February—Thoughts on Aging

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Ash Wednesday/Lent

There is a hopeful saying that “God looks more at a good ending than at a good beginning.”  Lent is the season of focusing on a good ending, on being prepared right here and now to meet the Lord.

February 1

Scripture says that God extends our years to give us time to repent, to love Him more, and to be ready for Him.  How are you living the “extension” God is giving you? (See 2 Peter 3:9.)

February 2

With retirement and aging, we have more time and are less likely to “lose” ourselves in work.  So, what to do? Here’s an idea: Stand still.  Pray.  Think about some new initiatives, for example, serving others more, praying more, “smelling the roses,” slowing down, and relishing God’s creation.

February 3

When you think about it, your time of aging is perhaps the first time in your life when you have an unknown “termination point.”  You know when you’ll start high school, when you’ll get out of college, when you’ll start your new job, when you’re getting married, when you’re going to retire, but you have no exact knowledge of when you’ll die.  That’s why I love the prayer of Saint Faustina, “My Jesus, I trust in You.”

February 4

The other day, I concelebrated Mass.  The young pastor celebrated a beautiful Mass, and all I could do was thank God for his enthusiasm and goodness.  Life goes on.  There are so many opportunities to rejoice at the goodness of the next generation.

February 5

There’s a difference between loneliness and being alone.  It’s crucial we learn to relish being alone.  The old farmers who were our neighbors as I grew up would say, “As I get older, I find I’m good company for myself.”  Isn’t that a lovely phrase? Jesus said, “And yet, I’m never alone.  The Father is always with Me.”  Each of us can say the same thing!

February 6

As we age, we tend to be less active, and our prayer can become more passive too.  For this, I love the “Jesus Prayer.” Just sit quietly and become aware of your heartbeat (it’s easy to pick it up after you exhale).  Then join your prayer to your heartbeat so your heart is beating out your prayer.  I love to use the words “Abba, Father,” but any two-count prayer is good—e.g., “Jesus, Mercy,” or “Holy Spirit.”  Try it.  It gives one the peace of Jesus Christ.  It’s great to do when you’re in the adoration chapel too.

February 7

There’s a beautiful prayer asking Jesus to go with us as we go home to the Father.  It goes, “O my Savior, receive Your traveler.  Here I am ready, holding on to nothing.  I want to leave this world with You and go to the Father.” In death, we leave this world.  We are leaving our place of exile and returning to our true home.

February 8

Our soul is spiritual.  It participates in the life of God.  In the Mass, we pray to Jesus “Who humbled Himself to share in our humanity.”  And we pray that we may come to share in His divinity.  Our soul is immortal.  It will never die.  So, it is crucial that we concern ourselves with eternal life.  It is the only life that lasts forever.

February 9

Here’s a question: “Yes, you’re retired, but what ‘new thing’ is God calling you to now?”

February 10

Age gracefully by helping others to shine.  That helps you grow in your union with Christ.  

February 11

Don’t fear to speak with your family about your Faith and your love of our Lord.  It will be a great blessing for them.

February 12

The devil would have us believe a lie: that death is the supreme and final truth.  But our faith clearly tells us the opposite: “I believe in the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.  Amen.”

February 13

The four stages of human life are often listed as childhood, youth, adulthood, and old age.  Each stage has its joys, its challenges, and its tasks to complete.  In one sense, the task of old age is the greatest of all—it is to prepare for our death and for our meeting with our Lord.

February 14

In the final stage of our lives—old age—one of the treasures is a breadth of vision.  We’ve been through a lot.  None of us arrives at old age without some scars, but these too can be pathways to forgiveness, compassion, and new life.  In God’s plan, nothing is wasted.

February 15

In old age, we are not too old to cultivate new friendships, hopefully with people in every stage of their life.  But we should also strive to increase a friendship with our guardian angel, with our favorite saints, and, of course, to deepen our friendship with our Lord Jesus Christ.  Old age affords us the time for that all-important task.

February 16

Hopefully, we are life-long learners.  Certainly that includes learning new skills, trying new hobbies, pursuing new and old interests, but most of all, finding special time for reflection.  (I’m even enjoying journaling in my old age!) It’s a time to reflect on lessons learned throughout our lives.  Hopefully, we’ll be “in formation,” still learning, all the days of our lives.

