Tuesday 21 June 2016

Ongoing formation in old age

These days in the General Council we are reading the documents of the 90+ provincial chapters: "quite a job." In one of these – an extraordinary chapter, I would think, for its brevity and beauty – this line: "We will continue to encourage our elderly confreres to support our mission by their prayers and sacrifices." And I find myself thinking: no, there is more that can be said about being an elderly salesian, there is much more. "Supporting the mission by their prayers and sacrifices" is far too extrinsic, and betrays a reductive understanding of mission: mission = work. But mission for the Salesian is his capacity to reveal God, his being a "sign and bearer of the love of God". And mission understood in this way never comes to an end - and in fact, it can only grow in intensity in a life that is well lived, a life that comes with gospel wisdom to the years of maturity and old age.... I think we need a letter on Salesian old age, or Salesian elders, or Salesian wise men. Cencini said that during the Year of Consecrated Life: we all say that formation ends only with death, but how many congregations have thought of giving help to our older brothers and sisters to live the evening of life as the culmination and peak of formation?

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