Thursday, April 27, 2006

World's oldest priest confesses secrets of longevity.

Ah, the wonders of Google. The other day I was curious to discover the identity of the world's oldest Catholic priest, and after a few clicks I had discovered the answer: Father Nicholas Kao Se Tseien, a 109-year-old Trappist monk who resides at the Abbey of Our Lady of Joy on Lantao Island near Hong Kong. Father Kao explains the reasons for his longevity in an October 2005 profile from The Standard, an English-language Hong Kong newspaper:

Kao's gospel for a long life combines common sense and religious devotion. Eschew tobacco, intoxication, gluttony, anger and rudeness in favor of exercise, humility, charity, goodness, prayer, patience and piety.

"My life has been marked by two words: patience and death," he said through a translator. "Patience in the struggle for excellence of conduct, in learning from Jesus' patience on the cross. Death in learning to die without fear and to die in innocence."

Born into a Buddhist family, Father Kao converted to Catholicism as a teenager during the reign of the last Pope Benedict (Benedict XV, who reigned from 1914 to 1922). In common with the present Pope Benedict, Kao has a great fondness for cats - an affinity he credits with lengthening his life. The Standard quotes the centenarian monk as saying: "Cats are my favorite animal. We have eight here and caring for them gives me determination to carry on. Some people play mahjong. Cats are like my mahjong."

I haven't found any news items on Father Kao written since last October, so I can only presume that he remains alive and well on Lantao Island. Some have posited that the disciplined rhythms of religious life and the sense of tranquility fostered by a healthy prayer life help account for the longevity of many priests. Kao's comments - which resonate with the views and experience of elderly religious I've known - suggest that there's something to these theories. I've often noticed that having a sense of purpose helps older people stay active and alert - many priests do this by continuing to work as long as they can, and Father Kao does it by taking care of his beloved cats. Though the factors determining a person's longevity are many and complex, following Father Kao's straightforward advice can't help but improve one's chances of living a long and healthy life. May Father Kao enjoy many happy years to come, and may we draw benefit from his example. AMDG.


At April 28, 2006 10:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Joe. Ive been reading your blog for a long time, but I think this might be my first comment. I really enjoyed this post, and wanted to heads up you that I linked it at:

Peace to you

At April 28, 2006 2:54 PM, Blogger PV said...

A (see comment above) posted about your entry, so i was curious about your blog.I think that i will visit again.I like what you have here.:-)

At April 29, 2006 2:44 PM, Blogger Joseph Koczera, S.J. said...

A and Paula,

Thanks for the link and for the kind words. I'm glad you both liked what you saw, and I hope you'll both feel free to stop by anytime. Pax,


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