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Friday, 09 June 2017 11:14

A reflection on the spirituality of ageing

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elderly friendsJosephite Sister Nellie Versluys rsj shares her snippets of poetry and scripture to help all those travelling in the autumn season of life or in accompaniment with the ageing. 

From speaking with and listening to older people I have come to believe that growing old is a time of many blessings and paradoxes.

What follows is a harvesting of some snippets that have given strength and courage to enter more deeply into the inner cave of the heart. Here we encounter more intimately Beloved Mystery, the Companion of life’s journey.

"...and they were talking together about all that had happened. And it happened that as they were talking together and discussing it, Jesus himself came up and walked by their side; but their eyes were prevented from recognising him". (Lk 24:14-15)

This snippet of the Emmaus story alerts the reader to be mindful. Often the invitation to enter into this cave of the heart (which we are more frequently invited to do as we age) can be missed when focusing on increased limitations.

The poem below sends a blessing on those who are travelling in the autumn season of life:

May the light of your soul mind you.
May all your worry and anxiousness about your age be transfigured.
May you be given wisdom for the eyes of your soul to see this as a time of gracious harvesting.
May you have the passion to heal what has hurt you, and allow it to come closer and become one with you.
May you have great dignity, and a sense of how free you are, above all, may you be given the wonderful gift of meeting the eternal light that is within in.
May you be blessed,
And may you find wonderful love
In your self for your self.
(John O’Donohue, For Old Age)

We have recently experienced the entry into new life of several of our Sisters. Listening to the stories of their lives and the way they entered into and became one with the Crucified and resurrected Christ brings to life what St. Paul meant when he wrote:

“All I want (long for) is to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and to share his sufferings by reproducing the pattern of his death. That is the way I can hope to take my place in the resurrection of the dead. Not that I have become perfect yet.” Phil 3:10-12

Joy Ryan-Bloore has a commentary on these words:

“Unless a grain of wheat fall into the earth and dies, it remains only a single grain, but if it dies it yields a rich harvest”. (John 12:24) (see Meditation 2, http://www.catholica.com.au/gc4/jrb/)

When we hear the stories of the lives of our Sisters, each a grain of wheat which, after many and varied deaths and resurrections have each born fruit. This is a great source of encouragement to all of us to invite Holy Mystery, our travel Companion to come in and stay with us.

…but they pressed him to stay with them…so he went in to stay with them…he broke bread and gave it to them…and their eyes were opened and they recognised him…(Luke 24:28-31)

Hopefully you can add this little collection of snippets to your own.

Sr Nellie is a Josephite presence in a small rural parish, consisting of four Mass Centres. She brings Communion to the elderly, the sick and the home bound and provides support for grieving families . She regularly visits people on farms in the area. She provides encouragement to others in ministry in the parish including priests who come to minister from other lands.

This was first published on 30 May 2017 in the website of the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart.

  pdf Read more about the Retirement for Mission 2018 Retreat. (1.87 MB)  

For more reflections and prayers on ageing, download the document and resources from the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Social Justice Statement for 2016–17, "A Place at the Table: Social justice in an ageing society".