Sing to God a new song! Psalm 33:3
Well, I hit 70 this last Monday. I always thought old age was for other people, but old age showed up at my door, uninvited, last week and moved in! My response? “If you can’t get out of it, get into it!”
I am not ready to ride in the back seat just yet. I want to stay behind the wheel as long as I can.
On one hand, I want to follow the words of the great poet Dylan Thomas: “Do not go gentle into that good night, old age should burn and rave at close of day; rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
On the other hand, when the times comes, I hope to be able to surrender and say with just as much enthusiasm, “Into your hands, I commend my spirit.”
I have always resonated with the words of “Trudy,” one of Lily Tomlin’s characters: “I can take reality in small doses, but as a way of life, I find it much too confining!”
OK, I did quit coloring my beard, but that’s as far as I am going! I am resolved to adopt the attitude that “the best is yet to come.” Since I can’t get out of being 70, I am going to get into it.
At least for now, I am going to keep some of my work with young people at Bellarmine University and Saint Meinrad Seminary. But I am also going to specialize in keeping retired priests engaged, maybe even more than they have been for a long time, in useful ministry through our new ENCORE PRIESTS program.
Working with young people will keep me from focusing on the past, something that will be helpful as I work with retired priests. Being around the young will help me, and ultimately the retired priests I will be working with, to keep looking forward, rather than looking backward.
Before you conclude that this column is just about me, let me remind you that in this column I do share personal ideas and experiences, but I do so in the hopes that they will be a help and inspiration to you. I am writing a lot lately about my own retirement and aging process, but I also know that I have plenty of company. My hopes are that some of these reflections and insights will be of help to you, if not now, maybe later.
The reality is that in the last 100 years, the average life span in the United States has expanded from 47 to 78 years. The idea of retirement is of recent origin.
Longer lives are a cause for celebration, but they are also creating anxiety because people are not sure what to do with, and how to pay for, all their extra years. We are in new territory. What I am attempting to do at Saint Meinrad for myself and other retired priests is part of that new territory.
Father J. Ronald Knott