4. On retirement and “early retirement” of family members…
The bourgeois society in which we are immersed sneaks through the cracks of our familiar habitat, whether of one kind or another, of one branch or another. Creeping all too frequently into our life, and our approach to it, is the worldly ideal that it is better to work less, to exert less effort, to win as much as possible. It is something we cannot avoid. It is like the polluted air we breathe.
Work, however, is one of the best and most deeply held concepts in Vincentian tradition. Vincent and Louise knew well the instruction, “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat…” (NIV). St. Paul also warned with irony that the idle and disruptive “are not busy; they are busybodies.”
Work, for Vincent, is a sign of solidarity with the poor. To work is to signal that we are one with them. Thus, we have to work, at least, the same number of hours as a poor person does in order to survive.
Improvements in living conditions in our developed society have resulted into the lengthening of the life cycle. Consequently, they allow us to relax on the deck chair of our mental laziness, no longer at 65, as the current law says, but sometimes at 60, and at times even at 55 or earlier.
For a Vincentian, whether secular or consecrated, there is, however, neither early nor early retirement. It is a priceless privilege to work in the service of the poor to the point of exhaustion, to die with our boots on. What a hidden treasure we have in our possession that we are able to fill our time with meaning, in order to give without measure by quietly working as volunteers in the service of the poor both near and far…!
It is a real privilege to rid ourselves of one of the most common scourges of our time, namely, boredom. Boredom comes from having nothing to do but to sit back on the couch in front of the TV, to read romantic novels or to let the wind of fashion or the waves of progressivism carry us away… True, we must be prudent and respect the limitations imposed by age, illness or psychic shortcomings impose. We must also apportion energies to suit the age proper to real retirement. Still and all, we must prophetically denounce outright the lack of enthusiasm at work, the lack of incentive and the absence of creativity.