I very much liked what was written in the document from the Chapter on "ageing". I found it was very true, and written with great tact. Many thanks to the person (or persons?) who wrote it!
Thierry, at L'Arche community I have gently begun to discover what it is to grow old – and experiencing it for oneself is different from reading about the theory of it. I am the oldest, the most senior member of my family, and in L'Arche I am also the oldest person, the longest serving, the one people ask about past events. This can be quite pleasant, and people sometimes like hearing about these things, but one must be careful not to talk about the past with phrases like "in my day, we used to do such and such" (which is not always particularly relevant to the present-day situation). Furthermore, as the gaps in my memory become more numerous and extensive, I have to be careful.
What does growing old feel like to me? It is something I try to look at positively. The other day I had a fancy that I could draw up two lists: one would be the things that because of my age I can't do any more, and the other the things I needn’t do any more. (In fact, it would be a pretty futile exercise, and I never actually did it.) But I have kept the thought that sometimes when I am faced with such restrictions, I could include them in my prayers, and after each one either respond "so be it, Amen!" (for the first category), or "Alleluia!" (for the second category). This would be a way of acknowledging something I often think anyway, namely that every day God will inspire me with the best way in which to respond to his love. In other words, not only to accept those things he sends me, but actually to believe that they are the best path. Didn't Job say, "The Lord gives, the Lord takes away; blessed be the Name of the Lord"? I do acknowledge that it is not always easy to do this with a cheerful heart, but one should not forget the simple reminder that Charles de Foucauld wrote on his alarm clock, "It is always time to love God." I too have written it on my wall clock.Walking along... So be it, Amen! Alleluia!
What do I think of the daily events which form the background to our lives? Every day we hear about something with catastrophic consequences; the good news is less in evidence. Yet, despite all these situations of which we can say "things are getting worse than ever!", I still feel that humanity is moving in a positive direction towards a better, more 'human' vision of life. Slavery still exists, but it is no longer seen as a normal social condition. The notion of "human rights" is now established. There may be many cases where they are not respected, but people struggle to seek to ensure that they are. Tyrants who commit massacres and other crimes against humanity are no longer guaranteed impunity. The fate of underprivileged peoples is now a subject of concern all over the planet, and people seek to remedy it. The UN is very timid in its efforts to make peace and to unite global policy, but at least the UN exists, with its possibilities for encouraging dialogue; it is therefore not unreasonable to hope that with the passage of time it will be able to take more productive measures. There was nothing like this in the great empires of the past. It may well be that this 'progress', still on a humble scale, has so far done little to alleviate present-day world suffering, but for all that, doesn't it make a space in which Hope may seek to grow?
As part of our progress towards a more caring world, I recently noticed something which I do not hesitate to describe as prophetic: the appearance of baby-changing facilities in many men's public toilets. It immediately makes me think of the prophecy of Malachi: "He [Elijah] will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse" (end of the Book of Malachi). I see this small detail as a sign of the growing development of the relationship between men and women. Men are becoming more involved in childcare and looking after the home. To begin with, they are now often present and help their spouses giving birth. In the supermarket I see fathers doing the shopping with the children, and relating to them, while the mothers are busy doing something else. In church, families wanting to have their children baptised are presented to the congregation, and I notice that now it is often the fathers proudly holding the baby. Also, women now have access to different types of jobs and training, including posts of responsibility at the highest political and governmental level. Yes, an important change in the way men and women relate to each other is taking place, and in my view, it is a change to something more normal and harmonious.
I could mention a number of other similar examples, but I am keen to add that I am well aware that the facts or thoughts I mention here regarding the world in general are based on that small corner where I am living here and now. I make no claim to have a universal vision, nor do I consider that all change is for the better; I am just seeking to identify the positive aspects of social change. Sad to say, there are indeed things seriously amiss in modern life.
But I embarked on these matters in the context of answering the question "What does growing old now mean to me?", and I draw two conclusions:firstly that things have changed a lot since I was young, and I consider many of these changes to be for the better; and secondly that we are evolving towards a more human perspective, so much so that one could say "more divine" insofar as we have been created in God's image. Might we now be starting to look the way that God planned that we should?