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THE SUFFERINGS AND JOYS OF OLD AGE

Cicero, in his treatise De Senectute (About Old Age), tells of the joys of old age but says little of the sufferings that generally accompany it. These, both physical and mental, are often of such a nature that they allow of few, if any, of such purely natural consolations as may be in some instances and to some degree experienced. The Psalmist (Ps. 89:10) has told us: “The days of our age are three score years and ten [70 years]; and though may be strong that they come to fourscore [80] years: yet is their strength then but labour and sorrow.” We are familiar with the saying, “A man is as old as he feels.” While a man of eighty may still possess much of the energy of youth and continue working with his intellect, and with his bodily strength still so great that he can take for his recreation and exercise, as did the Victorian statesman, W. E. Gladstone, the felling of trees, yet there are many more who when still in their sixties are “in labour and sorrow”, and are either bedridden or at best can only get about in a bath-chair.

The humiliations that may accompany old age

The physical sufferings that may accompany old age are too numerous to mention, but whatever be their number or nature, they may be more endurable than the mental afflictions and humiliations to which old men are frequently subjected. These old men are fully conscious, for instance, that young men often regard them as antiques, out-dated, doddering old scarecrows, who might with advantage be consigned to a lethal chamber, and so cease to be a troublesome nuisance to the young and healthy world in which they are still living. The “Old Crocks” (as they are sometimes designated) are well aware that often their presence is totally disregarded, that their opinions are not sought for, and that if they do venture to express them they are received with a pitying smile, that hardly falls short of contempt. They are sometimes patronised by the young who condescend to inform them on matters with which the “Old Crocks” were well acquainted before the patronising young had even been well settled in their cradles.

A process of continual intellectual progress?

This has been an age of such material progress that there is the assumption that intellectual and spiritual progress has kept equal pace with it. The old are given to understand that they and their contemporaries did nothing of any account when they were young, and no credit is given them for the foundations on which the very moderns have built. Art and literature, such as they were understood by the “ancients”, are proclaimed by many of the young as quite démodés, and the “de-bunking” – to use the slang of to-day – of such poets, for instance, as Milton and all the romantics of the Lake School, has gone apace. Though some writers of the Victorian age, such as the Brontës, Dickens, and Trollope, are still judged worth reading, there are a great many more who are never considered, even though they wrote more interesting stories, and in far better prose than most of the stuff that so far “this brave new world” has produced.

False valuation

It is all this false valuation, and a great deal more, that the old may have to submit to now that their years are running out and they are getting nearer to Eternity, where past and present will be seen in their right perspective, that is, of no account in themselves apart from men’s accord with the will of their Creator and their faithful subjection to His paramount rule.

Getting nearer to Eternity, where past and present are seen in their right perspective

But that the old should have to end their days under such humiliations need not to be a cause for repining. On the contrary, they afford the best preparation for their death so soon at hand, if accepted in a cheerful, understanding, and patient spirit. If the old are wise they will be very merciful to the young. They will think of their own youth, of their many sins, perhaps, of sensuality and pride, of the airs of superiority that they assumed, of their self-assurance and arrogance, when they were as intolerant and contemptuous of the old as are so many of the young men of these days. Such a consideration will help them to receive in a spirit of reparation whatever form of suffering they may be asked to bear in their old age.

“Those were the days”

But there is another side to the picture. The conduct of the old may be some justification for the behaviour of the young. Unless a man is something of a saint it is hardly to be expected that he will always be able to restrain himself when he has to deal with a garrulous old man who, at tedious length, is continually speaking on the theme of “those were the days”, who repeats again and again his well-worn chestnuts of jokes, who never ends in telling of his exploits and experiences, that in his bleary eyes may appear so wonderful. In short, the old man may be what is known as “a crashing bore”, to whom all but the most charitable give a wide berth. Let him recognise this, as he can by a little closer observation, and then he will gain considerable merit by ceasing from being an affliction to others.

If the old are wise they will be very merciful to the young

Something has been said of the afflictions and humiliations to which old age is liable; but that no exaggerated picture may be drawn it must be conceded that an old man may often enjoy the solicitude and care of a devoted family, who strive to make his last years on earth as pleasant and happy as possible. Often, too, he may command the respect of the younger generation, who, knowing the good work he has done in his time and the ripe experience of his many years among a variety of men and of interests, will seek his advice and deferentially bow to his judgement. Such are some of the natural joys and consolations that may cheer the old in their declining years. But even were they absent, the supernatural joys, to a devout and fervent Catholic, more than compensate for anything he may be called upon to suffer.

