In Jesuit communities in the U.S. there is almost always some dessert option after dinner. If you are as lucky as I have been in the past three years, you are blessed to live in a community where the cook is particularly talented with cakes and desserts. So when I came to Rome, I was sad to hear that we wouldn't have that everyday here. Now don't get me wrong, I certainly don't need dessert. In fact, truth be told, I am better off without it, but it seemed like it just might be one more annoying cultural adjustment that I would have to make, then I strangely realized that I kind of liked it.
|The view from my desk as I write this.|
In addition to losing a little weight, this arrangement is made all the more enjoyable by the fact that we have a fairly simple way to mark special days here in Rome. For example, today was the feast of St. Augustine, and so after lunch we had cake. Tomorrow is a Sunday, and Gelato will be served. On regular days though, its just fruit, and that's increasingly becoming something that I kind of strangely enjoy. For example, this past week, on the feast of St. Bernard I sat down with a piece of cake, and jokingly said: "Thank you St. Bernard for your life of austerity and poverty, for this we will enjoy cake." Now irony aside, I didn't know it was a feast day before I walked into the dining room, in fact I quickly pulled out my Ipod to see which feast it was, and read a little about St. Bernard. The thing is, in the US I am not sure that I would have looked up which feast it was had we not been celebrating, and the fact that we even do something so simple to mark those days is a very cool thing.
St. John of the Cross in his famous Dark Night of the Soul points more eloquently to the reality that I am getting at. He says that sometimes in our spiritual lives God allows us to go through dark, dry, dessert periods so that we can really appreciate what it is to feel God's presence. I like that thought, and I think that those of us who live in the US could stand to learn something from it.
The simple reality is that when we become too contented, when everyday is a feast day, we lose sight of what it is to celebrate. When everything is too pleasant, we become dulled to life around us. I think there is a way in which an American lifestyle sometimes can lull us into a spiritual coma, if only by simple always giving us access to everything that we want. Maybe the best thing that we can do is save some of those pleasurable everyday things for special occasions, and to do some critical self reflection about what we can really do without, so that when we do enjoy those little things in life they are really a cause for celebration.