So, the other day I had the opportunity to spend a couple of hours with my brother who is somewhat home-bound while his wife went out to do some needed errands.
We just hung out for a while but since it was a beautiful sunshiny day we decided to go out for a walk. Now my brother is in a wheelchair so I would need to push him along our way. As a chaplain in a nursing home I have actually become quite adept at handling wheelchairs but always on a smooth and flat surface.
My bro wanted to show me a path along which some deer come out to graze on the lush grass near a wooded area. The path is paved and travels slightly downhill to the area we wanted to see. So getting there was fairly simple and the pushing easy. Well, the way back up was not so easy. It was work. The path seemed a lot steeper going up as I recalled going down.There appeared to be more cracks and holes in the asphalt on the uphill climb. I also realized at that point that my brother’s weight was about the same as mine. Not light. My brother has lost some of his ability to speak clearly and so was quiet most of the way. I was pretty quiet too except for my panting and gasping, and breathing hard. In the silence, I recalled a recent homily given by Father Leroy Maus at one of the local care centers in which he referred to the priest who founded Boy’s Town; Father Flanagan.
Some of you more seasoned readers may recall a movie way back when by the same name: Boy’s Town. It starred Spencer Tracy as Father Flanagan and Mickey Rooney as an orphaned teenager who was kind of a trouble maker. Boy’s Town was established as a home/school for young lads who had no one who cared for or about them. Father Flanagan coined a phrase to portray the purpose of the academy that has been written into a song and performed by many artists over the years; the Hollies in 1969, Neil Diamond in the 70’s and many others since then. The phrase is: “He ain’t heavy; he’s my brother!” Here’s an excerpt from the song, (google the title for the full lyrics):
The road is long
With many a winding turn
That leads us to who knows where
Who knows where? But I’m strong
Strong enough to carry him
He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother
So on we go
His welfare is of my concern
No burden is he, to bear
We’ll get there
For I know
He would not encumber me
He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother
If I’m laden at all
I’m laden with sadness
That everyone’s heart
Isn’t filled with the gladness
Of love for one another
I recently found a recording of the song online and after listening to it realized thatyes, I am my brother’s keeper and you know what?He ain’t heavy.
Well, we might answer, the Apostles of course!My thoughts exactly, but how did it come about?
Our common understanding permits us to accept the legend that yes, the 12 Apostles did in fact write the Creed on the day of Pentecost. There being 12 principles in the Creed, it could be assumed that each of the 12 Apostles supplied one of the tenets.
The Apostles’ Creed is used in our Catholic Church, the Anglican Church and many Protestant churches as well. However, it is not recognized in the Eastern Orthodox churches. Again, according to tradition, it was composed by the 12 Apostles. However, it may have actually developed from early interrogations of catechumens preparing to be baptized (interestingly, the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion, which is a step in those desiring to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church is being celebrated today, March 5, at St. Mary’s Cathedral at 3 p.m.)
The bishop would ask the candidates “Dost thou believe in God the Father almighty?” and so forth continuing with the major Christian beliefs. Answered positively, these statements of faith became a creed. Such creeds were known and still are today as the baptismal creed. The candidates nowadays are generally infants in the Catholic Church and these questions are answered by the parents, godparents and all present at the baptism of a child.
The present text of the Apostles’ Creed is similar to the earlier baptismal creed used by the Roman church in the 3rd and 4th centuries. It reached its final form in France in the late 6th century. It gradually replaced all other baptismal creeds and became the official statement of faith of the entire Catholic Church in the West.
So, the creed that we pray every day has a rich and historical past dating way back to the days of the first Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostle’s. And it has a rich and fruitful future as new members of the church are baptized.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says this in article 1274: “This Creed is the spiritual seal, our hearts’ meditation, and our ever present guardian; it is, unquestionably, the treasure of our soul.”
The Nicene Creed, generally prayed during Sunday Mass is the subject for another blog in the future.
Psalm 71 contains this phrase: “Now that I am old and grey-headed, do not forsake me, O God.”
The psalm is the voice of suffering and oppression.
The voice of old age and diminished capacity.
The voice of a lifetime of experiences.
The voice of acknowledging God’s acts of grace throughout life.
It is the lament of an old person who seeks asylum in the temple.
Apparently persecuted by some enemies who say that the afflictions of old age are a sign of some sort of divine judgement. The writer turns to the God of righteousness whose praise he has been singing since he was a small child. He sings now a passionate cry to God, his immovable rock of refuge.
Will God allow this voice of pleading and praise to go silent under the attack of the man’s enemies? The writer/singer knows his voice will be heard and vows to continue the song of praise begun in his youth.
The world sometimes looks at our older generation as being weak, and feeble, and not worth spending time with or on. I beg to differ. My experience with older folks has been quite the opposite. I believe that we can become more faithful and faith-filled as we age.
I wish to acknowledge our retired priests as one great example. I have witnessed priests in their 70s, 80s, and even 90s come to the nursing homes to celebrate the Eucharist with the residents who are hungry for it. They come to bring Jesus to the sick and the lame but also for staff members, family members as well as to the healthier residents in the apartments.
These priests are so dedicated to their ordinations that occurred 40, 50, 60 years or more ago. And they treat everyone with the Love of Christ.
I thank God that we have these wonderful men, “Still green, still full of sap.”
Having recently retired from my duties as chaplain at a St. Cloud nursing home, I have found an old saying to be true: “When people find out you’re retired, your phone will start ringing off the wall!”
Well, the phone is actually still on the wall but one of the calls I received was to ask if I would consider writing for this blog.
I’ve been asked to write a little about our senior population. I have worked with this “greatest generation” for over thirty years now and I have learned so much from them. They are awesome. They are so faithful and faith-filled.
Spirituality takes on a whole new position in our lives when we reach a certain age. When sickness or injury requires nursing home care we tend to take everyday things more seriously. Our faith becomes more of a priority.
I have witnessed many, many life stories over the years and walked with many wonderful golden age persons to the time of their departure from Earth. I’ve prayed with their families as Mom or Dad moved on to heaven, the next step in the journey of life.
I recall one individual, a fine lady in her nineties who was near death after living in the nursing home for a number of years. She was a close acquaintance of a local priest and so she had actually received that wonderful sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick several times over the years. Nevertheless she was alert enough to request that Father come and anoint her one last time — “the Last Rites,” so to speak.
The priest was delayed for some reason and so I was called to come and be with her in her last minutes. She spoke to me quietly of going to see Jesus. I assured her that she was ready to go and that she would be with Jesus in Paradise today. Just before she breathed her last breath, her face lit up and practically glowed. As she looked up at the ceiling, a huge and glorious smile came across her face and I firmly believe it remains there forever. The priest arrived shortly after she passed and remarked, after seeing that smile, “I don’t think she needs anything from me!”