A strong and ardent faith

Indeed, with a strong and ardent faith, he knows that the more he suffers with patience the more efficaciously he will make reparation for whatever has been sinful in his past life and the more certainly escape, in part or perhaps in whole, the temporal punishment and cleansing of Purgatory. What a source of joy it is to him to reflect that he is a member of Christ’s Church and has all the supernatural advantages that such a membership gives: that he can pray, and obtain the comfort of prayer: that he can renew his sorrow in confession and receive absolution for past as well as present sins: that he can be present at the great sacrifice of the Mass, the renewal of the Sacrifice of Calvary, and receive often, if not daily, the life-giving Body and Blood of Christ in the great Sacrament of the Eucharist. And in doing all this, his spiritual perceptions will become increasingly more acute, his love of God more intense, the things of this world will no longer be an occasion of sin, for he will have learnt, as the Church so often exhorts us, “to despise earthly things and to love heavenly ones”. He will understand (as perhaps never before has he understood) what an infinite and all-satisfying happiness awaits him.

Infinite and all-satisfying happiness

Living in the world of to-day, where hardships and trials of every kind have accumulated, the old man might rightly feel that they bear on him more hardly than on the comparatively young. He may have been accustomed for the greater part of his life to conditions that were far more comfortable and pleasant, but now, what with shortage of food and of fuel, to say nothing of the loss of long-enjoyed gratifications, this world can no longer be a place in which he would wish, on natural grounds, for a prolonged soujourn. And so, grown wiser with years and experience, he can prepare himself the better for release by death, a death that will hold little or no dread, for as he gets closer to God he will see it only as the entrance to that truer and fuller life which his Redeemer came on this earth to give and to give ever more abundantly.

Jesus came to give life and to give it ever more abundantly

Men cling to this world because so many of them have never even glimpsed another, but the old man who as a fervent Catholic has lived his religion will have learnt the full import of St John’s warning: “Love not the world nor the things of the world; for all that is in the world is the concupiscence of the flesh, the concupiscence of the eyes, and the pride of life.” He has now lost all illusions.He knows that this world holds only a very small minority of God’s creatures (many of them, alas, leading a blind and stumbling life), and that in dying he will be joining the vast and overwhelming majority, among whom are countless saints, the very élite among men; the myriad ranks of archangels and angels in all the splendour of their ineffable glory; and, highest in the heavenly creation, that great and peerless Queen, the Virgin Mother of God who he can claim as his own Mother too, and, greatest of all in that resplendent company, Him who as Man was on earth his Redeemer and dearest Friend, and who as God in heaven is his inexhaustible and eternal reward.

– From: Lift Up Your Hearts, Christopher J. Wilmot, S.J., The Catholic Book Club, London, 1949

 
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Posted by on March 3, 2016 in Words of Wisdom

 

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AN ELDER PERSON’S PRAYER FOR GOD’S WILL TO BE DONE

Lord, if your people still have need of my services, I will not avoid the toil. Your will be done. I have fought the good fight long enough. Yet if you bid me to continue to hold the battle line in defence of your camp, I will never beg to be excused from failing strength. I will do the work you entrust me. While you command, I will fight beneath your banner. Amen.

– St Martin of Tours

 
 

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INTERCESSIONS FOR GRANDPARENTS

INTERCESSIONS FOR GRANDPARENTS:

God’s love endures for ever. Let us pray:

R. Hear your children, O Lord.

For all grandparents:
– make them strong, loving and wise. (R.)

For all families blessed with living grandparents:
– Fill them with respect and love for the ageing. (R.)

For all the elderly abandoned by their families:
– fill them with peace of heart and grant them the companionship of others in their loneliness. (R.)

For all our family members who have died:
– bring them in joy to your eternal home. (R.)

(Personal intentions)

Our Father…

May the Lord of peace himself give us peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with us all. Amen. (cf. 2 Th 3:16)

 
 

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“MAY OUR CITIES BE FILLED WITH LOVE”

PRAYER FOR CITIES

Cities are for needs and wants, divine Father, that cannot be met in isolation. Have we expected from them too much and put in too little? Spur us to renew our cities as You renew the earth in spring, that families my have decent living space, that the poor may have hope fulfilled, that the sick and aged may be treated as persons. May our cities be filled with love, truly homes and not merely structures. Amen.