February 17

As we age, and are perhaps less in the limelight, we have a chance to reflect on the ups and downs of our lives.  As we do, this wonderful quote from Saint John Paul II is essential: “We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures.  We are the sum of our Father’s love for us and our real capacity to become the image of His Son Jesus.”  

February 18

“Time flies.”  We say that; we experience that every day.  But here’s an idea: time is bringing us to Heaven!  Hebrews 13:14 (RSVCE) says, “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city which is to come.”  Father Stinissen, a wonderful author, puts it this way, “Would we prefer the prelude to the symphony?” (Stinissen 2018, 174).  Perhaps time is flying because it is eager to bring us to the moment when our time dissolves into eternity. 

February 19

Forgiveness is an important issue for most of us in old age.  And it is far easier to forgive others when we embrace God’s forgiveness of us.  However, as spiritual authors note, we may sometimes project onto God our unwillingness to forgive.  But forgiveness is no problem for God.  He tells us He does it easily and often, again and again.  Like Psalm 117 says, “His mercy for us is strong; the faithfulness of the Lord is forever.”

February 20

You and I are created to be directed to God.  If we give our thoughts over to what distances us from God, we miss the boat!  So in the area of our memory, so much of what we remember (especially old hurts, wounds, mistakes) may best be forgotten.

February 21

Saint John of the Cross encourages us to a “holy forgetfulness.”  We all joke about our lousy short-term memory, but maybe that’s not all bad.  Who knew “holy forgetfulness” was a good thing?!

February 22

Spiritual authors speak of the “malleability” of the past.  That’s a mouthful!  It means that we can decide if our past is a heavy burden or an asset.  Our past is not made of concrete.  It’s more like dough that we can knead, giving it a new shape and form.  Father Stinissen puts it this way: “The substance of an event is its spiritual content, its meaning.  And that is always open to change and development” (Stinissen 2018, 117).  All of us can decide what the events of our past life mean for us.  God is secretly present in everything that happens to us.

February 23

There are lots of “hints” of the Beatific Vision, where we will see our Lord face to face, all throughout the Scriptures.  For example, 1 John 3:2 says that when the Lord appears “we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”

February 24

Saint Cyprian has some beautiful images that describe our going home to Heaven.  Here’s one: “Soldiers of this world take pride in returning to their home country in triumph after they have defeated the enemy.  How much greater is the glory in returning triumphantly to Heaven after conquering the devil.”

February 25

Saint Cyprian on our going home to the Lord: “What an honor, what happiness to depart joyfully from this world, to go forth in glory from the anguish and pain, in one moment to close the eyes that looked on the world of men and in the next to open them at once to look on God and Christ!  You are suddenly withdrawn from Earth to find yourself in the Kingdom of Heaven.”

February 26

Our faith tells us that we have been created for a destiny that will fulfill the deepest longings of our heart.  Heaven is our true, permanent home.  And we are not alone there.  The Book of Revelation says there will be “a great multitude…from every nation, race, people, and tongue…” (Revelation 7:9).

February 27

One of the most beautiful summaries of our time of life that I have read comes from Saint John Paul II’s 1999 Letter to the Elderly: “Faith thus illuminates the mystery of death and brings serenity to old age, now no longer considered and lived passively as the expectation of a calamity but rather as a promise-filled approach to the goal of full maturity” (#16).

February 28

Sometimes we may feel unworthy of God because of our past sins or mistakes.  Or we may feel distant from Him because of our wavering faith.  These are wonderful times to pray with our whole heart the Jesus prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy on me a sinner.”  God hears and answers our heartfelt prayer for His Mercy.

February 29 (during a leap year)

There are about 73 million people in our country who are age 60 or older.  A recent Pew Research Center poll found that these elderly Americans are alone for about 7 hours a day.  For the elderly who live alone, it’s 10 hours a day.  There is much that can be said about these numbers.  They are a call for us to reach out to one another—even a phone call is a blessing.  Volunteering to help others is also a great “mood lifter.” Most importantly, if you’re lonely, pray to God from that loneliness.  Say, “Lord, I’m feeling really lonely today, but I know You’re with me.  And I want to be with You, the lonely Christ.”

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Further reading: Identity and Mission

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