Letter to the Confraternity
Dear Confraternity Member.
I thought I would focus on the topic of Aging for this letter. Recently an elderly friend of mine and I were discussing this topic as he was complaining about how his older grandkids sometimes treated him.
I’ve heard people say ‘it’s tough getting old’. The body doesn’t react as quickly and we don’t recover as readily. Maybe we put on weight and we slow down a bit. Arthur-itiss greets us each day. I know I have my “senior moments” of forgetfulness. But there again, some of life is just as well forgotten and I eventually remember the important things. I’ve seen a T’Shirt that says… Getting Old Isn’t for Sissies! We lose friends and family members we dearly loved. I’ve lost two close buddies in the past several years and I miss them.
The diminishment of aging will sooner or later become a cross we must bear. Jesus himself bore the cross of diminishment of physical vigor… the cross of pain and of limitations. He even needed help carrying his cross. But he bore his cross with dignity and courage, with patience and understanding, with humility and compassion.
There’s another cross which fragile seniors must bear today in our culture… Ageism. Physically we peak in our early 30’s, and from there it’s downhill as far as our physical energies go. Of course, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually we can continue to grow, and hopefully we do grow. But our society seems stuck on the physical diminishment part of aging. We fight against it. We deny it. Aging seems an implacable enemy. Our society doesn’t want to get old. We glorify youth, fitness, perfect bodies, nice teeth and, of course, nice looking hair. Physical diminishment and fragility are enemies.
There’s nothing wrong with staying healthy, exercising, eating healthy and looking good. But there is something wrong with the way many in our society treat our elderly. Our society no longer treasures our older men and women. They are not seen as repositories of wisdom and experience. They are not esteemed as the keepers of memories. Seldom do we seek their advice or their point of view. Their time is past. This seems a cross which older men and women, especially the frail elderly, bear today.
A question arises… Can the elderly bear this cross with dignity and courage, with patience and understanding, with compassion and forgiveness?
Aging need not turn us fearful, anxious or cynical.
Aging need not depress us.
Aging need not frighten us or make us hypochondriacs.
Getting older has its challenges, but it also has its blessings.
As disciples of Jesus can we grow old gracefully? Can we realize that aging can pull us out of the “rat race”, the compulsive need to acquire more stuff, the seemingly never-ending quest for the latest fads, the heavy burden of too much time spent at work. Growing older hopefully gives us more time and leisure for family and friends, and more time to share our wisdom and care with them. Growing older can help us to simplify our lives. Growing older can give us more time for hobbies. Growing older can give us more time for volunteering and remaining involved with worthy causes, contributing to the welfare of our neighborhood and city and church.
Growing older can give us more time to spend nourishing our spiritual lives and growing closer to God… time for good spiritual reading and other enriching reading. I’ve rediscovered the beauty of Catholic Litanies that help enrich my prayer life… just Google ‘Catholic Litany Sacred Heart or Mary’, etc. Some folks would like to read the Bible, but they complain that they don’t understand it. I always suggest: go to Amazon.com, search for a Children’s Bible with pictures… Then read the Bible stories that describe God’s love for us thru the ages… and you can share these stories with your younger grandchildren! Don’t forget our wonderful Bible Stories. They are our rich tradition. As are the lives of the saints… they encourage us, enrich us and challenge us to trust God and continue throughout our lives to respond to God’s ever present grace.
Well, that’s enough for now. I hope you are able to enjoy this Summer… the colorful flowers, the towering trees, the song birds, the cooler, quiet evenings and even some of the summer rain showers. I know the heat can be a burden sometimes, but don’t forget to focus on the blessings.
Fr. Don Ware, C.P.