Following the Convocation of Catholic Leaders I began thinking that I should excuse myself from any church leadership role because the emphasis was on revitalizing the church through its members emerging into adulthood. And I am nearly three quarters of a century old.
Although I have the energy for the work I might be called to I didn’t sense the welcome tone necessary to collaborate successfully with a more youthful team. I wanted to explore ways to blend the wisdom of the elders of the church with its youthful members. But my sense of distance grew when one in my working group mentioned that the elderly do not like to be referred to as such.
I agreed but during the conversation I had always referred to my peers as “the elders of the church” not the “elderly” of the church. There is a clear distinction, not subtle, between the terms. Elderly often conjures up pejorative comments; the elders is a term that invokes respect.
As an elder, formed and rooted in my faith (but always game for radical change) I yearn to work with young people. They bring me closer to Jesus because they allow me to see the humanity of Jesus during those years that the gospels are silent about His life – the so called hidden years of Jesus.
During our own youthful years we had many moral dilemmas to face. How we resolved those dilemmas offers paths for today’s young adults that should be shared. Our faith was challenged and survived by fighting in wars or protesting against them. We fought the attraction of the free love atmosphere of Woodstock and the lure of psychedelic drugs; the revolution of Vatican II which shook the rituals we depended on; American political division leading to the assassination of one president and the resignation of another.
The elders of the church have lived with Pius XI, Pius XII, John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis. We have seen the church change, renewed, disgraced, and made new again. How we, the elders of the church, processed all that, kept our morals intact and remained faithful Catholics can guide our youthful members in the unique way that they, today, face life’s challenges much in parallel to ours. Why would we not want to tap into that rich experience and share it as we minister to our youth and young adults?
There is a clear distinction to being an elder of the church and being called elderly.
By: Nicholas Troilo
Convocation of Catholic Leaders Delegate