I thank you for the many years of service in the priesthood that You have given me. I am still amazed why You ever picked me, when there were so many more talented and wiser fellows around.
Now my aging body does not allow me to do all the things I used to do. They do not give me lots of jobs or responsibility any more. I am a supporter, a backup man on the bench, not a starter on the first team. They do not ask for my opinions, and sometimes they seem to think that what I am doing is not “with it” or the modern way.
I, who have consoled many other aging persons, now have to practice what I preach. I used to complain that I was overworked and stressed out. Now I even look around for things to do. I liked it more when I was too busy to have time to think about it.
Now my 11th hour approaches. There is less in front of me than memories behind. I have more time for prayer and reflection, to get ready for what I hope to be doing for all eternity. As Richard Morgan says in Pilgrimage into the Last Third of Life, we live in a culture “that equates busyness with importance.” I wish I did not mess around so much and waste those golden opportunities for developing and growing into new experiences.
How hard it is to give up being in charge, making the decisions! Now I have to ask permission from people younger than I am (naturally, they are not as wise or as smart!) If it is good to give, however, many times receiving is more important. That means I need to have humility to put myself in a lower position, letting others care for me without my griping. You, Lord, during your passion and death, gave up control and allowed all sorts of people to do awful things to You.
Some mornings I wake up with funny feelings I never had before, with aches and pains in parts of my body that I did not even know existed. Food and drink are not as important as once before. But then You went hungry and were tired, knew that You did not have a place to lay your head. Depended upon others.
How many more years do I still have to maybe contribute something? God only knows. I try to not let that be the principal motive for living and being happy. I need to learn to be, not to feel that my worth and importance depend upon what I accomplish. But how I loved applause and those “thank yous” after a sermon well preached or consoling someone in the confessional.
Now peace and solitude seem to occupy a greater part of my day. I am not always around people, but not necessarily alone or lonely when I remember how much You love me and have been watching over me. I can now see those footprints in the sand that I did not notice before.
May my remaining years and energies be geared toward You. After all, isn’t that what eternity is all about. So help me get ready with the same enthusiasm and joy that I applied to past activities. Thank You, Lord, for what I have already received, and to really believe that the best is yet to come!
FATHER KIRCHNER, C.Ss.R., writes from SEELOS House of Formation in Hyde Park, Chicago, Illinois.