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As I slide down the downward slope to 70 years old, I find myself feeling more gratitude to God than ever before. As I read the fascinating stories about the jubilarians in the last edition of The Catholic Spirit, I found myself reflecting on my own 31 years of blessed priestly life.
I remember Father Thomas Pingatore, God rest his soul. He asked for a new assignment as a pastor when he was over 80 years old. But please, don’t tell the archbishop. I admire Father George Welzbacher, who is celebrating 70 years as a priest and served as a pastor well into his 80s. But please, don’t tell the archbishop. I’ll never be able to retire.
I heard somewhere the adage, “My brain thinks I’m a 25-year-old. My friends tell me that I have the humor of a 12-year-old. But my body is amazed that I’m still alive.”
The aging process can be quite challenging. But it is the physical aging that makes me feel old. Spiritually, I still feel quite youthful. God created us as mortal beings with an immortal soul. Our human nature grows old while our spiritual nature gets younger and younger.
I don’t get any credit for being totally dependent as an infant or staring in excitement and wonder as I prepared for my First Holy Communion. But to have a dependency on God and a renewed sense of awe as an older adult, well, that can take practice and the perseverance of faith through some of the more difficult chapters of life.
My dad once returned from a funeral and commented, “The only bad part of getting old is that I think I know more people in heaven than on earth.” Spiritually, we know that this world is passing away. But I’m reminded by grief that so far, it is one person at a time.
Recently, the priests of the Archdiocese gathered at St. Mary’s University in Winona for our bi-annual assembly. At lunch with some of my brother priests and classmates, we told funny stories about previous assemblies and remembered some real characters that had since passed away. Then it dawned on us that we are now counted among the older priests.
Although it can sometimes feel that my skeleton is collapsing into my ankles with all its aches and pains, I wouldn’t trade this chapter in my life for any other. Grace builds on human nature and as I get older, God is pouring out a lot of grace to keep me going.
With the excellent choice to hire Bill Lentsch as chief operating officer for the archdiocese, I have been given one more opportunity to serve a parish as a pastor. Even though the spring in my step has become a slight limp and the dimples in my cheeks have become furrows in my jowls, I look forward to my time with the good people of the Church of St. Gerard Majella in Brooklyn Park, as we encounter Jesus Christ in the sacramental life of the Church.
Meanwhile, I’m actually relieved that I will still serve as a vicar general. The Archdiocesan Catholic Center is an amazing place and I’m not ready to leave. But please, don’t tell the archbishop that I actually find joy in serving as his vicar general. I’ll never be able to retire.
As the Archdiocesan Catholic Center transitions to the many gifts Mr. Lentsch will bring to operations, I am transitioning to parish life. It pleases me greatly to have the best of both worlds.
I am grateful to God for this wonderful life and I pray that I continue to age with grace.
Envejecer con gracia
Tags: Aging with grace
Category: Only Jesus
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