Salesian Mysticism: From Inside to Outside
Mediocrity has no place in the Salesian Life.
I am thankful for the Salesianity inputs that we have been receiving these past days during our spiritual retreat. All of these topics have been taught us, read from books, discussed in many conferences during our formation years. However, it is only through experience and personal struggles that one begin to develop a deeper understanding and appreciation of what they really mean.
Salesians are known in Church circles. When pointing out the best traits of Salesians, you would often hear hardworking, availability, talented, resourcefulness, and skilled. Many of the Salesians that I admire have these traits. It is only natural that I too wanted to develop these in myself. For every endeavor that we do, we often are challenged to give our best, and to outdo ourselves in the past. This is the challenge of the dictum “Do your ordinary duties extraordinarily well.”
The Salesian spirituality teaches that in the Devout Life of every Christian holiness is in one’s reach whatever state of life or age you find yourself in. Everyone is called to be holy. This holiness can be best achieved not in great exploits of heavy asceticism and sacrifice, nor in lengthy prayers that dominate one’s time, and for ordinary Christians, nor in the gift of martyrdom which seldom presents itself. St. Francis of Sales have taught that the path to holiness takes little steps. These steps are done through Little Virtues.
Little virtues for St. Francis are small good acts that life requires of you, that springs from the mundane and ordinary, that is part of your everyday routine but done and infused with love and devotion for God. This is the spiritual root of St. Therese of Liseux’s The Little Way, and of St. Teresa of Culcatta’s saying, “What matters is the love that we put into our actions.” Christian holiness is but the devoted fulfillment of little acts and small expressions of virtues which is one’s response to the love of God.
This consciousness of turning the mundane special, of turning the ordinary extraordinary is what propels those who live the Salesian Spirituality. There is no place for mediocrity. The experience of being loved by God arrests the heart of the Christian and compels him to respond by living the double commandment of loving God and neighbor. This response of love is what fuels the little virtues to flower in ordinary life.
Explaining this to young people, I would often note: if you are asked to study, study excellently; if to wash the dishes, wash excellently, if to eat, eat excellently, if to clean your room, clean excellently, if to play, play excellently. This willingness to make excellent every task, every chore, every responsibility given by ordinary life comes from the wellspring that one is loved magnanimously by God, and in turn one loves magnanimously in small and little things.
This is not about achieving results. This is not about excelling itself, but that desire and the disposition to put into action one’s relationship with the Lord. The Little Virtues make room for failure in one’s task. It is not the task and the result that makes one holy. It is the openness with which every Christian allows God to use his person, his ordinary life, his existence as a channel for grace. Grace is being loved by God. Grace is also being transformed by that love by being grace to other people.
When I do something, I do it for the Lord, and I do it excellently because I love Him.
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