How to live a long life | Inquirer News

How to live a long life

/ 08:01 AM April 21, 2013

He gave five tips to be followed daily to have a long life—eat five small meals, instead of the regular three; drink no less than six glasses of water; shun the elevator for the stairs; find a quiet moment; hang out with happy people.

He—a priest and at one time my teacher—is now 83.  When she learned about his age, the wife asked him what it was that gave him staying power. And he gave this piece of advice, and repeated the five tips for me and our companions when we chanced upon him at an airport.

A sucker for immortality or thereabouts, I gave them a try, in the process discovering that the hardest to follow is being with happy people, emotions being unpredictable. But I deal with this by being sanguine, by choosing to be joyful no matter the company or situation.


As to finding a quiet moment, that is the subject of this piece.


I search for the quiet moment in a quiet place, usually an adoration chapel or prayer room, where the Blessed Sacrament is displayed—the consecrated Host, in which, my faith tells me, Jesus Christ is present, really present, as at the Last Supper he said he would be. (And why cannot God appear in the form of bread and wine?  In one of C. S. Lewis’ stories, a boy meets a star in human form, who explains to the puzzled child that a star does not always have to look like a star.)

Regulations demanded that I leave my shoes outside and just enter the sacred ground of the prayer room on bare feet.  This being an imperfect world, I put my shoes where I could see them through the glass door, and get myself ready to catch whoever might have my size feet and be tempted to snaffle my moccasins.

Two women were inside, on their knees before the Host in the monstrance. The stillness evoked the image that William Wordsworth used in a poem to describe the quiet moment of evening—“as a nun breathless with adoration.” But soon the ladies left, and there was just me and no one else. I thought of the activist Carlo Carretto in the desert, left alone in a cave with the Blessed Sacrament, without any means of contact with the outside world, with only his faith and a few provisions to sustain him.  He had come to North Africa to join a group called the Little Brothers and follow the example of Charles de Foucauld after he heard a voice, “Leave everything, come with me into the desert. I don’t want your action any longer, I want your prayer, your love.”

Speaking of voice, what Jesus said in the Gospel of John came to mind, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand.”

In 1930, the French writer Jean Cocteau wrote a play entitled, La Voix humaine (The Human Voice). All we see on stage is a middle-aged woman talking to someone on the telephone, her lover for the last five years, and who the next day is to marry another woman. The woman on the telephone tries to reconnect with her lover and save their relationship but fails. All that she gets for her effort is a nervous breakdown.

Prayer might seem, but really is not, and if we can help it should not be, a monologue. It might start with despair, but it always ends up with hope and peace and healing, if the heart quiets itself and listens to the silence, too, in which is heard the voice of the ever-faithful One, who has ever loved us.  God waits on the other end of the line, and all we have to do is pick up the telephone.


And having done so, after the quiet moment, we need only see to the other four tips to add a long, happy life to the eternal.

Which five steps, by the way– the priest added, doubtless with a quiet laugh– he did not know until he reached 80.

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