ATeutonicknight posted a great link of Brother David Mary's opinion on older vocations.
On the other side of the spectrum is this magical cut off age. Take a peek through a thousand religious communities and one thing that you will inevitably find is “over 35 need not apply”.
There is a real biased against older vocations. Some communities are a bit nicer about it and will close you out at 40. I’m not talking about these crazy wild orders. I’m talking about the traditional, habit wearing, rosary praying communities. Somewhere and somehow these communities decided that older vocations are just plain no good. Quite frankly, that attitude is contrary to the traditions of our Church.
I feel very free in saying that such an attitude and disposition is contrary to tradition because the history of our Church is filled with saints who were “older”. Take St. Rita as an example. She had been married, had children and she did just fine as an Augustinian nun. Even our own country in the U.S. clings to an older vocation in St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, again, a widow and mother, who founded a religious order of sisters. In our own Franciscan family we have the venerable Ortalana, mother of St. Clare of Assisi. What’s wrong with our culture that it has so influenced traditional religious orders into believing that an older vocation is unwanted.
The mentality comes from the thought that an older vocation is more difficult to form. They are “set in their ways”. I have heard this said, but I have not seen it to be true. My experience has been that an older vocation fares better in religious life then someone in their twenties. An older vocation has been through the storms of life. Life has taught them that they have to work hard, they have to be generous and they must be pliable and formable if they wish to survive in the world. What I learned in my early twenties, an older vocation brings to religious life with them. To put it quite plainly, an older vocation has been through the struggles of life and has learned to roll with the punches. They know how not to make a mountain out of a molehill. Age has given them the wisdom not to sweat the small stuff.
St Francis never had a problem with older vocations and so, following his example and express will in the Rule of 1223, we have no problem with older vocations. My guess is that St. Francis had no problem with an older vocation because God doesn’t. God did not say to the 80 yr old Moses at the burning bush “Would have loved to send you to Egypt and rescue the people, too bad you’re so old” NO! Abraham is 97 and Sarah is 87 when Isaac is born. I can go on and on. But I think you get my point. God does not limit Himself to an age bracket. I firmly believe that communities with age limits have unknowingly embraced a culture that teaches that the “old” have nothing to offer society. By putting on false age brackets religious orders have unknowingly put God in a box and told Him not to call anyone over 40. And, they have also unknowingly told those over 40 that they have no full self-gift to offer to God. They tell these people, unknowingly and unintentionally, that they are spent and only have volunteer work to give to God. Nonsense!!
What if someone enters community at 65 and dies at 70? Don’t those 5 years mean something to God? Is this person not allowed to stand before God in judgment and say, “ I gave my all in the end”? Their consecration of themselves to God does count! Even if they are in vows only for an hour of a day. It has worth.
Lets face the fact that we now live in a culture that leaves people without God for many years. Or, people are confused about faith and their calling. They may have spent much time in life being lost and confused. Often times today, people, after spending 40 years in dissipation, finally discovers the awesome love of Christ and feels that call to give Him their all.
Please, if you are over 40, don’t think for one minute that you are too old for God! On the contrary, you are never too old. How else should you spend the rest of your life? What else do you expect to get out of life? You know God is calling you. Do not let these well intentioned but misinformed groups turn you away because of your age. I believe in the public sector they call that “age discrimination”. Don’t give up! If a community won’t take down that false age barrier then take that as a sign from God that that community is not for you. Seek out orders that will open their arms to a late vocation. I mean this even to those of you who are widowed, annulled or just plain late in getting around to your discernment. God knows no age. God’s timing is His will. If He wills to call you now, at your age, don’t give up the search!
I really pray that someday we will be freed from the utilitarian mentality that makes us value people by what they have to offer to society. That mentality that says, ”what use will they be?” What a horrible way to view the human person. Yet, even the most orthodox of religious and priests have it so deep within them they don’t even realize they are doing it. We really have to get back to seeing people again. And, not just “people”, “persons”, seeing each individual person for who they truly are. Like the good Lord, we have to do our best and see the beauty in each person and bring that out. Even if they are over 40. Maybe, the only good that they will be able “to do” is suffer. If that person, who suffers in later years, understands the dignity and mystery of human suffering, and, comprehends and knows how to offer that suffering as a “sweet smelling sacrifice”, then they are more “useful” to the order than their greatest preacher, teacher or evangelist
So why not older vocations? Is this age discrimination? Is there a fear that young people won't join religious orders if there are too many older people?