Aging: A Curse and a Blessing

06-10-2023Weekly ReflectionFr. Robert Aliunzi

Dear Friends,

So much serious stuff has been going on around us this past couple of months that I would like to lighten the atmosphere a bit with this light article which I write in the place of Fr. Charlie. As I do so, let us continue to pray that Fr. Charlie enjoys his well-deserved rest as he prepares to move onto his new assignment. Let us also welcome Fr. Bitrus Maigamo who will be serving us in this month of June and of course, keep in your prayers Fr. Gabriel Terrill who will join us in July as our Parochial Vicar.

This article was inspired by my recent experience and conversations about aging while on my vacation in Uganda. Many people I encountered there kept on remarking that I look younger than my age and that I don’t seem to age. While I kind of enjoyed those compliments, in reality I feel very different now than ever before and I don’t like it. I recall that when I was young, I looked forward to growing old but no one ever warned me about the other frustrations that come with age such as aching bones, frequent doctors’ appointments, impatience, whining about the present state of affairs, worrying about retirement and everything else. I noticed this even more clearly when I found myself among my fellow “old men” in my village reminiscing about the past good old days and condemning the children of these day.

I realized then that growing old is a feeling that becomes truer with every passing day. It becomes evident for instance, in our actions, in our inability to take criticisms positively, in our impatience and in our adopting new life preferences which we never had before. Yes, it is even manifested in the simplest of things, such as hating the noise of dogs barking which used not to bother you at all. When you react that way, that is a sure sign that you are growing old. Otherwise, why would a man in his right mind hate dogs, whose nature, it is to bark? As I reflected on these things and more while enjoying my vacation, I realized these are some of the symptoms of growing old and I am very old by Ugandan standards where the average life expectancy is 62 years!

However, in our discussion as old men of the village, we also discovered that as one gets older, they may also begin to wisely compromise on the ideals of their youth. For instance, one who dreamed of marrying the village beauty with an enviable figure and with a decent education will soon throw all that out of the window. He will now settle for one who can cook traditional food, clean the house and iron his clothes and raise his children well regardless of all those attributes. So, old age comes with its blessings of realism in making decisions as well as wisdom. This is precisely because of the experience associated with aging. In general, therefore, elders are held in high regard in Africa because they are understood to embody the culture, the values, stability and wisdom of the community and the ability to blend the enthusiasm of youth with the wisdom of age.

So, my dear fellow elders here at our Lady of Mt. Carmel, at this time when our society is battling serious challenges to our faith, morals and raising children, let us play our rightful role of restoring hope, peace and serenity in our families. Above all, let us consistently encourage recourse to prayer because with God on our side, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31). So, I challenge especially you our men of the parish to provide the spiritual leadership so badly needed in our homes and lead by example.