The good use of old age (PE nr. 1092 – 2018/06)

Alain Quilici o.p.,
Du bon usage de la vieillesse,
Editions du Carmel, 2017,
100 pages,
9 €,
ISBN 978-2-84713-535-0

Here is a little book that can easily become a bedside book for many of our seniors. The author tackles some aspects of the life of our older confreres in a number of short chapters.

Right from chapter two, he addresses the inactivity which strikes those who now have nothing to do. Then, in chapter three, comes the suitable moment to return to a more intense prayer life. In the church, the elderly feel at home. In this way, they proclaim by their daily lives that being present to God fits into the deepest essence of man (p. 15). Of course the elderly have to deal with young people, their children, who can be a source of joy (Chapter 4) or of suffering (Chapter 5). These children can sometimes be a real cross. All old people know it, “but how painful it is to have to live it” (p. 24). Chapter Seven deals with questions that old people ask when they are faced with a problematic or uncertain future. They are invited to hope, “A strong hope gives the conviction that the night will not prevail and that the day will come eventually” (p. 34). Our author continues sagaciously that, «The night speaks of the day – the darkness speaks of the light” (P. 36).  Chapter 8, at 18 pages, and entitled “The elderly and their past” is the longest in the book. The author asserts that “managing the past is an art in itself” (p. 37), the trick is to live in the present “which is heavy with the past and stretching out to the future” (P: 54). It is absolutely essential not to scratch old wounds “even if that is not an easy thing to do” (P. 44). Chapters 9 and 10 do not concern us too much as they deal with the art of being a grandparent and being a widow/widower. However, they are interesting from the pastoral point of view especially when one is involved pastorally with retirement homes. Chapter 11 is called, “Preparing one’s eternal future.” In it, we are invited to look at death as a birth. This is easy to say but difficult to live. The author adds, “The Christian knows where he is going, that is his strength” (p. 77).

The books ends with an invitation to take heart from the Patriarchs of the Old Testament who were given a promise, “they believed it – they did not see it coming –  they persevered, advancing in the faith as if they saw the invisible” (p. 92).

A book to read and reread so that all these thoughts pass from our heads to our hearts and may be able to guide us as we advance in age. Why not find a little place for it in our libraries?

Gilles Mathorel, M.Afr.

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