We are both in that last stage of life referred to as old age or being elderly, which brings with it a persistent process of letting go, a process which at times is excruciating, sometimes frightening, always a challenge to embrace with faith and trust that our Abba, our Heavenly Father knows what He is doing in allowing us to age.
Anyone who lives with, deals with, has as a co-worker or confrere or family member one of “us” who is aging find themselves in a mystery: often; a challenge: frequently!
Indeed the young, as in non-adults cope rather well with we old people: there are similarities between us such as needing adult care and attention, approval, assurance we are loved, for example – it is the younger as in adults over twenty but well below my age, who can find things a tad overwhelming which then causes much hurt, misunderstanding, anger directed at us so for we seniors the result is deep pain, experience of rejection and a type of dark fear which has us asking if perhaps it would just be best all-round if we were at least less visible, if not ‘out of the picture’ entirely.
Today is mentioned as an example of how both for the elderly person and their younger family, friends, co-workers, this journey of life where generations are co-mingled, pilgriming together, has real challenges, with real people consequences: being of the fountain pen generation computer systems sometimes are daunting and I often feel I must seem illiterate to this wired generation and so when a serious glitch hit I sent a text to a family member, whose professional field of expertise is all things computer related, for help.
Their response, simplified here, was they were already having a stressful day and I had just made it worst and ruined things for them.
The paradox is they get upset if I contact someone in their field other than themselves to fix things – but what choice did I have but to do so today – and it was rather expensive.
So I have spent a day, emotionally, feeling like so many in my age group: a burden, rejected, a problem, unwanted, unloved – the whole emotional gambit – feeling I betrayed the family member by hiring an outside technician and then the struggle NOT to give into emotions of self-pity, resentment, anger piled up on top of everything else!
God is very patient and understood my early morning prayer time was less than peaceful, more through gritted teeth and so the day of battle unfolded – hoping my battle with stress would be taken as an offering to ease the stress of the family member.
Then late in the day, there before my eyes, in a pile of notes for a different essay, was a copy of the very litany which in my discombulated state I had failed to pray in the morning.
It is called: LITANY TO THE VICTORY OF THE BLOOD OF JESUS, a copy of which I’ll put at the end of this.
So drawing on sections of the litany in light of the reality of aging as noted above, here is what came from meditation:
I praise You Precious Blood of the Lamb of God who heals all the infirmities of my body, of my soul, of my spirit.
Really? – yep that was my kneejerk reaction until I looked and listened carefully and understood: YES You are healing the infirmities of my body, not the ‘I am cured!’ way I often ask for, but in the ways which enable me to continue this journey towards the end of earthly life, to approach, hobble if need be, be carried bedridden if it pleases You towards, at times with some uneasiness on my part the door of death – which You promise us opens into life!
There are various stages of the journey before being bedridden and carried the last steps of the way – eyes dim, mobility slows, the car goes and public transit becomes the norm, true a great opportunity to pray everyone we travel with meet Jesus, but for family, friends it can mean the added burden of having to bring the elderly person back and forth for visits, hence more and more the visits become less and less and so aging is a time of increased isolation, aloneness, augmented by the stark reality death takes away our contemporaries and so there is added pressure on the young to fulfill our need for human contact!
The challenge for we elders is to embrace all of this with equanimity and love and gratitude, to accept what is offered with joy and not become demanding of others, to embrace solitude as time alone with Him.
The challenge for the young is not to forget us or make us feel we are a burden but to remember we are Christ disguised as us!
When it comes to healing the infirmities of my soul – yeah I experience this in every Confession and in every Holy Communion but here too NOT the easy way I expect: I have to go to confession with a truth speaking, contrite heart – which is rather humbling if I have been needy-demanding of family or impatient or……yeah I’d rather a system where I could mail it in and get absolution by return mail! Nope! Jesus loves closeness, presence, likes us to be right there with Him in the person of the priest so we can hear Jesus Himself speak the words of healing and restoration.
A dear delightfully Irish priest friend told me once, which it comes to healing of the spirit, that locus where the emotions often hang out, that our emotions are both the last thing to be healed, the last part of us to die – and this temperamental Italian sure gets that one!
So just how O Jesus with Your Precious Blood are You healing the infirmities of my spirit?
Well, I know He is because, for one thing, while I might interiorly be extremely hurt, in great pain, feel resentment, finally in my old age I don’t over-react, externally, don’t thereby cause hurt to the one who has hurt me, in a word Jesus is teaching me to follow His Heart and absorb the pain of other, the stress, the anger, carry the burden for them – it is what love does.
So a wee word to all who must bear the burden and wish to learn how to be patient and understanding with those of us who are elderly, and keep getting older: speak with us, ask us about the journey and listen, and we will ask you and listen too so together we will grow and understand this stage of graced life, loving each other with patience, kindness, humour.
Here is the full litany:
Litany to the Victory of the Blood of Jesus
I praise you Precious Blood of the Lamb of God who heals all the infirmities of my body.
I praise you Precious Blood of the Lamb of God who heals all the infirmities of my soul.
I praise you Precious Blood of the Lamb of God who heals all the infirmities of my spirit.
I adore you Blood of the Lamb in your powerful forgiveness.
I adore you Blood of the Lamb in your powerful healing.
I adore you Blood of the Lamb in your powerful purification.
I adore you Blood of the Lamb in your powerful renewal.
I adore you Blood of the Lamb in your powerful protection.
I praise you Precious Blood of Jesus Christ which purifies me and rids me of my sins.
I praise you Precious Blood of Jesus Christ which frees me from slavery.
I praise you Precious Blood of Jesus Christ which is stronger than my corruptible blood.
I praise you Precious Blood of Jesus Christ which transforms me to His own image.
I praise you Precious Blood of Jesus Christ was makes of me a new creature.
Glory be to the Blood of Jesus Christ which delivers me from the powers of evil.
Glory be to the Blood of Jesus Christ which triumphs over my enemies.
Glory be to the Blood of Jesus Christ which protects me from the snares of satan.
Glory be to the Blood of Jesus Christ which robes me in the white garment of the wedding of the Lamb.
Glory be to the Blood of Jesus Christ which makes all things new. Amen.