I have heard critics of religion in general, and Catholicism specifically, point with glee to the increasingly gray heads of congregations. By doing so, they hope to emphasize the irrelevance of the Church to the modern world. They reason that, since churches are not full of young people, it must mean that church no longer works for contemporary society. A church full of elderly folks indicates that the world has passed them by and they are just old fashioned, stuck-in-the-mud old people.
Yet, who do we typically turn to when seeking wisdom and experience? We look to those that have been through it all. We do not seek out the youthful and energetic among us. Youth and energy is not bad. However, the youthful tend to seek out their peers, until they require wisdom. Then they look for mentors to “show them the ropes.”
Why not go to those old people who still populate the pews and ask them why they are still there? Instead of assuming that church no longer “works,” why not assume that wisdom still resides there while so much youthful energy has been sidetracked by the siren song of fleeting pleasures that the world offers? Instead of saying, “Ha ha, look at all the foolish, irrelevant old people!” why not say, “Wow, look at all the old people! I wonder what keeps them there. Maybe they know something about life we arrogant youths have yet to learn!”
When I was a boy, my mother told me to watch for restaurants with lots of seniors. She said that seniors were generally good at discovering places that had decent food at reasonable prices because so often they were on a budget and were more careful with their health. Why not find a church with lots of seniors? They understand the value of life and they are more careful with their spiritual health. It is a shame that younger people will avoid a church simply because the congregation is predominantly seniors. To think that older people should be dictated by the whims of youth is an upside down perspective. How can youth learn from their elders if they avoid them?
Think twice about going to a church just because it is lively, youthful and allegedly “relevant” to the person of today. As a Christian, just how “relevant” do you want to be to the world of today, anyway? The more youth there is the less wisdom likely resides there. Just because it feels good and has what you want doesn’t mean it has what you need. Obviously, age is not a guarantee of wisdom, but youth and energy is not a guarantee of truth, either. There is no substitute for experience. Our new 76 year old Pope Francis is a case in point.
When facing the battles of spiritual warfare in life, who do you want fighting beside you? Do you want to be surrounded only by clumsy, new recruits, or do you want to be with veterans that know their way around a battlefield? Imagine a new combat soldier saying, “I don’t like being in this company. Too many veterans.” Whatever struggle you may be facing, there is an older person that has been through it already. Personally, I want lots of experienced prayer warriors around me. I like seeing lots of old people in the Church. In fact, I hope to be one myself someday.