From St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane Frances de Chantal came forth a new religious family "characterized by total consecration to God lived in simplicity and humility, in doing ordinary things extraordinarily well" (Pope Benedict at the General Audience, Wednesday, March 2, 2011). We’ve become so familiar with the Salesian maxim of doing ordinary things extraordinarily well that it can lose some of its radicality and power to transform. What would it mean for us if we applied this maxim to our personal and community prayer schedule? We start with Morning Prayer, meditation, and Mass on any given day. Maybe we visit the Blessed Sacrament during the day. We might include a prayer at the beginning of a class or meeting. We gather for Evening Prayer, spiritual reading, and a good night. We hope to fit in the Rosary. We finish the day with an examination of conscience and an entrustment to the Blessed Mother. All very ordinary ways we pray as religious. What would our experience be if we prayed these ordinary prayers extraordinarily well? People would probably notice. They would notice our joyful attitude, spiritual insight, hope, and apostolic zeal, all of which flow from a dynamic encounter with the Lord in prayer.
Our province's strategic plan, Goal Two, focuses on the urgency of evangelization. The first objective reminds us that we have all the building blocks we need to construct a beautiful temple for the Lord, that is, all the daily, weekly, and monthly moments of prayer already in our community schedule and on our community calendars. We don’t need to do more, but we can probably do better. This has to do with our attitudes, and can’t be legislated, but it can be encouraged and supported by the good example of those who pray with devotion. The encounter we have with Jesus in prayer is manifest in our enthusiastic witness of the Gospel in daily life.
As we live Don Bosco’s charism, we share the mission of education and evangelization with many colleagues and the young people themselves. For the Salesian mission to be effective, it must flow from and be sustained by our friendship with Jesus. Rarely does a Salesian presence need more programs, groups, activities, and meetings. However, we could often benefit from a better connection with the source of our mission's from a clearer connection with Jesus. This is something people would notice from the joy, discernment, hope, and zeal exhibited in the daily demands of the work. Our effective response to the urgency of the Salesian mission of education and evangelization comes, like Don Bosco's, from our union with God. No need for extraordinary spiritual practices. True to our Salesian tradition, we, our colleagues, and the young people do ordinary spiritual practices extraordinarily well.
If we wanted to do something extraordinary, in the sense of more than our ordinary daily prayer routine, our province's strategic plan urges us to pray with young adults, invite young adults to spend some time with us in community (as visitors and as short-term or long-term volunteers), and boldly propose to young adults the option of a vocation to the ordained ministry or consecrated life. Some of this could be done through social media, for example, an inspirational message sent out daily, a weekly online Rosary, a monthly Bible study, lectio divina on the call narratives in the Gospels, etc. We find creative ways to overcome the obstacles of distance and time to accompany young adults on the spiritual journey toward vocational discernment.
May St. Francis de Sales and St. John Bosco inspire us to live the Da Mihi Animas Caetera Tolle deeply rooted in union with God.
Fr. Tim Zak