freedom 55…not for all!

Here in Canada, fifty-five is becoming the retirement age for the lucky few who have secure pension plans. Meanwhile, some unions are fighting against mandatory retirement at sixty or even sixty-five, much to the frustration of younger workers seeking employment or an opportunity to move up in their careers. For those who are self-employed, the age of retirement is not so clear cut. And in professions that are experiencing a shortage (such as health-care), there is pressure to work for as long as one is able to.

In our local church, our diocesan priests can ask to retire at sixty-five. With the current shortage, many continue full parish and administrative duties past this age. Bishops can look forward to `freedom 75`, the canonical age at which they must retire. Cardinals have voting rights within a papal conclave until the age of eighty.

I have friends who are religious sisters, brothers and priests who continue to serve their congregations in leadership roles well into their sixties and seventies. Their work requires extensive travel to oversee mission projects and visit foundations in all corners of the developing world. It exhausts me just to think of the fatigue and jet lag. Many vowed religious `retire` from professional careers only to give their time and energy to social justice work.

My own parents retired early, but never stopped being active. My father is an inspector of home-built aircraft. He mentors other home-builders while working on his own plane. My mother turned to art in her fifties, and is now an accomplished artist. They are both voracious readers and love a good discussion. They are my model and inspiration, showing me how to nurture and support our creative potential throughout life.

Retirement can be a misnomer. How many retired friends do you have that say they`re busier than ever? My husband is turning fifty-five next week. No, there is no retirement in our near future. Our game plan is to continue working as long as we can provide a service to our community. But we are learning to slow down and enjoy more holy leisure along the way!

aging, the gift of days (a guest blog)

This blog post was written by Ray McCracken. He shares his wisdom on aging, gleaned from a unique experience with elder religious brothers and priests.

In the midst of a recent project where I interviewed 200 senior members of a religious order of brothers and priests, I began to observe that “aging”, which I now see as “the gift of days”, could be the most productive and enjoyable stage of life. I learned that aging is not a failure but a process of growth and diminishment towards our authentic self. As these elderly men shared their life stories with me, I began to see the mystery of aging as God’s desire for us for the fullness of spiritual development and union with God. Through the lens of these brothers and priests, aging could be seen as our deepest human desire for holiness by the embracing of limits and loss.

This project made me look at my own aging process. I am 66 years old. I began to ask myself, how is my outgrowing where I have been and aging actually a God driven event? This continues to be a profoundly human question that requires reflection. What is the meaning of this, it is not just biology? There must be a soul meaning. Why is it that the loss of energy and the loss of productivity, the loss of some of the old pleasures in life, open up a deeper reality?

The culture identifies “aging” with failure. The challenge here is befriending the evolution of what God is about in you. Aging is not any failure on your part but God working on your wisdom and creating you as you truly need to be. “Old age is not a punishment but a victory.”