Tuesday, October 18, 2011

My Early Retirement Story Part 5 – What Do I Do on Retirement?

On a sunny day in Kingston after Christmas, all four members of our family were huddling for lunch at Kelsey’s after a 3-hour drive from Markham to return Michelle to Queen’s University where she was studying. I decided it was a good time to break the news to Michelle and Jason. It appeared they understood the gravity of the issue being discussed for I was given a good 15 minutes of their undivided attention, which as many parents would agree was quite a generosity on their part. Then came their reaction: “So are we going to have a retirement party?” blurted out Jason, with memories of our 25th wedding anniversary party still fresh in his head.

This pretty well sums up people’s general reaction when they learn that I am “retired.” Having read four parts of this sharing of mine, the reader probably knows by now that I don’t really consider myself “retired” as such. Rather, I see my lay apostolate as a special vocation, an opportunity to contribute to the building up of the kingdom of God before old age reins me in. At the same time, I also learned quickly that trying to explain my special situation to people who inquire casually out of courtesy is both futile and clumsy. To most people, a capable adult is either working, or unemployed, or retired. Therefore, no matter how I try my answer will remain incomprehensible unless I tell them I am “retired.” And that is what I have learned to say. But still, seeing that I am not that old many of them would marvel: “Oh, how nice! Now you can enjoy life early!” To that my typical response is: “Not really. It’s just a different way to work.”

“What work?” one may rightfully ask. No need to go into the details and bore every reader to death here, suffice it to say that it is indeed quite a list. In addition to the Catechism Revisited and Bible Study Programs, which are two very intensive programs that require a lot of time and work, my lay apostolate also includes many other evangelization and spiritual formation activities: RCIA, spiritual formation projects for my parish, speaking engagements, retreats or conferences, personal spiritual counselling, family group meetings, voluntary work for the Fountain of Love and Life media evangelization ministry, writing, etc. In the early going, I was keenly aware of my “opportunity costs.” My utmost concern, therefore, was to make sure that my time was fully utilized and well spent. As it turned out, the list of my activities kept growing and growing to the point that my concern now is more about leaving enough time for my family.

At the same time, as the Holy Father has warned, I was well aware that I must not “become utterly absorbed in activism…maintaining consideratio, discretion, deeper examination, contemplation, time for interior pondering…remaining with God and meditating about God” are just as important (BXVI, Light of the World, p. 71) if my goal is to lead a life of spirituality in a world fixated on corporeal matters, and to find detachment in the commotion of daily activities. This is why even when the weather is harsh, I do not want to miss the lunchtime opportunity of strolling around the Too Good Pond in contemplation, saying the Rosary as the Canada geese waddling around me and the birds in the trees chime in. (Read my reflection on the Too Good Pond.) In the austerity of winter, with the northern winds roaring, the paths full of snow accumulation, and the pond frozen, I often walk in solitude and find solace in the Lord’s agony and suffering, which in fact was a glorious manifestation of the power of weakness, the power of the Cross (cf. 2 Cor. 12:9-10).

I can’t possibly conclude this sharing without mentioning my gratitude for the support that Josephine has given me throughout this whole process. I truly believe that long before the two of us met in Windsor; God had searched long and hard, far and wide to find me a suitable partner whom I could enter into a lifetime communion with. And He found me Josephine. I am a very expressive person, and I can find no better person to listen to me than Josephine. She is a fantastic and intelligent listener, and she loves listening to me! Therefore, she was well aware of where my thoughts were heading and what my plan was long before this whole episode of my early retirement story had come to pass. We had dissected and anticipated most if not all of the implications of this new direction that God was taking us, and had been quite prepared to face them all. On that sunny day in Kingston after Christmas, we were just thankful that we also had the buy in of our children.

O Lord! If life is but a libation to be poured out as sacrificial offering until the last drop is consumed (cf. Phil. 2:17), may my lay apostolate be accepted as a self-effacing undertaking to empty my life of earthly riches and desires, of deceits and hatreds, of vanity and selfishness, until the core of my being is filled with peace, love, joy, gentleness, obedience, humility, and most of all, with Christ. Amen!

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