Monday, November 29, 2010

Spirituality of Late Life - Part 4

For other entries on Spirituality of Late Life see Spirituality of Late Life Part 1 below.


So what is Spirituality of Later Life?

The second half of life offers many opportunities for spiritual growth. Late life is often a period of intense inner activity - a sorting out of decisions, relationships and commitments made during one’s lifetime. Psychologists call this process life review. Spiritual directors tell us that this looking inward can be a critical time of spiritual growth or crisis, as one comes to terms with the successes and failures of a life time. For one building on a lifetime of spiritual connection, it can be a period of great deepening of one’s relationship with God and others. As one nears the end of one’s journey, and realizes that much will be left incomplete, one can encounter the enormity of a God who accepts us and loves us unconditionally with all our faults and imperfections.

The many losses of aging - physical impairments, decreased mobility, chronic conditions, retirement from careers, empty nests, loss of loved ones - present a unique opportunity to reflect on the meaning of life and on one’s own life in particular. When one is stripped bare of material ambition, independence and even relationships, one faces one’s powerlessness in a very special way. The full reality of God’s love as gift can be experienced and the contemplative ideal of simply resting in God’s embrace may be realized. Of course, without spiritual guidance and support, this might well be a time of isolation and fear. The idea that older people are safely past spiritual crisis is a stereotype: each person grows or regresses in the spiritual life, at their own pace.

The spiritual odyssey of later life can be a challenge to those who are used to being productive; at the same time, it is an inner journey which can bear much fruit. For most Americans, interiority is a concept alien to our cultural bias for productivity. It is difficult to learn how to be still and silent, so one may discover God’s presence within. It is also painful and scary to look inside; older people, much like the young, seek noisy distractions to avoid the pain. Exploring Late Life Spirituality together in groups that foster faith sharing and reflection can be a help for us on this quest. Learning how to see God’s presence in one’s own life experiences, with the gentle support of companions on the journey, can be the greatest blessing of later life.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Spirituality of Late Life - Part 3

For other entries on Spirituality of Late Life see Spirituality of Late Life Part 1 below.

While I worked for Catholic Charities for 25 years, I oversaw various programs for older persons. Ministry to Seniors was our finest hour, training volunteers in the parishes of the Archdiocese to reach out to their elder congregants in various ways including visits to the homebound. One of the parish programs we initiated were Senior Spirituality Groups, which are faith sharing groups for older adults who wish to grow in their spiritual lives. Facilitated by trained leaders, the participants:

Reflected on their life experiences and God’s presence throughout.
Discussed spiritual aspects of everyday life and concerns.
Shared their unique faith journey with one another.
Prayed for the needs of group members.
The senior years can be a very challenging time of life; perhaps a time to become aware of the “new life” trying to emerge, to seek new opportunities for prayer and union with God, to “meditate and search our spirit“.

We might take time to reflect on our own life experiences and God’s presence throughout, or perhaps reflect on the spiritual aspects of our everyday lives and concerns. We may have the opportunity to share our unique faith journey with one another. In the senior spirituality groups, guided sharing and prayer was an integral part of the participants journeys - a true blessing.

In my next blog I will give a definition of late life spirituality to help us reflect on this special time of life.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Black Friday Blues

Black Friday Blues

Today has been dubbed “Black Friday”. It is dedicated to rampant consumerism and blatant materialism. It is hard to resist, especially this year with the intense media push and aggressive advertisements with tempting mouth-watering savings via newspapers, mail, TV, radio and e-mail. Many stores were even open on Thanksgiving. An American spiritual tradition - giving thanks to God for all the blessings we enjoy - is now converted into the new American faith in STUFF, buying with every last drop of money you have and then with the money you don’t have. Fill your life with STUFF. I think we the consumers are the new Thanksgiving turkeys and we are being stuffed. Saying this I must confess. If I wasn’t terrified of crowds I would probably be out there shopping for bargains instead of doing this blog. What do you think?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Spirituality of Late Life - Part 2

Spirituality of Late Life Part 2 (Other entries on Spirituality of Late Life can be found below.)

The prayer below comes from my spiritual direction group. I used it in the first session “Becoming New in the Lord”. The image of “Grandmother God” came to me during Bio-spiritual focusing many years ago. It is an image that gives me great comfort and support when I am troubled. My grandmother was that kind of presence to me and I hope I have been the same for my grandchildren.

Grandmother God,
tender and compassionate,
understanding and forgiving,
cradle me in your arms this day,
balance me on your knee,
hold me in your lap
and never let me go.

Like your servants
Simeon and Anna,
even as I grow old,
may I never grow tired
of spending time with you in prayer.

Though I may become timid at times in my witness,
may I never limit the possibilities of the wonders
awaiting me around the corner.

I present my life with all its worries and wonders,
with all its scars and scary moments,
with all its hope and all its hurts
to you, my Grandma God.
You hold my life in your gentle hands.

Into your hands, I commend my spirit. Amen.

Stations of the Crib, Joe Hassah

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Spirituality of Late Life - Part 1

During the past months of blog silence, I had the privilege of offering a series of workshops on Late Life Spirituality. I finished the latest yesterday at a nursing home. In the audience of some 50 elderly residents, many in wheelchairs and pushing walkers, all burdened with the ailments of advanced age, I beheld the most tranquil, smiling faces. These wise elders surely understand spirituality. They have traveled to those deep places and found God’s presence - even in the most difficult of life’s challenges.

So this “offering” of mine has returned many more blessings to me. I have been truly inspired by the depth of the journeys that have been shared with me this Fall. And in my next several blogs, I will share segments of my presentations.

The first session I called “Becoming New in the Lord”. Because all of life is for living and changing and trying new things. Below are the meditations that accompany Spirituality of Late Life Part I: Becoming New in the Lord.

There is always new life trying to emerge in each of us. Too often we ignore the signs of resurrection and cling to parts of life that have died for us.
Joan Chittister

Older people, with the wisdom and experience which are the fruit of a lifetime, have entered upon a time of extraordinary grace which opens to them new opportunities for prayer and union with God.
John Paul II

I consider the days of old,
I remember the years long ago.
I commune with my heart in the night;
I meditate and I search my spirit.
Psalm 77: 5-6