Where do I belong in church today?


by Carmel Carter

What is the role of the older person in the Church today? I mean the really old person —
80 or so years?

I am sitting out in the sun in the small back yard of my unit enjoying a cup of coffee, and I’m thinking “I feel so useless”.

I have started reading “A Church in Change”, that new book that parishioners are encouraged to buy and read. It cost me $30, so I will not be going to the RSA Women’s Section Xmas Dinner, as my pension won’t run to both, but that is OK, because I wasn’t very keen to go anyway. The print is very small and light, but I can manage if I read it in the daylight
one chapter at a time. As my finances diminish I am able to give less and less to church and charities.

I feel I should be more active in the Church now that my husband has passed away, but I don’t know what I can do. I used to teach catechetics, but I’m too old now and haven’t the patience with little ones. I used to sing in the choir, but now I run out of puff after two verses and my throat seizes up. Perhaps I should volunteer to help clean the church, but I get very breathless; and I love gardening, but my back gives out just keeping my own little patch in order. I once was a eucharistic minister, but my balance has gone.

I can still drive. I visit a 100-year-old neighbour who is housebound and a blind lady of 98 in an apartment down the road about once a month, but I have to make myself do it. I feel I should do a lot more visiting; there are so many lonely people. The 90-year-old guy next
door comes over once or twice a week in the evening for a couple of hours and occasionally I feel brave enough to give him a meal, but my cooking is not up to much really and I have burnt a few pots.

What is my role in the Church? I go to Mass and Fr Raphael always says my name when I go up to Communion. That makes me feel wanted. It will soon be that Reconciliation time, coming up to Advent. I hate going. What will I say? Perhaps I’ll leave it this time to “Once a year about Easter time”.

I think I should pray more. It has been a long time since I have been able to get through a decade of the rosary without my mind wandering all over the face of the earth in time and place. Maybe God just wants me to talk to him naturally, but I can’t think of much
to say. My pussy cat is lying in front of me on her back waiting for a little tummy rub. Cats just lie around enjoying life. They don`t do much. Perhaps that is what the Lord wants of me, to do nothing. Just to be. To sit in the sunshine of his love and enjoy just being a person
alive. Life is our most precious gift. I sure don’t want to end it.

Carmel Carter lives in Browns Bay in Auckland

Posted in

NZ Catholic Staff

Reader Interactions


  1. Bob Gill says

    I think the Church would be lost without the old ones in attendance at Mass. Look around at Sunday Mass; how many really young adults do you see? I know from my own experience at daily Mass too that most of the attendees don’t include those in, say, their 30s. It’s those in their 50s plus who keep things going.

  2. John Whittaker says

    As an 82 year old who doesn’t feel old, Carmel Carter.s comments about older peoples’ place in the church today got me thinking.
    As an 82 year old who doesn’t feel old, Carmel Carter’s comments about older peoples’ place in the church today got me thinking.
    Growing up in St. Heliers Bay we had a wonderful childhood in the 1940’s. We went to daily Mass nearly every day and were never made to, nor told we should – we wanted to.
    Some time ago I was standing during Mass and realised I was really just a spectator, I wasn’t participating as we used to with the Roman Missal which had the complete Mass for every day of the year. OK. Maybe it was all my fault, but I also know that others my age have the same opinion. Is it because I can’t change? I don’t think so. i embrace new technology with gusto, even to the point of teaching myself some computer programming. And for nearly twenty years I have published the parish bulletin
    If there were a Latin Mass in the district (Wairoa) I would go.
    In my opinion what Vatican ll did was to destroy the Mystery, the Solemnity and most of all the Reverence of the Mass.
    I suspect not too many have read the encyclical Quo Primum of Pope St. Pius V – July 14, 1570.
    It is worth a look, for its reason of uniting a fractured church by making the Latin Mass universal, save for those entities that had there own Liturgy continuously for 200 years.
    This struck me forcibly when in Singapore. The church of Our Lady of Lourdes was within walking distance of our hotel and on Sunday there were no less than 7 Masses in 7 different languages. English, Chinese(Traditional), Malay, Sri Lankin, Arabic, Portugese and Chinese (Mandarin).
    This seemed ridiculous! We were late for the early English Mass so waited for the next one, Chinese.
    Well after 15 minutes we walked out not knowing what was going on
    In the 1950’s and 60’s if you weren’t on time for Mass at our little church you wouldn’t get in. Now, it is usual to get around 30 people.
    The USA statistics in 1960 showed 85% of Catholics went to Mass. Now 27% go.
    Don’t the fellows at the Vatican Care? The decline started after Vatican ll.
    Surely it has something to do with the changes.

    John Whittaker
    Wairoa 4108

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