Dear Salesian Sisters and Brothers,
The following story comes from an article on Gratitude by Ron Rolheiser:
“There’s a Jewish folk-tale which runs something like this:
There once was a young man who aspired to great holiness. After some time at working to achieve it, he went to see his Rabbi.
“Rabbi,” he announced, “I think I have achieved sanctity.”
”Why do you think that?” asked the Rabbi.
”Well,” responded the young man, “I’ve been practicing virtue and discipline for some time now and I have grown quite proficient at them. From the time the sun rises until it sets, I take no food or water. All day long, I do all l do all kinds of hard work for others and I never expect to be thanked.
“If I have temptations of the flesh, I roll in the snow or in thorn bushes until they go away, and then at night, before bed, I practice the ancient monastic discipline and administer lashes to my bare back. I have disciplined myself so as to become holy.”
The Rabbi was silent for a time. Then he took the young man by the arm and led him to a window and pointed to an old horse which was just being led away by its master.
“I have been observing that horse for some time,” the Rabbi said, “and I’ve noticed that it doesn’t get fed or watered from morning to night. All day long it has to do work for people and it never gets thanked. I often see it rolling around in snow or in bushes, as horses are prone to do, and frequently I see it get whipped.
“But, I ask you: Is that a saint or a horse?”
Ron Rolheiser writes that “to be a saint is to be motivated by gratitude, nothing more and nothing less.” Rolheiser points out that the sin of Adam and Eve was a failure in receptivity and gratitude. God gives them life, each other and many other beautiful blessings and asks them to receive it properly and in gratitude. Instead, in their greed, they demand more. To receive in gratitude and be properly grateful is the most primary of all religious attitudes, and not necessarily to live a very strict and disciplined life. That alone does not make one a saint. Many have often identified sanctity and virtue with self-renunciation and the capacity to do what is difficult. Saints are people who are grateful, who see and receive everything as gift.
When we begin to demand or feel entitled, when we say things like: you owe me such and such a thing, such a position, title or whatever, it points to a lack of gratitude and a demand to take rather than to receive. Sometimes our own history as a nation has portrayed these characteristics. We feel we are entitled, even if others suffer. We take, rape the land or waste as though we have a right. This is part of our original sin and the sin of our nation. We demand without considering the cost to others.
During these Thanksgiving holidays, let us take a moment and thank God for the many blessings He has given us. Let us intentionally give thanks for the small things and the “little people” in our lives who do much for us and yet go unnoticed. And, yes also give thanks for our country, our rich history of generosity and openness to immigrants and for some wonderful leaders who have had the courage to do what was right.
I wish to thank all of you who are part of the Salesian Family: my brothers in community, our Salesian Sisters, our collaborators and cooperators, members of the many Salesian groups who make up our Salesian Family and all those who work tirelessly for the young, our young people who continue to inspire us and all those who make up our wonderful province. May our Good God bless you and your families. We are grateful for your presence in our lives.
Please continue to keep Fr. Leo Baysinger in your prayers as we pray for his eternal rest and thank God for his life and dedication to the mission given to us by Don Bosco. Funeral services will be held at St. John Bosco High School on Wednesday, December 4th. The Funeral Liturgy will be at 4:30 pm followed by a simple reception. His burial in Richmond will be held on Friday, December 6th, with a Mass at 11am in the Salesian community chapel. Fr. Leo will be buried in the province cemetery next to our Salesian residence. “Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord! And, let perpetual light shine upon him.”
Let us also remember the feast of our patron of our province, St. Andrew the Apostle. Unfortunately, this feast sometimes gets buried underneath the many other feasts, celebrations and holidays. We are grateful for his example of following Christ and leading others to Him. May we also accompany the young to Christ. May St. Andrew, the Apostle, continue to intercede for us and accompany us on the road to holiness.
I will be celebrating our Thanksgiving meal with the Salesians from the North at St. Luke’s in Stockton. I will remain at the provincial house until Monday. I will then travel down to Los Angeles for a Board of Directors meeting at Don Bosco Tech, Rosemead and for the funeral of Fr. Leo Baysinger.
Happy Thanksgiving to all of you. And, remember, “to be a saint is to be motivated by gratitude, nothing more and nothing less.”
With warm regards and gratitude,