Six months ago, Pope Francis began a 16-part reflection on old age by asking the Holy Spirit to help us understand and appreciate the great contribution that the elderly can make to a just and fraternal society.
I found each reflection gave me a lot to think and pray about.
His concluding thoughts were profoundly challenging.
In my 80+ years I had never thought of old age itself as a ministry. He hopes we can revitalize the ministry of waiting for the Lord.
His thoughts are a window into a ministry few have thought about… the ministry of Anna and Simeon who bore witness to the fulfillment of promises yet to come.
In this Vincentian Mindwalk we can listen to his words describing old age as a ministry.
Old age as a ministry
Old age is “a special ministry of awaiting the Lord encouraging individual charisms and community qualities of the elderly person.”
In an earlier reflection he wrote
“The elderly have much to teach us about the meaning of life; theirs is a wisdom, matured over time, that can help us to face the ever new questions and challenges raised by today’s rapidly evolving society.
He first speaks of “an old age that is consumed in the dejection of missed opportunities brings despondency to oneself and to others.
In contrast there is an
“Old age lived with gentleness, lived with respect for real life, definitively dissolves the misconception of a Church that adapts to the worldly condition, thinking that by so doing it can definitively govern its perfection and fulfilment.
Our life as “apprenticeship” for the “fulness of life”
“Our life is not made to be wrapped up, in an imaginary earthly perfection: it is destined to go beyond, through the passage of death – because death is a passage. Indeed, our stable place, our destination is not here, it is beside the Lord, where he dwells forever.”
I personally think of the image of Simeon and Anna in the temple welcoming Jesus. Each, so advanced in age, bore witness to Jesus as the fulfilment of what Israel hoped for.
He hopes to “to revitalize this special ministry of awaiting the Lord” Pope Francis continues
“Here, on earth, the process of our “novitiate” begins: we are apprentices of life, who – amid a thousand difficulties – learn to appreciate God’s gift, honoring the responsibility of sharing it and making it bear fruit for everyone”
“Our existence on earth is the time of the initiation of life: it is life, but one that leads you towards a fuller life, the initiation of the fuller one; a life which finds fulfillment only in God.
“Hence: old age brings closer the hope of this fulfillment. Old age knows definitively, by now, the meaning of time and the limitations of the place in which we live our initiation.”
Bearing witness to “The best is yet to come!”
The elderly have seen it all – good and bad. Yet, they are witnesses reminding us that the best is yet to come.
“Old age is credible when it invites one to rejoice in the passing of time. Time passes … Yes, but this is not a threat, it is a promise. “
“The old age that rediscovers the depth of the gaze of faith is not conservative by nature, as they say! God’s world is an infinite space, in which the passage of time no longer carries any weight.
“Old age is the phase in life most suited to spreading the joyful news that life is the initiation to a final fulfilment.”
“The elderly are a promise, a witness of promise.”
“The message of elderly believers, the best is yet to come. “
- Have you ever thought old age as a ministry?
- Who in your family circle bears strongest witness to “the best is yet to come”?
Click below for an early audio version of this Vincentian Mindwalk