"This spiritual practice called growing older means listening to what our lives have to tell us, sifting out the chaff, watching for that quick glint of flame, and clinging to what has nurtured our growth," writes Frank J. Cunningham in this treasure trove of stories, anecdotes, and insights. He is a former newspaper and magazine writer and editor; university writing instructor; and book editor and publisher of Ave Maria Press.
Cunningham is convinced that spirituality "embraces our lives on all levels" and deals with the dynamics of the heart." With gusto, he discusses the five experiences of aging — acceptance, intimacy, gratitude, diminishment, and memory. The other organizing principle of the paperback is Vespers, or evening prayer which is observed at the time of the lighting of the lamps, just before darkness descends. The author, himself now 75, writes: "How fitting! In this eighth decade the light does indeed fade, as do our capabilities and capacities."
This third stage of life also provides an arena for exploring our own spirituality. As a Catholic, Cunningham confesses that he has mixed feelings about the church's riches, mysteries, vices, and failures. As he has aged, he's found himself less concerned about orthodoxy, "more willing to look for the metaphor in the literal, more willing to accept the mystery of belief, more inclined to doubt."
In one of the most inspiring and expansive chapters in the book, Cunningham explores gratitude which he calls "the first movement of the spiritual life." He celebrates this virtue as one which creates and holds communities together. It also serves as a seedbed for a rich devotional life of prayer. The wise elder is the one who decides to make gratitude along with intimacy, acceptance, diminishment, and memory as the main curriculum for "a school of the spirit."