A Higher Call for Extra-ordinarili-ness
First, what was that word?
We often quote St John Bosco on the popular slogan among Bosconians, “Do your ordinary duties extraordinarily well”. The sentence is engraved in every Bosconian’s heart and soul but interestingly, the phrase is not original of Don Bosco but is often said by him.
For most of us, it means putting our best foot forward in everything that we do. That is how the sons of Don Bosco became known to be talented and skilled people. Most Salesians would explain it that way and I have grown up understanding it that way. For most, our human effort of turning the ordinary into extra-ordinary is truly sanctifying for such good, or would I say best, works are pleasing to God’s eyes.
In an ordinary breakfast, Fr Fidel and I were happily discussing the aspirants’ schedule of the day, to do’s, chores and work until the conversation ended up here. He gave me a strong argument to challenge the common understanding of the saying.
The phrase could also mean that, in a higher perspective, those who are in God’s grace are given the power to do things extra-ordinarily beyond the level of what they normally can. It is no longer us who does the extra-ordinary, putting a notch higher the mundane things we do, but it is God who empowers us to do much more than what we possibly can.
It was the little Johnny Bosco of Becchi who stunned the world. A humble peasant from an obscure village in northern Italy rose to become an influential figure in the Church and state, rightly earning during his time the title “living saint”. A boy who received not the best of education became one of the best educators. St John Bosco’s story of success is a powerful testament to the grace of God who lifts up the humble from their lowliness to seat them with kings and nobles.
Now back to the saying. Can we then say that the saying is a higher and stronger challenge to stay in the grace of God which empower us to transcend our normality towards the extra-ordinary? This is something more theologically sound since it is not by man’s effort that he sanctifies himself but through the generous and unmerited love of God.
Should we accept this paradigm shift, then Don Bosco must have asked for his sons and daughters to stay in the grace of God always, that they may witness to the “normal” world the extra-ordinariness of God. When we have followed his advice of frequent Confession and Communion, a spiritual director and confessor by our side, and a real friendship with Jesus and Mary, then we can stay in God’s grace. And the extra boost of extra-ordinarili-ness will come not just from our own effort but also from the empowering love of God.