Why Stop at 100?

Bishop Thomas J. Tobin - Without a Doubt

A number of years ago while visiting one of our local parishes to participate in its annual festival, I met an older Italian woman, one of the true pillars of the parish. I respectfully saluted her with the traditional Italian toast, “Cent’Anni,” meaning, “May you live to be a hundred!” Somewhat defiantly, in her slightly accented English, she responded, “I certainly hope so; I’m already ninety-nine-and-a-half!”

That episode came to mind recently when I saw the article in Parade Magazine entitled, “Cheater’s Guide to Living to 100.” The essay reports on the findings of author and longevity expert Dan Buettner whose studies have identified “4 super-simple secrets to living longer, healthier and happier.”

The article begins with this: “You turn 50 and suddenly you’re pegged as ‘middle-aged.’ But what if it really was the middle, and you could expect to live to 100 or even 120? Don’t laugh. There are 53,364 centenarians in the U.S. today according to the latest Census Bureau figures, and experts estimate that number could skyrocket to 600,000 by 2050. Better yet, many of these oldsters will defy the doddering stereotype.”

In the very unlikely event that I’m still around in 2050 I’ll be 102, and I can tell already that I won’t be defying the “doddering stereotype.” It’s all in the Lord’s hands, of course, but I’m not sure I want to live to be 100. Even now, I’m ready to cash in my chips and leave the table anytime the Lord recalls me.

The Parade article lists 4 “secrets” to attaining the centenarian mark.

The first is, “Find your tribe.” In other words lifetime friendships, extended families, and social connections are important for a long and positive life. By the way, in this context it is noted that people who attend church services at least four times a month can add 14 years to their life. In other words, go to Mass – every Sunday. It’s good for you!

The second key is to “Eat smart.” “The world’s most robust 100-year-olds stick with diets that are 95 percent plant-based,” the article reports. Other advice: eat less meat, more fish, more vegetables, smaller meals, and have a glass of wine a day. No surprises there, I guess.

Third, is to “Seek a purpose.” Centenarians “have an activity, passion, or career that motivates them and gives their lives meaning.” (So that’s why I see so many senior citizens in casinos!) In other words, says the article, you should have an answer to the question, “Why do I wake up in the morning?” Volunteering, participating in community activities, or having a hobby fit into this category as well.

Finally, to live a long and productive life, “Move it.” Structured exercise is healthy, of course, but so is less strenuous activity – gardening, baking bread, walking to the store, for example. A regular regimen of walking with friends has become especially popular for seniors. I witnessed that in action during a morning visit to a mall recently – not many shoppers, but lots of walkers.

All this is helpful, and if you want to live a long and productive life, go for it! But, even with the best of health practices, even if you live to be 100 or 120, someday you’re going to die; someday your cruise will end and your ship will return to port.

I can make you an even better offer. You want to live forever? Have faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and make that faith the guiding principle of your life.

That’s the reality we celebrate during the Easter Season, isn’t it – that Jesus rose from the dead and invites all of us to do the same?

But how do we do that? What’s the connection between what Jesus did 2,000 years ago and what we do today? How do we share in the abundant, rich, new life of Christ?

Well, of course, that’s what the Christian life, our Catholic Faith, is all about. Everything we do as Catholics has that as its goal – to share in the new life of the Risen Christ. Our life of prayer and devotion, faithful reception of the sacraments, participation in the life of the Church, keeping of the Commandments, service to the poor and the needy – all of these things we do not for their own sake, but that we might participate in the life of Christ.

I wonder about atheists, agnostics, and even Catholics who have abandoned the Church and the regular practice of their faith. Do they not realize that their time here on earth is temporary and that it passes very quickly? Don’t they understand that there is something beyond this life and that someday they’ll meet God face-to-face? How does one live, how does one survive the difficult struggles and suffering of life without faith – a faith that imparts perspective, meaning and hope? I don’t get it.

In a recent article about Easter I wrote, “When all is said and done, good is stronger than evil, light is stronger than darkness, and life is stronger than death.” Upon reading that statement someone asked me, “How can you say that life is stronger than death when we know we’re all going to die?”

“That’s true of course, but death is not the final chapter,” I said. “That’s what the Resurrection is all about; that’s what Christians believe. Jesus said that we can live forever.”

And that, dear friends, is even better than living to be 100!