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"Sono Contente?"

 ~Fr. Michael

Our recent visit to a few monastic communities in Italy taught me some valuable lessons about life.  I always find monastic devotion and dedication rather remarkable, but seeing how it intersected with a different language and culture made it more so. 

The first question all of our monastic hosts asked as soon as people were settled in was, “Tutto sono contente?—Is everybody content?” Contente, I discovered, was a complicated word, with many possible translations: satisfied, comfortable, contained, settled.  It represented a lot about their philosophy of hospitality.  There was hope in their hospitality that we would have enough to be content, not that we should have every momentary whim catered to.  It is the way they live their life, and they freely share it with visitors.

Surrounded by a world of touristy materialism, and lavish opulence, these handful of monastics have found that freedom to be fully alive is found in the context of limitation.  Less is more. The grace of contentment presumes that what one has, is enough. This contentment isn’t passively ‘not caring’, instead it’s an active engagement with life now. It encourages you not to be seduced into believing you must stretch yourself to see everything, do everything, and have everything possible in order to be complete. Rather, contentment comes in growing your roots deeper, into the ground of your being.

Contentment is an active living into the depths of life as you can, right now. And you don’t need much to do that.  In fact, having too much can distract you from being able to do that.  We are invited to live into the provision and revelation of what is already around us.  In contentment we are invited to savor our lives in every way we can, right now.

Monks and nuns often say that this grace of contentment is particularly helpful when you limit your choice, when life is defined or confined in ways which you may never have imagined or desired. This certainly doesn’t mean staying put in an environment that is diminishing or abusive; but rather about trusting others in your family or community with certain choices that can add up to be a burden on you alone.  One monk I know talks about how glad he is that the burden of having to choose whether or not to go and say his prayers is removed from him.  He simply knows where he needs to be and when, he doesn’t have to check in with his mood or his ego or with the circumstances of the day.  And that is hugely liberating.

This way of living means that you must also learn to be content with waiting. This is difficult, as it radically challenges our culture’s false promises of instant gratification. But learning to wait, and to be content with waiting, reveals it to have its own power.  Waiting is a wonder, which piques your attentiveness, and which will cure or clarify your desires. Rather than expending endless energy in worrying about the unknown or wondering, you wait expectantly, and if you can, contentedly.

To be content, to live in the grace of contentment, you must give consent. God is intent on forming you (or reforming you) into the beauty God created you to be, but first you must give God your consent, your co-operation. You might say, “Oh, that would be so difficult, to be so trusting of God.” Maybe so, but it’s not as difficult as not trusting God. You otherwise have to pretend to carry the burden of authoring and managing your whole life completely on your own shoulders. To be content you must surrender trying to be your own god.

Finally:  Contentment is not one more thing to do. The way to contentment is found in surrender to God, in embracing the life God has entrusted to you. You need not go far off to discover the grace of contentment. What does travelling teach us best?  How to come home. Contentment is within your reach, waiting to be claimed.

 

Service Schedule

DUE TO THE COVID-19 HEALTH CONCERNS ALL SERVICES AND ACTIVITIES HAVE BEEN SUSPENDED IN ORDER TO COMPLY WITH THE STATE OF WISCONSIN REQUIREMENTS AND THE HEALTH AND WELLBEING OF OUR COMMUNITY. 

Sunday
Rite II Eucharist – 9:00 am, Cathedral

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