How old are you? I am guessing that the age of most of you who regularly use this site, are younger, perhaps very much younger, than me. I am approaching 87, and I find that my mental capacities have changed considerably over the last few years. Of course everyone will be different but perhaps a description of the kinds of things I have experienced may be valuable or, at least, interesting.
Everyone accepts that that they will eventually die, but we are able to put that thought on one side most of the time — it is such a long way off. But, at 87, notwithstanding my reasonable capacities, it is suddenly quite close. I have a good friend, Barney, of equivalent age who says: ‘Three months at our age is about the same period as three years for an earlier age.’ My father died in his seventies, but nowadays that seems to be ten years too soon.
I do have one ‘age’ disability: my memory is failing. So I have to surround myself with note books so that I can record notes of what is said to me, or what I must do tomorrow or the day after. I prefer people to send me an email rather than to telephone: the telephone message whisks off into mid air, the email remains in front of me.
I am not going to swank by telling you that I have a good family, I always knew they were. Through this last year or so, they have given me tremendous support, but I expected that already. In fact I often have to be careful not to mention all my needs — my children, grandchildren, great grandchildren (27 in all) have their own responsibilities. Within a few minutes of my writing I will be visited by a 6 month old great grandchild. He and I just giggle. (Yes, indeed, he came — with his dad and grandad. We are all helping him with his early walking skills — giggle, giggle, giggle.)
As a cradle Catholic I would have once assumed that I would accept my religious orthodoxy right up to the end. But in fact the closeness of the ‘end’ has brought about some changes in my mind.
One of them is relatively minor. I am aware of the emphasis the Church puts on the nature of its composition as a group, and I am, as it happens less than 50 yards from one of its finest parish churches. Yet, I vastly prefer to attend Mass through my computer. I am conscious of the value of its congregation but I prefer to listen and understand. I am joined by an old friend, and we have the time to share our thoughts.
More important is the Church’s emphasis on morality and, in particular, the ‘natural law’. Not surprisingly, it was thought that the Almighty’s law was expressed on created nature — from which we can infer the good and the bad. But it’s not so: the Almighty created evolution. This is a marvelous system which broadly ensures that inheritable skills and characteristics succeed because they are promoted through breeding.
This means they could change. The obvious example, of course, was artificial contraception. It was realized that only roughly two born babies per couple were nowadays required to maintain the population. Previously, infantile mortality required much large families.The Church was, and still is, prohibited by its ancient rules, based on ancient conditions — but they needn’t have bothered.
So, for instance, I have no problem with homosexuality — yes it can be promiscuous and damaging but, for the right person in the right situation, it need not be.
I come back to the summary of moral law, as described in the New Testament: the love of ourselves and the love of our neighbour. It is these commands against which I nowadays measure moral choices.
I think, for instance, of my old friend, Barney. He has a lady friend of a similar age. They are both widowed and each have a family in support. And yes, they have an intermittent sexual relationship. As Barney said to me: “At least we don’t have to use contraception!” I know that formal teaching would condemn their sexual element. But, if it enables them to have a happier and more meaningful life, would I not feel that they were justified?
What do you think?