Seek First to Love: Companion Anna Reflects

Anna Dourgarian, Vis Companion

Anna Dourgarian, Vis Companion

By Anna Dourgarian, Visitation Companion

Salesian service finds its wholeness and its joy in embracing the present moment. It speaks to my heart because I am very short-sighted and, when facing service goals, I see only obstacles.

Great feats of service rouse great doubts in my heart. World problems are overwhelming: racism, rebellions, resource depletion, lack of healthcare, lack of shelter, lack of food. Which will I choose? Then, even if I choose, the problems proliferate. Feed a community, and it becomes dependent on international aid. Revitalize urban slums and destroy hundreds of homes. Promote national security and threaten personal freedom. Defend a people and start a war. What hope is there for a better world?

There is hope in Salesian spirituality. With Salesian spirituality, we begin not by confronting the world’s evils but by treasuring its preciousness.

I have heard that the worst way to enter a romantic relationship is with the intention of changing the partner. The irony in service is the same: often we set forth to help the world and insist on changing it—a poor start to any relationship. Who are we, mere humans, to judge the world and the great schemes that have influenced its present state? A more loving soul would accept our world in all of its beautiful brokenness. This is what Salesian spirituality teaches us: seek first to love.

We recognize that each moment is a gift from God, perfect as it is. In this peace of mind, we open our hearts to the people around us and support them and are supported by them. This is Salesian service.

The Visitation Sisters of Minneapolis live this spirituality so fully that everyone feels at home in their monastery. I have witnessed strangers feel so safe and secure there that they cry. The Sisters are not a homeless shelter, a food shelf, or a school; they are simply friends. As friends, they inspire love in others through the power of their present-mindedness and appreciation for life.

Anna and service friends volunteering at the phone bank.

Anna and service friends volunteering at the phone bank.

Before I adopted Salesian Spirituality, service never captured my heart. Now, in Salesian service, my heart is all that is involved; everything else follows as needed.

I serve small. I serve with what I know. I serve at Ascension Church because there I have a friend burdened by her passionate work for immigration reform, so I show up with the hope of making her burden lighter. Mass and the meetings are in Spanish, so I barely understand them. My only role is to show up: I do not have the political or cultural expertise to do more. Slowly, as the weeks go by, the parishioners who are most comfortable with English approach to ask what on Earth I am doing there. They are joyful and welcoming, just a little confused. I am frustrated by my plodding advances in Spanish; I wish I could wake up tomorrow perfectly fluent. And I bet they wish the same about English.

I feel like I am doing nothing, but according to Salesian spirituality, I am doing the most important service possible: I am present. I celebrate Baptisms, First Communions, birthdays, and anniversaries with these people ignored by society. I get to meet the people living in the shadows, and I get to bond with them and work at their side. Before I can fight for any rights or instigate any change, I must embrace this step.

The risk is huge. Crises are desolating our world, and here I am stuttering to say, “hello.”

Yet, it is the love from saying, “hello” that saves the world.

2 Responses

Write a Comment»
  1. Anna, I am lost for words after reading your sincerely written and heart-felt blog. Yes, you are present, very present here on the northside and you make the sisters feel so important, as you spend Saturday mornings with us for Morning Prayer, Spanish lessons and trouble shooting with us on our computers and many other helpful things. I value you, Anna, and the insights that you have on Salesian Spirituality -I remember your sharing on St. Francis’ idea that we be like violets beneath the cross and this to a room full of our friends and neighbors when you were asked to participate. Brenda will no longer let me dig up violets from our garden that are actually impeding vegetable growth without replanting them elsewhere! I have come to treasure these little purple flowers myself. I hope others will find this imagery in the writings of SFdS so they can get the full meaning of how Visitation people can be like the violets-strong and colorful. This blog on how to give service is inspiring me to think more deeply as to how to
    be more present in daily!

  2. dear anna, you are so eloquent and such a salesian spirit! thank you for catching it and passing it on….in Spanish…or English…or whatever……peace, love and salesian joy! sr. suzanne

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *