In May 2007, Leo Klein was looking forward to a sabbatical. Since coming to Xavier in 1970, he not only taught, but he also served as chair of the Department of Theology, director for campus ministry, rector of Xavier’s Jesuit community, Provincial of the Jesuits’ Chicago Province and, most recently, vice president for Mission and Identity. Ahead lay two things: dual knee replacements followed by traveling. Before he could do those things, though, he fell and broke a hip, putting a hold on the travel and a focus on healing.
Now back with new body parts but his same enthusiasm, Klein is launching a new project known as “The Second Fifty” that addresses how people view the second half of their lives when they are less active, a time he calls “diminishment.” He held an inaugural class last year that attracted about 20 alumni. They discussed how to live in the “diminishing” time of one’s later years and still “find God in all things.” The program was so popular, he’s starting a second class this fall.
“When I teach freshman theology, we look at the nature of religion and read about the Hindus. I’m entranced by the fact that Hindus divide their lives into three sections: the first is when they’re students, the second is when they’re homemakers and the third is a period for reflection and understanding of their lives. They believe in reincarnation and getting ready for the next life.”
“We have people here who need meaning for their later years. So we needed a program to help people pull their lives together and understand it. We planned it through the summer of 2008 and offered it to Xavier alumni in Cincinnati that fall. We met nine times over nine months. They had work to do between sessions, books to read, DVDs to watch and a theme each week. One was our image of God, and we watched ‘Oh, God.’ It’s a wonderful film.”
“We talked about how to deal with diminishment. Things start going away and you have to leave things behind. Friends die. How do you look at all that? Finding God in all things is a really tough nut to crack but you must crack it or life will not be all it could be. How do you handle diminishment? How do you see this as a part of your life?”
“The Jesuit paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin said there is divinization of all our activities early in our lives and also in our passivities later in life. During diminishment, can you find God in your passivities as well as in your activities? If so, then that’s the divine milieux. It’s an important part of life, as the Hindus teach us. We’re all living to be older, and we don’t have a spirituality to go with it.”