Aging With Vitality & Grace

As another Royals’ season comes to the end and Chiefs’ season begins, and as summer’s heat gives way to autumn’s chill, we are mindful of the seasons of the year in Kansas City: cold, cool, warm, hot, warm, cool, cold…and we are invited to also contemplate the seasons of our life. Here in the Midwest, we are not fond of extremes in weather.  Most of us are not fond of extremes in other arenas either; extremes in politics or religion cause many humans to behave in ways that do not lend much dignity to our human nature.  Extremes in just about anything carry a destructive potential.

The seasons of life advance through the innocence of infancy, the delights of childhood, the foibles of youth, the excitement of romance, the strength of adulthood, the achievement of middle age, the blessings of retirement, the wonderment of growing old.  As seasons change we experience pleasures and disappointments, longings and regrets, hopes and dreams, joys and sorrows, aches and pains, remembrances and moments of tremendous gratitude.  In my second half of life, I am mindful of the aging process and determined to not become a grumpy old man or bitter soul.  To help, I look to good role models ahead of me on the journey; but I also look to those who follow, especially the children.  Jesus said: “It is to just such as these that heaven belongs…I assure you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a little child shall not enter into it.”

Years ago, when serving as pastor in an inner city parish, I ran into the diocesan schools superintendent roaming our classrooms. She told me that whenever she got bogged down with recurring political battles over education or religion, as people voice ideological extremes to advance their argument, she would escape to an elementary school to check in with children.  I think that if we want to age with vitality and grace, we ought to do as she did.  The innocence, simplicity, openness, and wonder of children help us to put things in a better perspective.  I am lucky as a priest to have always been assigned to parishes with an elementary school.  To me, our schools are at the heart of our purpose—not just to pass along the great treasure of faith with which we have been entrusted but also to remind us what the kingdom of God expects.

As a seventy year old parish, Saint Charles Borromeo has come of age and has aged beyond most others in our vicinity.  We can look back upon hopes and dreams, longings and regrets, joys and sorrows, even aches and pains; there are many remembrances and much gratitude.  Recently finding ourselves at a crossroads where the school was to close, the SCB community decided that, instead, we were at a place of new birth and a season of new beginnings.  That’s where we stand today: a community that wants to age with grace and vitality, to embrace the rotating seasons of our existence, and to be life-giving for the sake of children.  There are many communities older than ours that show us how and many younger that have the childlike attitudes that Jesus promoted.  Many of you who read this blog are members of those communities.  I thank you for accompanying us along the journey and assisting when you’re able.

I am not very far behind the parish in numbers of years or seasons of earthly life. I, too, want to learn as I grow older, appreciating and enjoying each season I am given, pausing now and then to celebrate.  If you are interested in joining us for an upcoming celebration at Saint Charles, I suggest two.  One is our Fall Friend-raiser on Saturday, September 23, starting with 4:00 Mass and followed by an Italian feast and live music, provided by Brancato Catering—a time to dine, dance, fellowship, and feast.  The other is a prayer breakfast on Monday, December 4—an occasion for us to express the values and virtues of classical liberal arts education, the model we instituted at Borromeo Academy.  If growing old with us is too much to ask, I hope you will consider joining us for events like these when the occasion permits.