Why Grandparents Matter

Many of the questions Jesus asks, He isn’t looking for a simple answer. Rather, His intent is to challenge us to reflect, ponder, look within ourselves and go deeper. In the Gospel of Luke Jesus asks a very thought-provoking question:

“When the son of man returns, will He find faith on the earth?

(Luke 18:8)

In this seemingly simple question, Jesus is challenging us to think long term. Christ wants to know—will you pass on the faith you have received to your descendants in the hope that when He does return, they will be there to greet him?

The normal expected pattern of transmitting the faith to others begins with one’s own family. St. Paul also addressed this passing on the faith in his second epistle to Timothy:

“As I recall your sincere faith that first lived in your grandmother Lois,

and in your mother Eunice, and that I am confident lives also in you.”

(2 Timothy 1:5)

This is the kind of “multigenerational vision of evangelization” that Christ is calling us to. And He wants to know if we are committed to being that kind of faithful disciple that is not only concerned with our own salvation, but with that of our children, our grandchildren, our great grandchildren, and for all of our descendants for generations to come.

As grandparents we sometimes have lost track of this calling, which is a new chapter in our vocation. In our secular culture, many grandparents often miss this. So many have expressed to me their lack of a clear understanding of their role as grandparents and feel lost during their retirement years. Many believe that the job of being a spiritual influence in the lives of their grandchildren rests solely with their adult married children and when they leave the nest and get married or live out their own vocation in life their work is done. That attitude of “I did my job, and now I’m turning it over to our adult kids” is counter to our spiritual mandate asked to us by Christ to act as spiritual influencers of our grandchildren. In Deuteronomy 4:9 Moses reminds the people of God to be sure they teach their children AND their children’s children of the faithfulness of God. Not as a replacement for our married adult children but, ideally, in collaboration with them. 

In my experience of speaking with hundreds Catholic grandparents over the past 25 years, less than 1% of them have ever been “instructed” or assisted in their understanding WHY they are essential to passing on the faith to future generations and HOW they might go about making a difference in the spiritual lives of their grandchildren. For most, however, in the absence of any faith-based approach, they rely on a nearly totally “secular” approach to their grandparenting. An approach based primarily in being a type of playmate and funding source of gifts. Obviously there is nothing wrong with engaging one’s grandkids in playful activities or giving them gifts, but that approach alone is lacking in the more important spiritual role grandparents are called to be in their grandchildren’s lives.

More importantly, Grandparents represent one of the fastest growing demographics in the Church today. As a grandparent of 15 I keep asking myself, “How can I become better equipped, deeper engaged and more intentional in my calling to be a multigenerational spiritual influencer with my family and grandchildren?”

Christ’s question always remains: “Are you doing everything in your power to help pass the Faith on to future generations?”

Many Grandparents develop a very special relationship with their grandchildren. Children naturally trust and believe their grandparents. With the appropriate amount of collaboration with adult children, grandparents can enjoy an influence with their grandchildren second only to that of parents. Grandparents Matter! And they matter most to Christ and he is COUNTING on them to carry on a legacy of faith.

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Dan Spencer III has been married to his wife Linda for 48 years. They are the parents of 4 married children and have 16 grandchildren. Dan is Catholic revert, author with Our Sunday Visitor, and national Catholic speaker. He has appeared on numerous national catholic media outlets such as EWTN’s The Journey Home, Vatican Radio, At Home with Jim & Joy, Catholic Connection with Teresa Tomeo and The Choices We Face with Ralph Martin and Peter Herbeck, discussing topics of concern to families including the role of parents in safeguarding their children. He is the co-founder of the Catholic Business Network, and the past Executive Director of National Fellowship of Catholic Men. In 2015, he founded Project Patriarch for men over 50 years old to examine the role of Christian grandfathers in the lives of their grandchildren. That project has now been integrated with his most recent grandparenting ministry, Legacy of Faith, which helps educate and equip grandparents, in collaboration with their married children, to spiritually influence their grandchildren and future generations to remain faithful to Christ. Dan and his wife are active lay leaders in their parish and throughout the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas for over 25 years.

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