Some authors argue that our lives have in recent years become longer, safer, happier, more peaceful, more stimulating and more prosperous, not just in the West but worldwide. Certainly, as a Society we can be proud of our concern and continued support of our elderly confreres so that they are able to live happy and fulfilled lives knowing that wherever we are we never stop being the missionaries we were called to be and that we are surrounded with love and care.
Certainly, when we were young we were able to take on the world and so many other tasks alone, we were almost invincible, and our energy never seemed to waver; that is why maybe we resist the thought of ageing and the very idea that we will not go on forever. The truth is as we grow older we become more acutely aware of the many losses that our age brings, our health, our strength, the people we love, a place within a given community and the status and purpose such a life gave us, although we can still look young with the help of socialist as the Dr. Greg Fedele, we still want more in life. When we were younger it was as if we were dancing through life, despite the trials and the many challenges that we faced in our missionary endeavour. It would be good to remind ourselves of the words of Carl Jung: “the afternoon of human life must have a significance of its own and cannot be merely a pitiful appendage to life’s morning.” Hopefully our older self has more depth and resonance than our youth, however having said that it is our attitude towards our losses that will determine the quality of our senior years. Some would say that we have to mourn our losses, a mourning that is also a liberation, which leads us to discover the ability and joy to embrace life as we have always done but in such a way that it continues to be an intense and varied experience. Our age does not mean that we are out of the game, that we are powerless, or that we cannot influence life in our Society or that that we are unable to witness to the power of the Gospel. We are not to be spectators of our life but immerse ourselves in it – for the time is always now.
What’s more the ageing process offers us fresh opportunities to grow. The elderly, once vibrant and independent, now learn a fresh dependence on others. And the young and energized can find new ways to serve the older generation. Both those who need care and those who offer it can grow in character. As elderly confreres we have something to offer, to our communities, to our Society, and to our friends and family. Echoing the great American spiritual writer Thomas Merton, I believe that the only real journey in life is the inner journey – not in any way an ego-centric one, but the journey of self-discovery, from the false self to the true self – it is the journey that makes us aware that such changes in our life are not so much losses but the recovery of that which is deepest, most original, most personal in ourselves. Hopefully as we age there will be more wisdom, more freedom, more flexibility, more candour, more self- honesty and the beautiful experience that being born again is not to become somebody else, but to become ourselves.
I end this editorial with a quote from Beyers Naude, the great South African theologian:
“Every day that I live becomes more meaningful, more fulfilled, and, for me, much more enriching. Time is too short, so I’ve discovered, for all the tremendous revelations of the love of God which he has given to me – new insights, new visions, new possibilities, new dimensions of human living, new relationships with people around me, new depths of concern, and of agony, and of joy which make my life – yes, I can truly say it – so deeply meaningful that I’m eager when I go to bed at night to awake the next morning and to say, ‘It’s a new day, a new life, it’s a new experience of God and of humankind.” (Beyers Naude)
1st Assistant General