trusting in the power of their intercession. After all, this holy couple was handpicked by God to be the grandparents of his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ.”

Although St. Anne and her husband St. Joachim lived seemingly uneventful lives, they are the grandparents of the Savior of the world and undoubtedly powerful intercessors for our own grandchildren. 

Happy Grandparents’ Day whatever your situation might be. May you be blessed with boundless love for your grandchildren as you strive to help lead them to eternal happiness in heaven.

Jim Caviezel (l) and Javier Godino star in ‘Sound of Freedom.’

‘Sound of Freedom’, Working Through Grief, and Grandparents (July 22)

‘Sound of Freedom’ has now topped box office charts. Register writer Patti Armstrong has followed the movie’s production, its success and its serious subject matter — human trafficking. Then we turn to a subject not easy to speak about but that everyone faces at some point in life — grief. We explore how to ‘Grieve the Catholic Way: Seeking Heavenly Help Through Sorrow and Trauma.’ And then don’t forget Grandparents’ Day July 23.