Father Richard describes the conscious attention and intention necessary to “fall upward” into a purposeful second half of life:
Most of us tend to think of the second half of life as largely about getting old, dealing with health issues, and letting go of our physical life, but I simply don’t believe that’s all there is to it. What looks like falling can largely be experienced as falling upward and onward, into a broader and deeper world, where the soul finds its fullness, is finally connected to the whole, and lives inside the Big Picture.
It is not a loss but somehow a gain, not losing but actually winning. We probably have to have met at least one true elder to imagine this could be true. I’ve met enough radiant people to know that it is possible. They have come to their human fullness, often against all odds, usually by suffering personally or vicariously and empathetically. As Jesus describes such a person, “from their breasts flow fountains of living water” (John 7:38). They are models and goals for our humanity, much more than the celebrities and politicians whose actions we seem to care so much about today.
Remember, no one can keep us from the second half of our own lives except ourselves. Nothing can inhibit our second journey except our own lack of courage, patience, and imagination. Our second journey is all ours to walk or to avoid. My conviction is that some falling apart of the first journey is necessary for this to happen, so don’t waste too many moments lamenting poor parenting, lost jobs, failed relationships, physical challenges, economic poverty, or other tragedies. Pain is part of the deal. If we don’t walk into the second half of our own life, it is surely because we do not want it. Let’s desire, desire deeply, desire ourselves, desire God, desire everything good, true, and beautiful. All of the emptying out is for the sake of a Great Outpouring.
Jesuit theologian and scientist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881–1955) prayed to allow his life to unfold in full confidence of God’s presence until the very end:
When the signs of age begin to mark my body (and still more when they touch my mind); when the ill that is to diminish me or carry me off strikes from without or is born within me; when the painful moment comes in which I suddenly awaken to the fact that I am ill or growing old; and above all at that last moment when I feel I am losing hold of myself and am absolutely passive within the hands of the great unknown forces that have formed me; in all those dark moments, O God, grant that I may understand that it is You (provided only my faith is strong enough) who are painfully parting the fibres of my being in order to penetrate to the very marrow of my substance and bear me away within Yourself. 
 Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Divine Milieu: An Essay on the Interior Life (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1960), 62.
Adapted from Richard Rohr, Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2011), 153–154, 160.
Explore Further. . .
- Read Richard on the further journey beyond the first half of life.
- Learn more about this year’s theme Nothing Stands Alone.
- Meet the team behind the Daily Meditations.
Image credit: Katrina Lillian Sorrentino, Entelechy 12, (detail), 2022, photograph, Spain, used with permission. Jenna Keiper, Trinity Tree (detail), 2022, photograph, New Mexico, used with permission. Katrina Lillian Sorrentino, Entelechy 7, (detail), 2022, photograph, Spain, used with permission. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge image.
This week’s images appear in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story.
Image inspiration: Aging and transformation: the natural cycle of life, learning, growing, sharing. We flower, we leaf, we shed, we become.
Story from Our Community:
This month I’m turning 64. In the game of life, you might say I’m “rounding third” and heading home. So, what have I learned? I spend less time separating people in my mind by their political or religious views. I give space to each moment because I know it is really all I have. And now I understand that whatever I want to change about the world begins with me. From 50 to 64, I took more risks than I ever had before. I fell in love twice, resumed a career as if I’d never left, retreated to my father’s old house, and never missed a meal. I wake up happy a lot more days than I did when I was younger. —Cindy G.
Prayer for our community:
God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough, because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.