Recently I have experienced a couple of events in life that cheer my spirits - gathering for celebrations, travel and simple daily routines; without having to think of lock-downs and restrictions. I have the sense of living life with a lighter spirit.
The celebration of milestones like 150 years of our congregation and 40 years of our presence in Samoa makes me reflect upon gratitude. Don Bosco wanted the Salesian Family to live life with gratitude; a key question for me these days is how do we live life with gratitude?
The Benedictine monk David Steindl-Rast challenges us to “a way of life that invites us to take nothing for granted, cultivating awareness of and appreciation for the fullness of our lives. Living gratefully helps us awaken to the opportunities that are always available – even in the most challenging times – to learn, grow, and extend ourselves with compassion to ourselves, others, and the world. As we endeavour to notice our inner and outer landscape with wider eyes, we deepen our engagement and embrace of life in all its poignancy and preciousness. We come alive, opening to wonder, joy, and love.”
In a recent conversation with a group of young adults the question was asked “What is most important for you at the moment?” Without hesitation came an answer “I am just grateful for the gift of life and all that happens each day.” It wasn’t that life was perfect and certainly not without its daily challenges; but this young person’s faith acknowledged this and lived with gratitude for creation and life.
Grateful for each other's precense, we can move toward a greater joy together.
When the COVID-19 pandemic was at its worst, Mother Yvonne challenged us to cultivate and express gratitude for the people in our life. These are the secret of our happiness, the light that illuminates the trust of our families and communities, sometimes weighed down, by doubts and difficulties of various kinds, but certain of being always enveloped in God’s love.
To know how to say a sincere thank you manifests the relational quality of our being that recognizes the greatness of the love that gives us life each day. The grace of God penetrates and transforms our life, giving a new meaning to our relationships with each other.
As a Salesian family we are called to educate in the vein of Valdocco and Mornese; places where the spirituality of gratitude was at home. Don Bosco and Maria Mazzarello, with the pedagogy of little gestures, of possible steps, formed young people able to recognize and thank God for the gifts received, and at the same time, give them back by placing them at the service of others.
Our Founders were convinced that each young person had noteworthy potential qualities that needed to be drawn out - among them gratitude. We know that Don Bosco and Maria Mazzarello gave great importance to the dimension of gratitude lived in the ‘family spirit’ and considered it a significant aspect of the Preventive System. It’s the little daily rituals of gratitude that come to mind as the most powerful small expressions - like ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, celebrating another’s achievement, the gifts of others in the family.
I think that gratitude in its essence is simple. As Meister Eckhart wrote, “If the only prayer you ever say is thanks that would be enough.”
This article originally appeared in the Spring 2022 edition of the Salesian Bulletin, which is available now!