No one competes in a marathon to see who reaches “old age” first. In our society, no one wants to attain that goal. We live in a culture where youth is worshipped and getting older is considered a disease to be avoided.
Certainly, we need to pursue a healthy diet, engage in physical activity, pay heed to the legitimate needs of mind, body, and spirit and do all we can to prevent or delay disabilities. However, aging itself cannot be denied. The perfection of youth is held up as life’s ultimate goal with little attention paid to youth’s narrow world-view. Our culture doesn’t view growing older as a normal, natural, necessary process. It sees aging as a disability, and not as serving a distinct purpose. However, as long as we’re alive, aging happens, daily, nightly. Younger people even know this as they eagerly await their next birthday when they’ll be able to do something they weren’t old enough to do before.
At a certain age, this excitement wanes. Often, I hear older adults tell younger ones:
Oh, I’m too old for that.
This is a self put-down message. It would be better to say:
I’ve done that and enjoyed it. However, I’d rather do something else now.
This is pure fact with no reference to age or disability; it’s easily understood by younger persons and helps them to frame their preferences later on.
Our society avoids anything that implies adult aging. To counteract this trend, we must help to develop a new attitude toward this essential sequence in human maturing by cultivating a personal attitude that speaks with anticipation about our unlived years. Our culture desires quick fixes, natural and organic creams, and break-through pills that assure us of an immediate physical transformation to keep us young. Yet, there must be more.
There is. It’s the only transformative-treatment for not getting old that really works. However, not many take the chance of attending to it, though it’s free to anyone who desires it. This treatment holds both risk and challenge that only adults who are ready and willing can accept: it’s called lifelong spiritual maturing through love. Many adults do not have the wisdom or courage to accept what this has to offer; it’s demanding and counter-cultural. Comfort zones and excuses for not trying it are much easier.
Accepting this personal goal is the secret of transforming the natural, human process of aging into a stimulating adventure. The process of aging requires our active life-force and positive life-choices. Inanimate objects can’t age; they just get old and become antiques.
Aging is natural to life and happens gradually through the years. No one becomes old overnight. Maturing, however, is voluntary; it’s a gift offered to us by God so that we will be able to recognize our best wine experience. Without aging, we’d not be able to discover this vibrant life-gift which requires long and careful fermentation. Accepting this gracious God-gift creates a wisdom which merely aging doesn’t. We learn from life and our own mistakes. Those who neglect this gift and, instead, focus on decline and lack are neither maturing nor gaining wisdom. We must listen to Mary as the servants did and do whatever Christ tells us to do. This way, the water of our ongoing years will be changed into the best wine of our life.
Then what is aging for? It’s God’s gift to us so that we may develop our full capacity to love: God, self, others, and God’s creation. Maturing in love, like great wine, needs years to realize its full potential. This couldn’t happen at any previous age because we didn’t have the necessary lived experience nor the friendship with Christ we have now.
Much attention today is given to keeping body and mind healthy. This is necessary. However, little emphasis is placed on the maturing force of our being: our spirit-love. If we’re to understand the purpose of aging, we have to look deeply at our spirit, as young as when God first created it. It’s our driving energy that acknowledges the fact that Christ’s love, light, life, and presence is within us. It’s from our spirit that our greatest faculty, the wine of our love, keeps our lives fermenting into the best wine. For, as long as we choose to love: God, self, others, and creation, we’ll never grow stale and stagnant. The water of our years will truly blush and become sacred wine transformed by Christ’s smile and touch. This is what God’s gift of aging to us is all about.
Everyone serves good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one; but you have kept the good wine until now. (John 2:10)
SR. ANGELITA M. FENKER, 83, passed away on Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013. Born in Fort Wayne, Sr. Angelita was a religious Sister and educator with various educational and ecumenical organizations in the U.S and Canada for 60 years, retiring in 2007.
She started her ministry in 1947, earned Bachelors degrees in education and family studies from University of Saint Francis and Purdue University. She was an elementary teacher, principal and director of religious education in Missouri, Louisiana and Indiana. She earned her Masters degree in education administration from Marquette University. From 1973 to 1990, served as the National Associate Director of Families for Prayer, Inc, of Albany, N.Y. During this time, she also earned her doctorate degree in spirituality and family spirituality from the Graduate Theological Foundation.
Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her. May she and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.