I turn 57 today – I feel like a Heinz product. I remember the scene in The Manchurian Candidate when the husband/senator (based on Joe McCarthy) of Angela Lansbury is complaining that his speechwriters are always changing the number of Communists in the government as the camera focuses on a ketchup bottle and then cuts to him making a speech proudly announcing there are 57 Communists in the government.
I had a friend many years ago explain his theory that after we reach the milestone of 40, the years between milestone years (50, 60, 75) are what he called “beige years”. Unlike childhood every year is not a milestone and chronological ages appear to more resemble ages in the obituary pages.
In one of my classes we were discussing aging and its issues. Try doing that with a group of 18 year olds and you’ll feel like you built the Pyramids. I confided to the class that one of the discouraging things about being over 50 is that you feel aches and pains in body parts you never even knew you had!
In fact, when I turned 50 my doctor described what will happen in the future to my body. He explained that my body is like a machine continually running for 50 fifty years and some of the parts are bound to wear down and even break down. Considering the year I was born was also the first year the Ford Edsel was introduced, this may not have been the best analogy.
Well this may be a “beige year”, but I am not ready to be the focus of an obit. Yes, the body parts have broken down somewhat. A heart attack in 2012, a quad rupture this year, pre-diabetes, sleep apnea, tendonitis, etc. When did being regular become so important?
Is it also a beige year for my faith? Well, I don’t think so. I’ve journeyed from cradle Catholic, to Protestant, to Taoist, to spiritual not religious (I’m still not even sure what that means), back to Catholicism. I consider myself very fortunate to be in a spiritual place where I can be at peace with many of the aspects of the Catholic faith experience. I can find spiritual nourishment from the rosary and adoration as well as hymns by the St. Louis Jesuits. I understand why people feel a fondness towards Pope Emeritus Benedict (but don’t share it), and I rejoice in Pope Francis. I still struggle, not so much with the teachings, but how they are lived out and explained by church leaders.
People often ask people who return to the Church (or remain) and struggle why they even stay? Why not go to another denomination? I think this question is primarily a Protestant question, not a Catholic one? It reveals a mindset that you just find another group or start your own church. It is also an American mindset – if you don’t like your life, move on and “go west”.
Catholics, even nominal Catholics, view the church as part of themselves and DNA. It is their family and while the relationship is strained they still go back, even if it’s only for Easter and Christmas. Yes, cynics will say it is cultural conditioning to think a church wedding is necessary or the child must be baptized and “make” first communion. I would argue that the fact that someone does all these things demonstrate somewhere in the core of their being that faith is important.
I believe that as Everyday Catholics, our task is to help our fellow believers in their struggles to find peace in their spiritual home, the Church, founded by Jesus. For my birthday wish I hope I can be that person for others… and there will continue to be others in my life to journey with me.
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