One thought on “Annual Theme for 2021 from CIOFS

  1. I read with great interest the CIOFS Annual Theme for 2021 on care for our elderly brothers and sisters. However, as we cannot meet in person at the moment it is difficult to discuss with others and so has been left resting in the back of my mind.

    Yesterday, I listened to a presentation by Richard Rohr OFM, from some years ago about his then recently published book, “Falling Upwards”. (The talk was given at Texas Lutheran University and is on Youtube.) Among other subjects Richard spoke about the way our Western culture is focussed on the concerns we have in the first half of life. He explained that if we are to achieve real spiritual depth, both personally and in our social relationships, we really should look to fully develop the qualities which are more to do with the second half of life. Such as: patience, tolerance, living with contradictions and a greater more rounded understanding of love. In short: wisdom. These are the qualities we learn through the only way true learning always happens, by experience. As we move through life we encounter disappointment, unhappiness, loss, and death – both real and metaphorical. Although suffering hurts, it is through suffering that God helps us grow.

    Richard explained that many people in our society become elderly without real spiritual growth, when what we really need for our own wellbeing and for the good of society is that we grow to become elders.

    If, as the years go by, we can grow spiritually, all that we suffer can be a way to open us to wisdom. A wisdom which brings an inner contentment and what Richard Rohr calls a ‘brightness’. And it is this which an elder can offer to those younger who are experiencing the very difficulties they have already experienced. To be able to say, ‘I understand, I’ve been through this, but it will all be ok’. To be able to pass on to the next generation the the understanding of an open heart. This is the example the elderly can offer: the ‘brightness’ of an elder.

    Well, this struck me as very important. It echoes the message from the CIOFS letter where we read how much can be learned from our mature brothers and sisters. We all know there are many elderly OFS Members today and Richard’s talk about being an elder speaks especially (I think) to us.

    Our OFS Initial and Ongoing Formation helps us all to grow spiritually so that, in time, we are not only elderly but might become an elder. The Franciscan charism of poverty and minority matches perfectly with the wisdom of an elder: of patience, openness, forgiveness and love.

    The CIOFS letter talks of how we can help our older OFS Members, but it also tells of what our own elders offer us all in return.

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