The Second Fifty

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Fr. Leo Kline, SJ is the visionary behind the Second Fifty Program: Spiritual Dimensions of Later Life Issues.  Fr. Leo credits his inspiration, in part, to exposure to the Hindu view of the Journey of Life.  Teaching Theology 101 to incoming freshmen at Xavier University, he included Huston Smith’s The World Religions as a text, and in it, came to see this Hindu view.  He contrasts the western, typical contemporary view of the journey  (the proverbial “hill”; the foothill being birth, cresting at mid-life and the downward slope ending in death) with the Hindu view (ascending from the first stage/student, to the second stage/householder to the third stage/retirement).

Our task in the first stage/student is to learn, to have a mind receptive and open.  In the second stage/householder, our task is to follow a vocation, often marriage, family and living out our role in community.  The third stage/retirement (far from being the downward slope of the typical western view) continues the upward movement and its primary task is to “ponder meaning in the mystery of existence,” “to understand and discover who one is,” “to pay forward to others in need.” Thus Second Fifty enlightens us as we journey.

How fortunate we participants were at the first gathering of the current Second Fifty class, that we were there to witness the master being enlightened by one of his pupils.  In the group was a man from India who shared that one of the main tasks of the retirement stage is renunciation.  Not the kind that is self-defacing punishment but a gentle letting go of things no longer needed in the journey, to leave more for others, more goods, more tending, more time.  This detachment to things no longer important, frees one to spend more time and thought on what is important.

A woman in our group from “the Banana Republic, Panama” shared her delight in having a decades-old question answered for her.  “When I turned forty, I was a nurse here in this country and the staff came together and had black balloons, a sign that read ‘Over the Hill’ and even black cake.  I was so confused and chalked it up to one of the cultural differences I just didn’t understand and was better off not questioning.  But it was disturbing to me.  And now Fr. Leo has answered for me what that conflict was.  Being raised at the crossroads of commerce in Panama I had a more global view of aging and it did not resonate with the black balloons and rolling down a hill.”

Once again the insights gained in a few hours with this group made me so grateful to be a part of the Ignatian Volunteer Corps.  We in our second fifty gather together to “ponder our meaning;” we serve the poor “detaching ourselves from what is no longer important and giving to those in need;” we find God, and in the process discover who we are. “beloved!”

Thank you, IVC!  Being part of IVC is an enlightening experience and it is so delightful to share the journey with men and women who have a view of aging that is grace-filled and grateful!  Keep elevating your spirits to rise to the occasion of that glorious meeting with the one who calls you “Beloved!”

Linda Wihl is the Greater Cincinnati IVC  Regional Director (or as some of the volunteers call her, “the matchmaker”).  As the Executive Director of Making Sense of Language Arts, she is also a service site partner and sponsor.  Her favorite title is “grandma!”


6 Responses to “The Second Fifty”

  1. Mary Lou Miller

    I loved your blog. On a beautiful snowy February day it felt like the sun that I am sensing coming through the clouds. Thank you

    • Mateus

      yes. thank you for saying it.It’s easy to slip into tniknihg that we are the first generation of passionate Christ followers, willing to do radical things for the sake of the kingdom. It’s easy to forget that those same things marked the people at the forefront of almost every movement in the storied life of the church.

  2. Madeleine Kirk

    Thank you, Mike Goggin, and Linda Wihi for starting us off on our Lenten journey with a serious Hindu inspired focus to divest, let go and care for the poor! That is my experience with IVC.

  3. Kate ventura

    Thank you for your statement about “aging” that was peace-and-hope filled!
    IVC is the answer to a second 50 with meaning and acceptance and purpose, which I have sought to understand. Again,thank you for your inspired thoughts.
    Kate Ventura

  4. Camille Devaney

    Great My response comes a day late. I am sitting in a McDonald’s waiting for a shop to open so I can collect a package. As I read this they were playing that old song, “wind beneath my wing” IVC is definitely that wind helping me to fly in the second half, can’t imagine life without this gift.

  5. Dick Shea

    Linda: Thanks for sharing the Hindu view of the second 50. It seems to me that the “western” view is not at all helpful, but the Hindu view coincides with what we are learning as IVC volunteers. I am grateful that people are open to learning other views, and especially grateful when they share with others what they have learned. Thanks again.


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