Arriving at an older age is to be considered a privilege: not simply because not everyone has the good fortune to reach this stage in life, but also, and above all, because this period provides real possibilities for better evaluating the past, for knowing and living more deeply the Paschal Mystery, for becoming an example in the Church for the whole People of God … Despite the complex nature of the problems you face: a strength that progressively diminishes, the insufficiencies of social organizations, official legislation that comes late, or the lack of understanding by a self-centered society, you are not to feel yourselves as persons underestimated in the life of the Church or as passive objects in a fast-paced world, but as participants at a time of life which is humanly and spiritually fruitful. You still have a mission to fulfill, a contribution to make. According to the divine plan, each individual human being lives a life of continual growth, from the beginning of existence to the moment at which the last breath is taken.
St John Paul II (1988). Christifideles Laici.
Here we are, approaching mid-Lent! I was encouraging my bible study students this week that it is never too late to make a good Lent. Lots of folks have a fast start. They get all excited to maintain the practices of fasting, almsgiving, and prayer and then forget, or can’t maintain the habit, or peter out. Or they get too busy. Or too easily discouraged. Nobody said this would be easy.
But really, even great saints remind us that it is never too late to begin again.
Nunc coepi! — now I begin! This is the cry of a soul in love which, at every moment, whether it has been faithful or lacking in generosity, renews its desire to serve — to love! — our God with a wholehearted loyalty.
-St Josemaria Escriva-
Hit the re-set button. Begin anew. Begin today. Take one small step.
A saint is not someone who never sins,
but one who sins less and less frequently
and gets up more and more quickly.
-St. Bernard of Clairvaux-
It’s not just mid-Lent, for me it’s mid-life. Yet the message is the same. It’s never too late to change and start over — not just in Lent, but in our longing to do good and love the Lord more.
Never give up hope. We can all become saints, even if we get a late start in life.
Grace leads the way.
What Jesus is by nature, we can become through grace.
The followers of Christ are called by God, not because of their works, but according to His own purpose and grace… in the baptism of faith they truly become sons of God and sharers in the divine nature. In this way they are really made holy. Then too, by God’s gift, they must hold on to and complete in their lives this holiness they have received…. to live “as becomes saints”…
…that all the faithful of Christ of whatever rank or status, are called to the fullness of the Christian life and to the perfection of charity…
…they must use their strength accordingly as they have received it, as a gift from Christ. They must follow in His footsteps and conform themselves to His image seeking the will of the Father in all things. (Lumen Gentium, par 40-41, from Vatican II)
Some of the mightiest saints converted and came alive in their middle years.
Great saints for midlife include St Peter, and St Paul. Both met Jesus in midlife — the former because his brother dragged him to meet Jesus, and the latter because Jesus met him is flash of light on the road to Damascus Of course, St Augustine dilly dallied for quite some time before caving into the love of God, too. Augustine’s conversion deeply affected his mother, St Helena. Then there’s St Teresa of Avila whose deepest conversion — in the “on going conversion” sense — began in her forties, long after first giving her life to Christ as a religious sister. There are so many more. Look into St Margaret of Cortona, St Olga of Kiev, St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (AKA Edith Stein), and the later in life convert-to-Catholicism Elizabeth Ann Seton.
(H/T to my author-friend Melanie Rigney, the saint researcher, for our emails about saints with later-in-life conversions.)
There’s an old expression, “You can’t teach an old dog, new tricks.” But my Dad, whom I call a dog whisperer, teaches old rescued dogs things all the time. I’m not calling anyone here an old dog, but the same adage applies. The Heart Whisperer, the Lover of Our Soul, Jesus Christ can rekindle the flame in us, no matter what our age! But especially those of us a little older in years. We might think change is beyond us. Yet it is never beyond grace and mercy.
Who could ever forget Abraham and Moses? They got the call to shift gears and follow God — complete with cross-country moves to new places — deep into their graying years.
It’s only mid-Lent. That means for some of us, we’re just gettin’ started.
Good encouragement here:
For Comic Relief: Speaking of St Peter and other saints, Stephen Colbert is fan of Simon Peter…
Jesus and Mary, thank you for the godly women that you send into my life.
Today I had breakfast with one of my good friends. The kind of friend that you lament that circumstances prevent you both from getting together more often, but you are so glad that you did.
We talked about the transitions we are in over eggs and toast, oatmeal and coffee. The mothering journey is different when you have adult children. The marriage journey is different than it was decades ago. The work we do now is ever changing from what we did long ago, too.
Yet the prayer life is deeper, more Eucharistic, steady. It is what always makes sense. And what makes sense of us.
A few observances…
Midlife is one of those times when you really need courage…
-to make transitions,
-to try new things as we keep up with the old things,
-to be open to a season where both younger and older generations needs you…
-to finally be comfy enough in your own skin to accept whatever comes, with love and with more love…
God still has few surprises in store for us in midlife… so better get ready…
-you will shake your head and laugh at what God has planned for you… and those you love…
-because it is so good, or better, or crazier, and riskier than what you would imagine for yourself…
God knows you are much better at trusting His Plan for your life these days than you used to be.
-So you keeping showing up.
-Day by day
-Because He does.
I am finding more and more comfort in the bedrock of Providence…
All I know about tomorrow is that God’s Providence will rise before the sun.
-Fr Jean Baptiste Lacordaire, OP-
Change happens… it happens in life, and last week, a soon-to-come change was announced for the papacy. Midlife women know all about changes… from the body to the soul! Join me for Among Women this week as I share my first thoughts on Benedict XVI’s stunning announcement to leave the Chair of Peter, as well talk about the changes both joyful and stressful changes that midlife women face, with my guest, Barb Szyszkiewicz, blogger at SFO Mom. Also in this episode, a look at the life of St Agnes of Prague (aka St Agnes of Bohemia).