 

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SHE GAVE UP HER OWN BED FOR A DISABLED WIDOW TO SLEEP IN – ST JEANNE JUGAN

“Jeanne Jugan was born on October 25, 1792, in the midst of the French Revolution, in the little village of Petites Croix, near Cancale (Ille-et-Vilaine), as the sixth child of a poor fisherman. At the age of only six years she lost her father, who never returned from a fishing expedition at sea. Twice the young girl received marriage proposals. Each time she declined. With regard to a sailor who asked for her hand in 1816, she explained to her mother: ‘God wants me for himself. He wants me for a work that has not yet been started.’

In 1817 Jeanne Jugan began to work in the Hospital Rosais in Saint-Servan, caring for the sick. In this connection she accepted the invitation of a certain Mademoiselle Lecoq to live at her house, not really as a domestic servant but rather as a friend and co-worker. With this pious lady she would call on the sick, day after day, for fifteen years and assist them. During this time Jeanne Jugan became a member of the Third Order of Saint Eudes in the Society of the Heart of the Admirable Mother (Societe du Coeur de la Mere admirable).

After the death of Mademoiselle Lecoq, Jeanne Jugan, together with her friend Francoise Aubert, rented a simple house in Saint-Servan; this served not only as their home, from which they went out to visit poor sick people, but also as a place where they took them in to care for them. The first woman they took in – and Jeanne Jugan gave up her own bed for her – was the blind, half-lame Widow Harraux.

BEGINNINGS OF THE CONGREATION OF THE LITTLE SISTERS OF THE POOR

This laid the cornerstone for the Congregation of the Little Sisters of the Poor, which was founded later. Gradually, as the poor sick people who were cared for in the house were joined by still other poor, old individuals, additional helpers, notably the eighteen-year-old orphan Virginie Tredaniel and her friend Marie Jamet, came also to care for the sick, and, together with Jeanne Jugan and Francoise Aubert, they formed the foundation of the future community of Sisters. So as to provide the necessary support for this little community of Sisters, they began collecting alms. This was to become and remain a characteristic feature of the Little Sisters of the Poor.

In 1842 Jeanne Jugan was elected superior of the little community, which more and more was assuming the form of a religious order. On this occasion two priests stood by her side, namely, the secretary (later the provincial) of the Hospitaller order of Saint John of God, Father Felix Massot, who instilled much of his order’s spirituality into the women’s community as it was being formed; and the chaplain in Saint-Servan, Father Augustin Le Pailleur, who indeed was a great help to the Sisters but who began to falsify the history of their congregation, in that he eventually presented himself as its founder and allowed himself too much influence over its direction. When Jeanne Jugan was reelected the superior of the small community in 1843, he considered the election invalid and appointed Marie Jamet as superior, though she was only twenty-three years old, whereas Jeanne Jugan, at age fifty-one, was assigned merely to collect alms, and she was prevented from having any part in the direction of the institute she had founded. In 1852 she had to go back to the novitiate house, which was located first in Rennes, then in La Tour Saint-Joseph (Saint-Pern). Here Sister Jeanne Jugan, who after professing vows had taken the religious name Sister Marie of the Cross, was sentenced to apparent inactivity for twenty-seven years, until her death on August 29, 1879. During all these years, however, she was for the novices of the growing congregation of nuns the embodiment of the ideal of the Little Sisters of the Poor and the living rule of this institute.

Jeanne Jugan was endowed with heroic humility; in 1879; when she fell asleep in the Lord, the community of the Little Sisters of the Poor – which had been approved definitely on March 1, 1879, by Pope Leo XIII – numbered 2,400 Sisters in 177 houses, and these were not only in France but had spread beyond Europe and America. At the beatification of Sister Jeanne Jugan on October 3, 1982, Pope John Paul II charcterised her as follows:

‘AND HE LIFTED UP THE LOWLY!’

