by Ken Rolheiser
Rose buds and phases of our lives

Ninety-eight-year-old Nanny Faye of Texas tells Tik Tok followers that in this life there is no perfect place to live. Asked if there is life after death, Faye said, “This life is just a little interim time. It’s a blip.” Looking forward to eternity, Faye says. “There it’s going to be perfect. No sickness, no sorrow.”

We can measure our lives in phases from infancy to our final stage, which can be after age eighty or anytime before that. It is important that we pick up the talisman or charms peculiar to each developmental stage. 

The Grad 12 diploma, for example, or the bar mitzvah of a Jewish boy’s thirteenth birthday recognize the next developmental phase. In Baffin Island, Inuit boys and girls went to “outcamps” away from the community to learn the traditional skills of young men and women.

A close study of a person at each stage makes us aware of progress as we pass through the chapters of our lives. An infant, for example, is self-centered, striving for food and personal survival. Gradually, with good training, the child becomes altruistic and self-sacrificing.

I can recall one day when the child in me recognized a next step. I picked up the broom and swept the kitchen floor after supper. God and grace were there in a family of love and support. Teen angst was on the horizon.  

Puberty’s physical changes cause a child's body to mature into an adult body capable of sexual reproduction. The hormonal signals from the brain to body organs stimulate libido and physical growth. All that can be expressed in a short paragraph.

Emotional swings, anxiety, rebellious behavior and rule-breaking reflect some of the challenges parents face as they attempt to provide a home where trust and love support their developing teens.

Parents and society are challenged to pass on values and knowledge to enable youth to have the emotional, spiritual and social maturity to transition smoothly into the challenges of life’s continuous phases.

Adults pass through marriage and family, work and retirement phases. The gold watch of retirement, the “empty nest” syndrome or losing a spouse can be challenging stages.

Spiritual sustenance is critical throughout our life’s journey. Prayer and study help prepare us for the next phase. Imagine a final stage where you may be wheelchair bound and unable to read or even listen anymore. How has your life prepared you for this?

Take off the blinders. Do a reality check of the phase you are in at present. Are you in touch with the spiritual support God offers at each stage of development? The Eucharist is the gift of God’s presence during all of our journey.

Christ has set up the church to support our growth through Baptism, Confirmation, the Eucharist, and for those who are called to it, Matrimony and Holy Orders. 

God has given us eternal life, and that life is His Son. “If you love me, and keep my commandments, I will give you [the Holy Spirit] to help you and he will be with you forever.” (John 14:15).

Let me conclude with a challenging message from poet Robert
Herrick (1591-1674). 
Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
  Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today
  Tomorrow will be dying.
The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun,
  The higher he's a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
  And nearer he's to setting.

(575 words)