An Auspicious Day
Feb 2, 2018
The date of this Sunday, February 4, is a rather auspicious day for some things. I was surprised to learn of all the positive people born on this day: the Polish American patriot Tadeusz Kosciusko, after whom was named the beautiful bridge that connects Brooklyn and Queens; Charles Lindbergh, who flew the Spirit of Saint Louis across the Atlantic; Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the theologian and martyr who stood real Christianity up to Nazism; Rosa Parks, the black woman who kept her seat on the bus in Montgomery, AL and propelled the Civil Rights Movement into action. On this date, the first U.S. Electoral College chose George Washington to be our first President. But rather ominously on this date 72 years later, the Confederate constitutional convention elected Jefferson Davis President of the Confederacy.
Maybe this will be an important day for us, for all the right reasons. But if not, there is…almost always… tomorrow.
I used to hear in Washington, “Old age is not for sissies!” In the last week, several people on different days and occasions have told me, “Don’t get old.” They were saying this relative to some age-related illness or infirmity. Maybe it’s good advice but too late. In 3 weeks I’ll be 68, the oldest I’ve ever been and, it’s safe to say, the least healthiest I’ve ever been. But it’s all relative. I don’t know how true it is, but I read that a curious man named Simeon Poisson, at age 67, discovered the laws of probability after studying the likelihood of death from mule kicks in the French army. I have three weeks to accomplish something to match him in achievement, but it won’t be in the realm of mathematics.
Maybe you and I haven’t made a big name for ourselves yet. But the Donald and the Ronald became Presidents of the US at age 70. At 75, cancer survivor Barbara Hillary became one of the oldest people, and the ﬁrst black woman, to reach the North Pole. (Not that I ever want to go near the North Pole, but I’m just sayin’.) Larry King lived in my hotel in Arlington, VA, and was doing pretty well for himself after making a comeback at an advanced age, and the only person I ever asked for an autograph in my 25 years in hotels was George Burns, who in his 90s was still packing them in.
That being said, it is still rather unlikely that you or I are going to make it big in politics, science, show biz or pole reaching. But significant achievements are wide open to us, and recognition by the audience that counts most… God.
Moses was about 80 years old when he opened up the Red Sea and led his people across, and he led them for another 40 years in the desert until he retired to the Lord. Saint Elizabeth became mother of John the Baptist at an advanced age. Saint Helen, the noble mother of Constantine, the woman who discovered (with help) Jesus’ empty tomb and the true cross at age 78, did not come around to the true faith until age 60. Studies have been done on elderly nuns and monks who stay active and productive well into their 90s. Just try to get a heresy, fallacy or grammatical error past our Father Timothy. Maryknoll Bishop James Walsh, imprisoned for 12 years in China and released when he was age 70, lived to be 90.
Hopefully we don’t have to be imprisoned or martyred to be our best, and we certainly don’t have to be a professional religious. We just have to be good, and good at what we are good at, whatever that is… a good mother or father, grandmother or grandfather, a good friend, a charitable and just neighbor. We don’t have to run marathons or ride dogsleds over pack ice.
We can all pray… for others, our family, our country. There is Eucharistic Adoration, a perfect time for prayer, twice a week. There are many other prayer groups. We can pray to God heart-to-heart and face-to-face. We can join our Saint Vincent de Paul Society or Acts of Kindness group to help those in need. We can help teach religion in our PSR program, or sing in our small choirs, or read at Mass, or become a Eucharistic Minister and take communion to the sick or those in nursing homes. Believe it or not, one of our biggest needs is for greeters… to stand at the doors of the Church to welcome and answer the questions of visitors… like “Where are the restrooms?” There are so many ways to be meaningful and make a positive, significant difference in the life of our Church and Parish and in the lives of your fellow parishioners. Just look in the Parish directory, and look in your heart.
This is an auspicious day, an important week, an auspicious year in your wonderful life. Seize the opportunity! Carpe diem! Greatness is in our grasp if we will just prayerfully wrap our fingers around it.
From Psalm 90, a prayer of Moses, the man of God:
Lord, you have been our refuge through all generations…
A thousand years in your eyes are merely a day gone by,
before a watch passes in the night, you wash them away…
Seventy is the sum of our years, or eighty, if we are strong;
Most of them are toil and sorrow; they pass quickly, and we are gone…
Teach us to count our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart…
Fill us at daybreak with your mercy, that all our days we may sing for joy….
May the favor of the Lord our God be ours. Prosper the work of our hands!
Prosper the work of our hands!