Et exultavit humiles! And he lifted up the lowly! These well-known words of the Magnificat fill my spirit and heart with the feeling of joy since I have just declared the humble foundress of the Little Sisters of the Poor one of the Blessed…[A] close reading of the Position on the virtues of Jeanne Jugan, as well as of recent biographies about her and her evangelical charity, inclines me to say that God could glorify no more humble a servant than her. Dear pilgrims, I have no fears about encouraging you to read or re-read these works which speak so well of the heroic humility of Blessed Jeanne Jugan as well as of that wondrous divine wisdom which so carefully arranges events destined to help a vocation to flower and a new order to blossom, an order which is at once ecclesial and social.

Having said this, I would like to meditate with you and for you on the reality of the spiritual message of the new Blessed Jeanne. Jeanne invites all of us, and I quote here from the Rule of the Little Sisters, ‘to share in the bliss of spiritual poverty which leads to total abandonment and lifts the soul to God.’ She invites us to this much more by her life than by those few words of hers which have been recorded and which are so marked with the seal of the Holy Spirit such as these: ‘It is so beautiful to be poor, to have nothing, to wait simply on the good God.’ Joyfully aware of her poverty, she depends completely on Divine Providence which she saw in her own life’s work and that of others.

LIVING THE GOSPEL

Still, this absolute confidence did not make her inactive. With the courage and faith that characterises the woman of her native land, she did not hesitate to beg on behalf of the poor whom she cared for. She saw herself as their sister, their ‘Little Sister’. She wanted to identify with all of the elderly who were often so sickly and even abandoned. Is this not the Gospel in its pure form? (cf. Mt 25:34-41). Is this not the way which the Third Order of St John Eudes had taught her, ‘…to have one life, one heart, one soul, one will with Jesus,’ to join together all those whom Jesus singled out, the little ones, and the poor? Thanks to her daily exercises of piety – long periods of silent prayer, participation in the Eucharistic Sacrifice and reception of Holy Communion more frequently than was the custom at that time, thoughtful recitation of the Rosary which she never stopped, and fervently kneeling as she made the Stations of the Cross – the soul of Jeanne was steeped in the mystery of Christ the Redeemer, especially in his passion and his cross. Her name in religion, Sister Mary of the Cross, is a real and moving symbol of this. From her native village of Petites-Croix (in English, Little Crosses – was this a coincidence or a sign?) until her departure from this world on 29 August 1879, this foundress’ life can be compared to a long and fruitful Way of the Cross, lived in the joyful peace of the Gospel.

SIMPLICITY AND HUMILITY

Must we not recall here that four years after the foundation of the Order she was exposed to the abusive and public meddling of some of her first companions? She allowed herself to be stripped of the office of superior, and a little later she went back to the Motherhouse for a retreat which was to last twenty-seven years, without the slightest complaint. Saint John Eudes, her spiritual [father], used to say, ‘The real measure of sanctity is humility’. Speaking to the Little Sisters, she would often say, ‘Be little, stay little! If we begin to consider ourselves as something, we would no longer be praising God, and we would collapse!’ Jeanne really surrendered herself to the spiritual life. In her long retreat at the Tour Saint-Joseph, many novices and Little Sisters came under her decisive influence and she left on her Congregation the stamp of her spirit by the quiet but eloquent radiance of her life.

In our day, pride, the search for success, and temptation to power all run rampant, and sometimes, unfortunately, even in the Church. They become an obstacle to the coming of the Kingdom of God. This is why the spirituality of Jeanne Jugan can attract followers of Christ and fill their hearts with simplicity and humility, filled with hope and the joy of the Gospel, strengthened by God and by forgetfulness of self. Her spiritual message can lead all those baptised and confirmed to a rediscovery and a practice of that realistic chaity which is stunningly effective in the life of a Little Sister, or of a lay person whenever the God of mercy and hope reigns over her completely.

A GREAT HUMAN FAMILY

Likewise, Jeanne Jugan has left us an apostolic lesson in reality. You could say that she received the Spirit as a kind of prophetic intuition born of the needs and deep desires of the elderly: their desire to be respected, esteemed and loved; their fear of loneliness and at the same time their wish for independence and intimacy; the sadness of feeling no longer useful; and very often, a desire to deepen their life of faith and to live it all the more. I would even add that, never having read the beautiful words of Gaudium et Spes, Jeanne already secretly agreed with what they say about establishing a great human family where all men are treated as brothers (n. 24) sharing the world’s goods according to the law of justice (n. 69) which is inseparable from the law of charity. Though the structures of the social security system have done away which much of the misery of Jeanne Jugan’s time, still her daughters come across the misery of the elderly in many different countries today. And even where these structures do exist, they often do not provide the kind of home atmosphere the elderly so deeply desire and need for their physical and spiritual well-being. You can see it today: in a world where the number of older people is constantly growing…, the timeliness of the apostolic message of Jeanne Jugan cannot be disputed. From the start, the foundress wanted her Congregation not to limit itself to the West of France, but to become a real network of family homes where each person would be received, honoured and even, to the extent possible, brought to a new widening of his or her existence.

