Wednesday, October 14, 2015


As a nonagenarian I've discovered that I'm not “over the hill” yet. Surprise—God expects me to keep climbing!

That applies to all of us in our older calendar years. I call that season of life our “summit years.” I have published an entire book, the third in my spiritual autobiographical Trilogy, about our continued climbing experience. *STILL MORE! is the title and the theme.

Most of us were hoping that finally, perhaps in retirement, we could rest. Just coast along. Take it easy at last. At least anchor ourselves somewhere and try to keep from sliding backwards on the hill of life that we've been climbing. The fact is, there is not one hill but many to keep climbing in our advanced years. It seems that our lives are challenged by an entire mountain range, one mountain after another.

Each mountain seems like another obstacle to overcome but we are no longer as strong as when we started climbing. Nevertheless, with every new mountain, God provides more strength for our growing weakness. A classic hymn truthfully declares:
 “He giveth more grace when the burden grows greater; He sendeth more strength when the labors increase. To added affliction He addeth His mercy; To multiplied trials, He multiplies peace. When we have exhausted our store of endurance, When our strength has failed 'ere the day is half done, When we reach the end of our hoarded resources, Our Father's full giving has only begun.” Help and strength for our mountain climbing continues to be available from God.

However, God is not a slave driver and pusher; He is the Good Shepherd who gently leads His sheep to climb to higher green pastures and to lie down and rest beside the cool waters. There are places and times of rest which God has provides for His elder sheep as we climb to the Final Peak, the Ultimate Summit. When we are weary and about to faint, the Scriptures say that He bears us up on eagle wings. Following the mountain analogy, there are times when He gently picks us up and puts us into His divine ski lift, as it were, and brings us to the sunlit Summit—over the sharp, pointed, painful peaks, and safely over the deep chasms into which we might have fallen.

God is concerned for our rest as we grow older. However, according to Pope Francis, being old is no time for resting; we must keep climbing and at the same time keep using our earned and learned gifts for our new mission in the world.

During his recent visit to the U.S., media focus was upon Pope Francis and he was widely viewed on TV and in person—and widely received and quoted. When he returned to Rome, during one of his general audiences gathered in Saint Peter's Square, the Pope had more to say about the opportunities in today’s frenetic world for senior adults to share their wisdom, prayers, and gifts with young people and families who need encouragement, hope and faith. “We older people can remind ambitious young people that a life without love is barren. We can tell fearful young people that worrying about the future can be overcome. We can teach young people who are overly much in love with themselves that there is more joy in giving than receiving.”

The 78-year-old Pope said he uses the pronouns “we” and “us” when talking about the elderly since “I, too, belong to this age group,” recalling with a smile how during his visit to the Philippines the people there called him 'Lolo Kiko' – that is, Grandpa Francis. “It’s true that society tends to discard us, but the Lord definitely doesn’t. The Lord never rejects us. There is a true vocation and mission set aside for older people. It’s still not time to ‘rest on one’s oars' and just coast along. When it comes to finding one’s new purpose in the world as older people, they need to sort of 'make it up as they go along,'” he said, “because our societies are not ready spiritually and morally to give this period of life its full worth. It involves sketching out a spirituality of older persons.”

Pope Francis pointed out elderly Simeon and Anna in the temple who had the knowledge and wisdom from life’s journey to recognize Jesus. “The weight of age and waiting disappeared at the moment they recognized Jesus, and they found new strength for a new task: to give thanks and bear witness to this sign of God. Just as Simeon found inspiration to sing out with joy and Anna became the first to preach about Jesus, let us also become poets of prayer, let us acquire a love for looking for the right words to offer, as inspired by the word of God.”

“The prayers of the world’s grandparents and older people can be a great gift for the Church,” he said, “and they offer a great infusion of wisdom for all of society, especially for [those who are] too busy, too occupied, too distracted.”

Pope Francis remarked how wonderful it was that Pope Benedict XVI chose to spend the final stretch of his life in prayer and listening to God. “This is beautiful,” he said to applause.

“There is truly an important mission for grandparents, a vocation for older people to hand down their wisdom and offer encouragement to those who are searching for meaning in life. How awful the cynicism of an older person who has lost the meaning of his witness, scorns the young, and does not communicate knowledge about life. I pray for a Church that challenges the culture of disposal of the elderly with the overflowing joy of a new embrace between young and old people.”

The Pope told his audience how a grandparent's words are such a treasure. He said he often reads a letter which he keeps in his breviary that his grandmother wrote him long ago for his priestly ordination because “it does me good.”

I think I get the picture--we are still here on earth, no matter what our age, not to spend our time resting, but to invest it by "doing good" and to encourage the next generation in the Faith of Our Fathers. Personally, I pray that some word I write or say, something I email, publish or blog, will reach the heart of someone and perhaps years from now they will recall it and it will continue to "do them good."

* If you don't have your copy yet, contact Leona to order.

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