Characteristics of our Charism
Understanding and recognizing the Salesian charism involves understanding and recognizing the gifts of the Holy Spirit, given to Don Bosco for the mission of educating and promoting the young. Still today, the Holy Spirit continues to instill these gifts in those who are called to share in the mission of St. John Bosco and St. Mary Mazzarello. The expression of these gifts are -Eucharist & Confession, devotion to Our Lady, fidelity to the Pope, pastoral charity, joy and optimism, work, and community. Each of these elements is crucial to living out our Salesian Charism, and each of them are etched in the heart of every Salesian Sister. Don Bosco set these down for us, and still today, we hold fast to his method, and his plan.
Eucharist & Confession
Don Bosco had great devotion to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, and believed that frequent Communion and Confession were the secret to running a happy and peaceful school, where young people could grow in faith. St. John Bosco used to tell his boys, "If you are in need of many graces, go often to visit Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament."
Regarding confession, St. John Bosco said, "First of all, do everything you can to avoid offending God, but if unfortunately you should commit sin, do not let the devil prevail upon you to not confess it. Remember that hte confessor is a father who is eager to do all he can for you and help protect you from all possible harm."
For the Salesian Sisters, we participate in the celebration of the Eucharist daily, and try to stop by to visit Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament as often as we can. We also say a special prayer called the Visit to the Blessed Sacrament in the middle of the day.
Devotion to Our Lady
At age 9, Don Bosco began to have dreams of Our Lady, who became a guide and a mentor to him. He saw Mary as the ever-present Mother, who looked after the needs of her children, heard their prayers, and was tehre to aid them in their journey to heaven.
Don Bosco first learned from his mother, Mamma Margaret, to pray the Angelus. In this way, he greeted Mary three times each day - at 6 a.m., 12 noon, and 6 p.m. Later, in finding a name for the Sisters, he decided to call us Mary's Daughters, not her slaves, or missionaries, or suffering servants. The Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians continues today to offer these same prayers that Don Bosco taught us, and we have since added a daily prayer, entrusting ourselves to Mary Help of Christians.
Fidelity to the Pope
During a time of great uproar and difficulty in Italy, when many were against the Pope and the Church in Rome, St. John Bosco remained steadfast in his filial love and dedication to the Holy Father. In fact, he would teach his boys to say, "Viva il Papa." (Long live the pope!) He did not foster love for one individual pope, but for the office of the Bishop of Rome. For the Sisters today, we retain Don Bosco's practice of praying daily for the pope. In our schools, we still encourage young people to love the pope, and to look to him for guidance, especially in matters of faith and morals. With Don Bosco, we can still say, "The Pope's word must be our norm in every thing and at all times."
Pastoral charity can be said to be the core and synthesis of Salesian Spirituality. Love for the young was foremost in the lives of St. John Bosco and St. Mary Mazzarello. In fact, these two saints of ours were so dedicated to youth, that you could say, they took no time for themselves, but fully handed their lives over to Christ, at the service of the young.
St. Mary Mazzarello and St. John Bosco were known to have endless patience with young people. In fact, Don Bosco said, "Never send negligent pupils out of the classroom. Be patient with their light-mindedness."
Joy & Optimism
"A joyful heart is the sign of one who loves the Lord very much." This was what St. Mary Mazzarello used to say, and this is how Salesians continue to operate today. Salesain schools and houses are known to be places of happiness, where joy overflows, and laughter is often heard in the classrooms and the hallways.
We could say that joy and optimism were part of Don Bosco and Mary Mazzarello's way of looking at the world and all of reality. In all things, they could not help but see the potential. St. John Bosco said, "Always tend to think well of other people. Give them credit at least for their good intentions. Never throw back into their face wrongs already forgiven. do good to all; harm to no one." That is how Salesians today look at young people, as God's works that are so full of potential.
Don Bosco and Mary Mazzarello encouraged their followers to work hard and to work tirelessly. The motto St. John Bosco chose for his work begins with the phrase, "Da Mihi Animas," and in choosing this as the first half of his motto, St. John Bosco was choosing to put work first, to put his work for the salvation of the young at the fore. Still today, Salesains are known for being hard-working individuals who are never afraid to sweep the halls, get to class on time, or stand up and teach a class. We love hard work!
"If we practice charity, every community will be a little heaven," St. John Bosco used to say. The Salesian ideal of creating a home in our schools flows from the home created among the adults involved in educaiton, among the Sisters and Brothers in community and, from the educating community, which involves all of those who make up the village that educates the young. The health of this community, and its communal striving for sanctity remain at the heart of the Salesian method and charism.