Older folks’ voices call for attention
One of the surprises of aging is that we are slow to catch on to the fact that we are aging. I am in that category. I am starting to catch on because people older than me have died.
I really liked to have older people around to talk to. Since most of them were involved in World War II, it was especially interesting because of their unique experiences. I met all of them because they had become priests after the war. My older friends were on all sides, including the German. One friend was a POW in Canada after being captured on the Western Front. Two others were on the Eastern Front, taking part in the invasion of Russia. Two of these friends, when they were in Russia, made a vow to God that if they survived they would never complain again as long as they lived. They had melted snow in their helmets, which they used as cooking pots. In the water were roots pulled out of the ground. That experience is a good foundation for ministry.
Another friend is a Polish Jew, now an Israeli. He is the only survivor of his family, who were taken to Auschwitz. As a teenage Israeli army officer, he was left for dead outside of the walls of Jerusalem. Later, because his dog tags had gone into a casualty box, he had the experience of hearing his name read out while he was standing at attention at the brigade memorial service.
Nearly all of my older friends are dead now except, remarkably, my Israeli friend and some English nuns who lived through the Blitz, the German bombing of London. They were not only friends, but mentors, and I really miss their advice, their hard questions and their affirmation. I should also say I miss the joy they had in life. How they kept that through all the suffering, I do not know and never will.
Now, at too many meetings, I am one of the elders or, worse, the senior priest. It was priests my age that I looked up to when I was younger. Needless to say, I do not recommend anyone looking up to me!
I feel that I spoke the language of the older people I knew, but now I feel I hardly speak a word that is of any general interest to younger generations. I still preach, but mostly to myself.
I am writing for the folks still senior to me to let them know how important they are. They are important even when they need to be critical or in despair over the trivia that engages so much of modern life.
I am especially writing because seniors might be silent for what seems lack of interest. But seniors should know that even the lack of interest of younger generations is not a judgment on them. Lack of interest in anything around us, anything older than us, is the fashion of the times.
Something will happen that will draw us again into the world, but I hope it is not another Pearl Harbor or Depression. God so loved the world that I wish we would notice.
The Rev. Halbert Weidner is the pastor of Holy Trinity Catholic Church and of St. Sophia Mission of the Ukrainian Eastern Catholic Church.