Monday, July 8, 2019

Spirituality of the Elderly

A diocesan priest writes about the spirituality of the elderly in the Eyes of the Believer column of the Catholic Times. He begins by telling the readers of a 92-year-old man who was a member of a pilgrimage abroad.  At the start, all were concerned about the grandfather but amazed when they saw he was able to keep up with the young people in all that was scheduled.

A growing number of elderly people live to an advanced old age: "Not when their legs tremble, but when their hearts tremble."  A professor emeritus at one of the universities is living a busy healthy life at the age of 100 and is still giving lectures. He has said: "The golden age of my life was as a 65 to 75 year old." Would not this be a  word of hope for people in this age group?

In the ritual for the funeral Mass it's comforting to say a person who passed away at 70 died too early. More elders are conscious in living their lives positively and actively.

Quality of life in old age will depend on consciousness and attitude. Desiring to enjoy eternal youth, life will be immature and empty, when we can put everything aside and be more concerned with being than doing we will begin to enjoy life fully.

Fr. Anselm Gruen the author of Twilight of Aesthetics (?) 2015, says in ceasing doing the 'what' then we have entered the world of spirituality. He also emphasizes in another book the spirituality of old age should be oriented to freeing oneself from wealth, honor, power and health, and furthermore, from the obsession of anger and vengeance.

Especially interesting that a Korean writer mentions in his book the novel Count of Monte Cristo written by Alexandre Dumas, and he points out the hero failed to win the heart of the woman he loved because it was filled with hate, although successful in revenge against those who framed him. The attitudes of old age should be reconciliation, forgiveness, generosity, and mellowness.

In the twilight years and the way death will be faced will depend greatly on the way life was lived. The writer of the article mentions during the diaconate year he had an experience of working in a hospital as a chaplain. He was in a ward in which most of the patients were at death's door.

He was present at the death of a number of patients. Some patients died calmly and at peace. On the other hand, some patients moving their whole bodies refused to die. One man refusing to die, he threw the crucifix away and was filled with complaints and grudges against others. The writer meditated on what he saw and thought a lot about what people should do to meet death with peace.

We can before death actively welcome death. We are not just waiting for death but we have entered the kingdom of God at baptism with faith and now looking for the completion of our journey.

Death completes life and is in search of meaning to the present life. One who realizes deeply the meaning of the present experiences the eternity of God and is always being born again. Therefore, aging is accepted with a calm heart, gratitude, and vitality. The elderly person experiences the closeness of life to death and living more fully the life of the spirit and the resurrected life. Is this not the spirituality of old age?

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