Vesper Time

NEW! Discussion & Reflection Guide

Click STUDY GUIDE tab below.

In stock






"Wonderfully well-written . . . . a book for all seasons."--Parker J. Palmer

"An invitation to more fully engage this stage of our journey and be enriched by it."--Richard Rohr

"Frank Cunningham reminds us that the 'vesper time'  of life is a rich seedbed for spiritual growth."--Judith Valente

"Reading Vesper Time is like taking a long walk with a wise but down to earth friend. Relax with this book. It will nourish your tired soul." —Robert Wicks

From a writer, editor, and publisher in his eighth decade, Vesper Time addresses the yearning among elders for continued growth, expansiveness of heart, improvement of mind, and a meaningful understanding of our lives. As with Christianity’s age-old practice of Vespers, or evening prayer, observed at the time of the lighting of the lamps just before darkness descends, Frank Cunningham views it is a time of life, when colors deepen and our experience of aging becomes spiritual practice.  With humor and wisdom, he looks at five facets of this integral spirituality—memory, intimacy, diminishment, gratitude, and acceptance—offering guidance and encouragement for those who are on this stage in their journey of life.

Frank J. Cunningham is a former newspaper and magazine writer and editor; university writing instructor; and book editor and publisher of Ave Maria Press, Notre Dame, IN. One of the most successful religion publishers of his generation, since his retirement Frank has been discovering and enjoying, as well as sharing with others in talks and workshops, the spiritual practice of aging. He can be reached through

Book Details

Vesper Time
The Spiritual Practice of Growing Older
Frank Cunningham
Foreword by Joyce Rupp
File name Filesize
Vesper Time Table of Contents 53 Kb

Discussion and Reflection Guide

In the Introduction to Vesper Time the author writes “I hope these stories, anecdotes and insights will have a ring of truth, that readers will recognize their own experience in mine, or that they will trigger relevant experiences. And that they will stimulate readers’ own reflections about the gifts of their lives.” He encourages readers to record their own thoughts, reactions, and reflections knowing that “surprising and unexpected details and insights emerge.”

                       The following suggestions will help facilitate this process whether for personal reflection or in a group discussion. Before undertaking any of the exercises, please read the related chapter.


Memory is about discovering what the events of our lives tell us. What our relationships tell us. And what our hearts tell us.

1) Share an insight that connects together the events, dreams, and relationships that make up our lives. Is this your  “arc of nourishment?” Explain.

  • Describe how this arc of nourishment shaped who you are today.
  • Elaborate on how this arc in some way acknowledges or points to a deeper self.

2) Identify several experiences, events, and or people who shaped who you are today? What do they have in common?

  • Were these experiences, events, and/or people in any way spiritual or graced?
  • In what sense did they nourish you?

3) “Childhood is the source of our sense of self.” Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Why?

  • Tell a story from your childhood or teenage years that reflects an enchanted world.
  • How has that story shaped who you have become?

4) Reflect on the idea of the Catholic or sacramental imagination. Do you relate to this insight? Does it make sense to you? How has this been your experience?

5) In reflecting on these ideas can you write a short statement of who you are now? (See Vesper Time, page 22.)       


1) Name some ordinary activities or moments in your life that point toward a deep intimacy with another. What in that experience makes it intimate?

2) Identify an experience by which you had to open yourself to another or others? Describe the experience.

  • Did you risk your emotional life in this moment? In what way were you vulnerable?
  • Was the experience valuable? Explain.

3) Where have you looked for God? How have you experienced God?

  • Think of our common religious experiences such as Sunday worship or doing a work of charity such as serving in a soup kitchen or donating funds or time to a worthy cause? Explain how you experienced God in these moments.
  • What is your experience of finding divinity in nature’s architecture? Reflect on experiences such as being stopped cold by a sunset, or hearing a particularly beautiful presentation of a piece of music, or being mesmerized by a work of art such as a painting or a sculpture. How did you sense God’s presence?

4) In your pursuit of intimacy have you ever gone where only love can go? Reflect on what the experience has meant to you? How did it enrich you?

5) Can you answer the question: Are you holding me Lord? Describe the moments when you felt this intimate holding.


1) In what ways have you experienced becoming invisible?

2) What did you miss most from your career or workplace? What do you miss least of all? Did you have an experience that was in effect being shaken by your lapels?

3) What do the phrases “being productive” and “keeping busy” mean to you now?

4) What kind of activities have you undertaken to experience new or continued growth? Do you consider any of them spiritual?        

5) What steps have you taken to deal emotionally and spirituality for this time of life?

6) Tell the story of a friend or relative who has shown courage in the face of diminishment. What lessons do he or she offer?

7) Reflect on a personal setback and its ramifications? Was this a gift? How so? Does this offer you any insight into the paradox of suffering?


1) Let’s follow David Steindl-Rast’s suggestion here and

STOP: Take a few minutes to open your senses and your hearts.

LOOK: Think of this very moment as an opportunity. What gift do you find?

Some thoughts to focus on and discuss:

  • We are called to compassion.
  • Gratitude is the engine of generosity.
  • “Futile the winds to a heart in port.”
  • Gratitude is the laughter of our hearts.

GO: Create a practice of gratitude, a ritual you can engage with some regularity.

2) Discuss ways of expressing gratitude beyond the normal expressions such as grace before meals or thanks for a beautiful day.

“I experience a genuine sense of gratitude when___________.”

3) Why did only one of the ten lepers return to thank Jesus? What are the barriers to gratitude? What are some negative messages that steer our hearts to selfishness?

“We find it difficult to say thank you when___________.”

4) Compose a prayer of gratitude. A moving example of this kind of prayer is Brian Doyle’s Last Prayer found in his Book of Uncommon Prayer, or on-line.

5) Reflect on an important lifetime relationship, someone who helped you along the way, someone who took a special interest in you or saw potential or promise that you may not have seen yourself.  Write a thank you letter to that person explaining how they affected you.

6) Write a letter of gratitude to your mom and dad. Start by thanking them for giving you life.


  • Draw on your own experience to tell of a time that you or someone else accepted the truth of the matter. Describe the process of getting there. 
  • In the context of surrendering to the truth of the matter, do you think there can be passive acceptance and/or active acceptance? Think in terms of resignation vs. engagement.
  •  In Farewell to Arms author Ernest Hemingway wrote: “The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.” Describe how an experience of brokenness has strengthened you. What was your source of strength?
  • Identify four or more significant steps in the development of your life story. Think of the steps as chapter headings in a memoir. In the coming days develop one chapter a day until you have outlined your story
  • Do you accept your story? Can you accept your brokenness?
  • Does this help you understand how to approach and live this, our final chapter?