Studies show that praying the rosary slows down your heart rate and is good for your blood pressure. Adoration does the same. So, do your body a favor—pray the rosary. Adore Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.
Clearly suffering becomes a fact of life for many in old age. It is crucial that we come to understand suffering. Saint John Paul II in his apostolic letter, Salvifici Doloris, said, “The Redeemer suffered in place of man and for man. Every man has his own share in the Redemption…In bringing about the Redemption through suffering, Christ has also raised human suffering to the level of the Redemption. Thus each man, in his suffering, can also become a sharer in the redemptive suffering of Christ” (#19).
Have you noticed how many of the handicapped have a joy, a simplicity, even in the face of severe physical limitations? It speaks of their trust in a God who does not abandon us in our suffering. They have a great deal to teach us.
In popular piety, we speak of the “Dormition,” the “falling asleep” of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Peaceful, effortless, without fear—much as we fall asleep at night. Totally confident of God’s love. She awakens in the next world—a peaceful transition to Heaven. “Mother Mary, be with us at the hour of our death.”
Do all you can to grow in your love for our Blessed Mother. She is our powerful intercessor, our loving Mother. To grow in our love for her is to grow closer to her Son Jesus.
There’s a country and western song that talks about living until the day we die. There’s a certain wisdom there. If I wake up tomorrow morning, that means God has a plan for me for that day. He wants me alive. So may we live out each day with all the faith, hope, and joy that God gives us.
The always positive Saint John Paul II speaks of the vocation of the elderly: “To turn our attention to the aging is to realize how much they are a part of God’s plan for the world, with their mission to fulfil, their unique contribution to make, their problems to solve, their burdens to bear” (Address of John Paul II to the Participants in the International Forum on Active Aging, #3).
Aging teaches us that our value is not in production but in being a child of God.
The Music Man has a famous song that Professor Harold Hill sings. It goes “A sadder but wiser girl for me.” He does not sing it with the best of intentions, but to an extent that phrase describes all of us. All of us have sinned. Only our Blessed Mother is sinless. As we age, we are naturally led to thank God that we did not die in our sins, that we have time and opportunity to return to Him.
I believe a minimizing of our sins (“Everybody’s doing it; it’s no big deal!”) keeps us from profound gratitude to God for saving us. If we think we haven’t sinned, then we don’t experience our need for salvation and the incredible freedom and joy that God’s forgiveness gives us.
An experience of our past sins and mistakes can be a great motivator for future virtue (“I’ve done that, and I’m never going back there again!”).
One grace that hopefully comes to us after a sin, a turning away from God, is compassion for others with their struggles. As the saying has it, “There, but for fortune, go I.”
According to Romans 5:20, “…where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more.” In fact, God loves us so much that He uses even our sins in our favor. Great sinners often become great saints—Saint Augustine comes to mind. They direct their passion to the pursuit of holiness. Saint Paul is a good example. Let us take from their lives a resolve not to live our lives by half-measures—to give all we are to loving God and our neighbor.
Studies show that people of faith, who believe most strongly in the next world, are also the ones most involved in helping this world. It seems that believing that life in this world is preparing you for the next makes this world even more precious to you.
I love the growing literature on Near Death Experiences—where someone medically “dies” and is brought back to life. I have been privileged during my years as a priest to hear many first-hand accounts from people. They all say they have never experienced such Love, and now have no fear of dying. The experience changes them forever and gives hope to those of us who have not had that experience.
Those who have had a near-death experience speak of meeting a “Being of Light,” and that nothing can be hidden from this light; their entire life is there in review. They say they were totally known and totally loved, but they also say in this light everything is judged justly and truly. It’s encouraging and sobering, all at the same time.
In his 1999 Letter to the Elderly (#14), Saint John Paul II speaks of reminders of our own mortality built right into the aging process: “It is natural that, as the years pass, we should increasingly consider our ‘twilight’. If nothing else, we are reminded of it by the very fact that the ranks of our family members, friends and acquaintances grow ever thinner…The line separating life and death runs through our communities and moves inexorably nearer to each of us…old age is the most natural time to look towards the threshold of eternity.”
Do you notice how we somehow recoil from death? We say, “No, this isn’t right!” And we’re right. Death was not part of God’s original plan for us. We’re made for life, for Heaven. Our recoil in the face of death is yet one more “hint of immortality” in our soul.
There is no such thing as an insignificant life. Each life is precious, unrepeatable. We cannot believe in reincarnation, because each individual life ever created by God is unique, never to come again.
One of my favorite names for Jesus, a name given Him by the Archangel Gabriel, is “Emmanuel,” which means “God-is-with-us.” Just think of it—every minute of every day, God is right there with you!
I remember as a child not liking our belief that God knows our every most secret thought. But now I love it. It means He is aware of my good intentions, even if they’re not successfully carried out—He knows my heart.
Many spiritual authors speak of the fact that our hearts are so deep that we don’t even know our deepest desires very clearly. Because we are made by God, and in His image and likeness, our deepest desire, whether we know it or not, is to be in a love relationship with God. We are made for the infinite—infinite love, infinite understanding…we are made for God.
Forgiveness is a free gift from God. Heaven is a free gift from God. But a gift needs to be accepted. Let us never fail to accept this incredible gift by the way we live our lives.
I love our Catholic belief in Purgatory. Like everything God does for us, it’s an example of His love. I think most of us fit there—not good enough for Heaven, not bad enough for Hell—in other words, perfect candidates for the purification of Purgatory. Saints given a vision of Purgatory speak of a blend of pain in souls apart from God, but at the same time incredible joy and hope at the future they know to be theirs.
In Saint John’s Gospel, Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life” (11:25). He further says “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (14:6). That invites an image of Jesus carrying us home to the Father. What a journey that will be!
Cardinal John Henry Newman often spoke of “notional assent” and “real assent.” He said there’s a huge difference between the two. “Notional assent” is given in our mind, but it doesn’t impact our lives. “Real assent” moves us to act on our knowledge—to let it impact the decisions we make every day.
A recent study found that we die more from non-communicable than from contagious diseases. In other words, from our genetic inheritance. George Bernard Shaw said it: “The best way to ensure longevity is to pick your parents.” That not being a possibility, we can work on exercise and diet, and most importantly, on care for our soul by a daily life of prayer.
“Grandchildren are the crown of the aged” (Proverbs 17:6, RSVCE). As grandparents, my siblings would certainly agree with that—they dote on their grandchildren! But there’s more. Grandparents bring great perspective to their grandchildren. Your vision and your faith as a grandparent are more important than you know.
One of the reasons little children are such a joy is because they are so un-self-conscious. Their actions are described as “primary reality,” which describes natural events in all of our lives, events that seem to have escaped the distortion of sin. The human face at rest, or in thought, caught unaware in a moment of joy or sorrow; the face of an infant asleep; father and son working together; husband and wife reading quietly in the den—the examples are endless. Look for them. They tell us of God.
It’s great to be able to laugh at ourselves. A senior said, “I decided to join the fitness club and start exercising. So I joined an aerobics class for seniors. I bent, twisted, gyrated, jumped up and down, and perspired for an hour. But by the time I got my leotards on, the class was over.”
How about this often-quoted “Senility Prayer” as a prayer for aging: “God, grant me the senility to forget the people I never liked anyway; the good fortune to run into the ones I do; and the eyesight to tell the difference.” It’s good to laugh.
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