Reflections from the Grandparents’ Faith Café – Bishop Denis Nulty

Bishop Denis Nulty was the guest speaker at the December 2020 Grandparents’ Faith Café. You can read his reflection here:

One of our diocesan team who became a grandparent for the fourth time recently shared with me: “As a grandparent four times I can honestly that each time is different. The personality of the little one comes through from the moment of the first cradling. The enormity of the miracle is so overwhelming as to move one to tears and the joy of being present with them even at the cranky times is never ending”.

I really enjoy the Christmas advertisements on television. Perhaps the SuperValu add captures it best for me this year, with the young boy asking his dad “Is he coming?Are you sure he is still coming?” And despite the dad’s reassurance that he was coming, the son adds: “Really dad?” The add signs off with the doorbell ringing and the grandad arriving. The son fleets down the stairs hugging the grandad “I knew you’d come grandad!” To which the grandad responds “Conor, Happy Christmas”. It’s simple, but reminds us the pivotal place grandparents play in family life.

To return to the Advent Hope Brenda spoke about … As we approach the second part of Advent we too might ask “Is He coming?”, “Is Jesus still coming?” He certainly is and John the Baptist slips onto our Advent canvas these days to remind us so.

A week ago was December 8th – Mary’s Yes to becoming the mother of Jesus – these days are really our saying Yes to Jesus. Yes, Yes, Yes! Our Church is at her best when she says yes to all that is noble, decent, good and life giving. And when she has to on the occasion say No to something, it’s only because she is interested in some immeasurably greater Yes!

You might recall another add, this time from radio some time back where the Grandad asks the grandson several times what his gran wants for Christmas. The grandson mutters a coat, and the dad hears a goat and the banter continues unabated, until the Grandad decides if it’s a goat she wants, a goat she’ll get.

Grandparents & the Pandemic:

I have heard many stories of grandchildren setting up laptops and tablets for their grandparents to follow Mass. No one likes being cocooned, isolated, quarantined. But when its for a greater good. With the amount of deaths from COVID I am worried that we could be losing a generation. Losing the grandparents generation.

It brings me to the theme of our Conference in Rome last January – Catherine / Maire and many others were present. ‘The Richness of Many Years of Life’.

Seven ‘Take-Homes’ from the Conference:

  • 2018: 1 in 11 over 65
  • 2050: 1 in 6 over 65 – We are in ‘The Longevity Revolution
  • Retirement kills more people than jobs!
  • Christ did not experience aging – a decline in physical & mental capacity.
  • Have grandparents a mission to other grandparents? Those born in the 60’s have drifted from church.
  • Think of what the young Mary did immediately after the Annunciation – she visited her older cousin Elizabeth – she received much more from Elizabeth and was in a sense evangelisded by her.
  • In the USA life expectancy in 1935 was 61, now it is 78.

(The nun this morning in the Poor Clare Monastery Carlow was 99, her sister is 103!)

Pope Francis’ Address: “in the bible, longevity is a blessing. It confronts us with our fragility, with our mutual dependance, with our family and community ties and above all with our divine sonship. Granting old age, God the Father gives time to deepen one’s awareness of him and to deepen intimacy with him, to draw closer to his heart and abandon oneself to him”.

It’s lovely to see them coming; It’s lovely to see them going home” these were the words of a couple in their mid 70’s. I read … Irish Times, Tuesday, September 30, 2014.

How might we encourage dialogue among the generations? How might we as grandparents speak to other grandparents? How might we speak to our own children? How might we unpack the ‘art of being a grandparent’?

I started wth tea, I’ll end with coffee …

TS Elliot ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’ on Coffee: “I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.


Bishop Denis Nulty is Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin and Chair of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Council for Marriage and the Family. This address was delivered at the Grandparents’ Faith Café which took place via Zoom on Tuesday 15 December 2020.