Grace-Filled Maturity

Carmelite Musings

By Sister Mary Scholastica, O.C.D.

Age.  One of my favorite topics.  I’m actually teased endlessly in the convent because of this.  Let me tell you why.  As I grow older (whatever that means) I find it fascinating.  People never look their age to me and if I were to guess, I typically guess wrong.  Sisters younger than I all look alike.  Sisters older than I all look alike.  I think I even put my wrong age on some health forms at the doctor’s office as I was a year older than I remembered being.

There are over 120+ of us in our religious family and so we live in what we call our local Carmels.  Meaning we live close to where we serve and oftentimes this means a local Carmel can have anywhere between 4 to 25 sisters.  We don’t see each other all the time.  However, we really enjoy being together and so several times a year we all get together for what we call our community gatherings.  It was at one such gathering when I was with a group of younger sisters and I asked what I thought to be a harmless question.  “Refresh my memory, how old are you again?”  The sister proceeded to tell me that I asked her that question every time I saw her.  To which other sisters in the group noted that I asked them the very same question.  They then proceeded to note that every time they told me, I was always surprised.  Oh, how we laughed!  I still laugh when I think about it.  In my defense, it’s because I AM surprised.  Continuously.  Like I said, people don’t look their age to me.

People don’t look their age.  Sisters especially!  What exactly does this mean – to look one’s age?   Some of our elder sisters are so joyful and have such a young spirit, they never look their age.  I suppose there are others of us who look and feel burdened so that we “look” our age.  I think it’s safe to say that most of us look younger than we are because we truly feel and experience the joy of living in the Lord and living with our sisters in Carmel.  Don’t get me wrong.  Our life is not devoid of struggles or challenges.  On the contrary.  However, collectively looking at all aspects of our life, there is a deep joy that animates our sisters.  How can it not?  This is probably why age is such a nebulous thing, especially when it comes to sisters.

There is a hymn we sing for night prayer that contains this line, “from youthful confidence to careful age”.  When I was “younger”, I thought it was humorous.  As I’m getting “older”, I see great truth in the phrases “youthful confidence” and “careful age”.  It still makes me laugh as I now hold the railing going up and down stairs!  Just in case….

What a blessing it is that I live in a community that spans generations.  We have sisters who are in their 100s and sisters in their 20s.  Yes, there are generational differences but instead of it being divisive, I see a desire to appreciate the gifts every age group brings.  So, as I continue to explore my fascination with age (and I’m just brushing the surface here with this random reflection) I do believe that it will solidify in me a renewed desire to be young in spirit no matter how old I am!