THE LITTLE SISTERS TODAY

The timeliness of the apostolate undertaken by this foundress can be seen from the fact that there are today constant requests to be admitted to these homes and to found new ones. When she died, two thousand four hundred Little Sisters were ministering to the needs of the poor and aged in ten countries. Today, there are four thousand and four hundred of them in thirty nations and on six continents. The whole Church and society itself must admire and applaud the amazing growth of this little seed of the Gospel, sown in the soil of Brittany, and here, a hundred and fifty years later, so poor in possessions but rich in faith.

May the beatification of their dear Foundress bring to the Little Sisters new strength to be faithful to the charism of their mother. May this event have the effect of drawing more and more young girls throughout the world into the ranks of the Little Sisters. May the glorification of their fellow country-woman be a vigorous call to the parishioners of Cancale and the whole Diocese of Rennes to the faith and love of the Gospel. Finally, may this beatification be a source of joyous hope for all the aged of the world, thanks to the great witness of that lady who loved all of them so much in the name of Jesus Christ and of his Church!”
– “Example of Courage and Humility for Today’s World”, L’Osservatore romano, October 18, 1982

 

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PRAYER WHEN YOU GROW OLDER

May Christ keep me ever young “to the greater glory of God”. For old age comes from Him, old age leads to Him, and old age will touch me only insofar as He wills. To be “young” means to be hopeful, energetic, and smiling. May I accept death in whatever guise it may come to me in Christ, that is, within the process of the development of life.

A smile – inward and outward – means facing with mildness and gentleness whatever befalls me. Jesus, grant me to serve You, to proclaim You, to glorify You, and to manifest You, to the very end and through all the time that remains to me of life, and above all through my death.

Lord Jesus, I commit to Your care my last years, and my death; do not let them impair or spoil the work I have so dreamed of achieving for You. Amen.

 
 

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“IT IS BEAUTIFUL TO BE OLD” – PUSHING THE ELDERLY ASIDE IS THE MARK OF A DETERIORATING CIVILISATION

“I was interested to read that recently Pope Benedict visited a Home for the Elderly in Rome. He told residents there, ‘I come among you as the Bishop of Rome, but also as an elder on a visit to his peers.’

Looking back on his own life, the Pope called it a natural tendency in one’s old age to envy the ‘fresh energy’ of youth and all those plans for the future. The past can become ‘veiled with sadness’ if considered with remorse, the Pope told the group of seniors, but this is not what God wants.

‘In every age, we must be able to detect the presence and blessing of the Lord and the treasures it contains.

Do not ever be imprisoned with sadness!

We have received the gift of a long life. In our face there is always the joy of feeling loved by God and never sadness.’ The Pope directed the seniors’ attention to the Bible – in which longevity is considered a blessing from God – noting that elders were rightly honoured in the past.

But in the modern world ‘dominated by the logic of efficiency and profit’ the elderly are often pushed to the wayside, considered useless and left to loneliness. The Pope asserted, this is the mark of a deteriorating civilisation, since a community is defined by the way it treats its elderly members.

‘He who makes room for the elderly makes room for life! Whoever receives the elderly welcomes life!’ declared the 85 year old Pope. He also reminded the elderly that they have a special vocation to prayer, shattering the illusion that the elderly are non-productive members of society. At the end of his remarks, Pope Benedict called on all people to heed the ‘wisdom of life’ the elderly bear and support them with love and friendship.

…We have always valued our elderly parishioners. We ask them to pray for us and our parish. We rely on these prayers to make fruitful the work that we do for God. Also we echo the thoughts of Pope Benedict that our younger people should always respect the elderly and profit from the wisdom which they have accumulated over their many years of life experience. Perhaps the most memorable words Pope Benedict said in his speech were, ‘IT IS BEAUTIFUL TO BE OLD’.”
– from “Spiritual Thought from Fr Chris”

 
 

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