Sister María Angeles Infante, DC writes of challenges and opportunities of caring for elderly sisters in the spirit of our charism. “Supporting the care-givers of our elderly Sisters: Challenges in light of our charism” is the third article she has authored on aspects of aging.
A sample of her insights from scripture…
Old age is a precious time to deepen one’s understanding of the Word of God and to establish, on the foundation of the Word, our mission of concern for those who are elderly. There are tasks that enlighten us in a special manner and that can fill life with meaning at this stage. I propose some specific individuals and some biblical passage but do not pretend in any manner to indicate that this is an exhaustive list. Rather I am simply pointing out some possible areas for reflection.
A] Elijah. Elijah suffered as he became aware of the fact that he was not better than his parents and at the same time wanted to put aside the ungrateful and dangerous task of being a prophet. In fact he wanted God to take his life (1 Kings 19:4). But God told him to embark on a journey to Horeb, a journey of forty days and nights (1 Kings 19:8-9). When God became present in the tiny whispering sound (1 Kings 19:12), Elijah is sent back: Go take the road back to the desert near Damascus (1 Kings 19:15) and given the mission of anointing Jehu as the new king of Israel and Elisha as the prophet to succeed him. God helped Elijah to discover that he was not alone as he had believed (1 Kings 19:10, 14) and that there were seven thousand people who had not knelt down to Baal (1 kings 19:18). Elijah had to discover that the world did not end with him and his failure. Now he could hand over his cloak and allow Elisha to take his place.
B] Nicodemus. Even though he was elderly, he attempted to be born anew, not by returning to his mother’s womb but by allowing himself to be immersed in the Spirit of God (See, Bienadventurados [Blessed] … p. 102-203).
C] Abraham and Sarah. They expressed their openness to God’s plans by obeying God and beginning their journey even though they were advanced in years. Abraham would be blessed and would become the father of a great nation (Genesis 12:2-5). In time this nation would be blessed in a special manner. Abraham had no idea about the land to which he was being directed and also was not aware of the blessings that would be bestowed upon the people, but he trusted God and obeyed. Unexpected fertility in their advanced years was one of the blessings that Abraham and Sarah received.
D] Simeon. Simeon is a figure of final serenity: Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace … This just man had waited many years for the arrival of this day. He sees in this child (who was no different from other children) the one who was the light of the world, the one who enlightens all people, the one who brings salvation to the world. This salvation was long awaited and is still awaited today because creation cries out in pain until it sees the full revelation of the Son of God.
E] Peter and the Risen Lord at the lakeside … do you love me? This question is decisive with regard to my relationship with God and focuses me on my first and only love. The question is followed by a command:tend my sheep … tend to them as mine and not yours; give them freedom. When you do not tend them in this way, when you provide for them as though they were yours, they will in turn become sad. Remember that despite your unfaithfulness and your sinfulness (realities that sadden you) the Lord renews in you his trust and he sends you forth on a new mission. Do not compare yourself to others nor focus on your concerns and merits but rather concentrate on that which is essential: follow me.
F] The disciples on the road to Emmaus. Now I am able to travel from Emmaus to Jerusalem. Even though I have not always recognized the Lord, I have become aware of how my heart was burning while I walked with him. Now I am able to recognize on the altar that what I believed to be the end of my journey was simply a new beginning, a new sending forth to my community.
The article in outline:
Old age: a time of joy and prophecy
1. The meaning and the value of old age
2. Toward an intergenerational society and communit
3. To take care of the elderly and ourselves
3.1. Becoming aware of the limitations and the characteristics of this stage
3.2. To be mindful of and to live the gospel, in a way that is proper to this stage in life
3.3. The emphasis on faith during this stage of life: in what do I have to believe
4. Challenges from the perspective of fidelity to the charism
4.1. Struggles against the temptations that are characteristic of this age
4.2. To experience oneself as an active participant in the mission
5. Suggestions and resources for the response
5.1. Deepen one’s understanding of the Word of God –
5.2. Keep connected
Other articles by Sister María Angeles Infante, DC
- The elderly as viewed from the perspective of the bible and the church’s magisterium;
- The final years of Louise de Marillac
On selling the chalices; by Robert Maloney, CM
[This article first appeared in Anales volume 119, #5, September-October 2011 and has been translated and posted here with permission of the editors]
Photo of Sr. Maria courtesy of somos.vicencianos.org/
Tags: Aging, Angeles Infante, Daughters of Charity, Elderly