Casa San Salvador is the intentional faith community where Franciscan Mission Service Domestic Volunteers live along with Katie Miller and James Luisi, who work at NETWORK

Today we chat with Casa San Salvador House Manager Slavka Brigantova to learn more about her faith and how it inspires her to live in community.

Slavka, you are both Casa San Salvador House Manager and a full-time graduate student at John Paul II Institute. What is the relationship between the two?

What I study is about “Who am I? Who is the human person?” And the fact is that the human person finds itself when he or she is becoming a gift to the other, so school is my nutrition for what I’m trying to live out in the house, that I’m not only studying theories of the beauty of love and life, but might be living beauty of life and love for others through caring for the house and people in it.

You have a strong devotion to the life and charism of St. John Bosco. What do you find so appealing about his life?

He picked me up, not the other way around. I’m “his girl” in this relationship which is both paternal and friendly. One of the things which I like about him is that in his times he was always forward-thinking in saying that everyone can become a saint, that he wasn’t flying around somewhere as a saint, but grounded in life, with young people, with drama of life and loneliness of boys without parents or friends or good company. They needed a friend, to feel that they were loved, a part of God’s family – the Church.

His earliest memory as a child was being told that his father had died; not having a father of his own, he became a father for other boys as a priest. In our time, there is a need for fathers to be present to their families and St. John Bosco is a model for that.

St. John Bosco

Our Lenten blog series is called “Poor and Free: A Spiritual Yes to Less”, beginning with an interview of Shane Claiborne on Ash Wednesday. How has living in community, sharing chores, meals, and conversations, brought you joy?

A few months ago when I took this commitment of being house manager, I took a commitment to love in a certain way to be present in a certain way to the community. What brings me joy is to be faithful to this commitment.

There is no love without commitment and I’m very happy to be able to live out love with commitment. Living out this love brings me joy. To be faithful to chores, meals, conversations is the way of sharing love, and it brings me joy that others feel loved.

Currently, the Casa San Salvador community is discerning how to observe Lent together through a combination of prayer, fasting, and works. How are you personally planning on preparing yourself for Christ’s Passion and Resurrection?

I’ve been pondering this for a couple of weeks now. I have learned in community about the importance and uniqueness of the present moment; it will never happen again. So I would like to receive the grace of the present moment, of this Lenten season in its fullness. I feel called to be more faithful to my commitments to school or the Casa, also through service for others by being present in my Salesian parish. This is what I’d like to do, to aim for.

There should be something I should “give up”, also, and I would like to do fasting, one meal to remind me that I don’t have to have everything to have all, that I’m already very loved and very happy; I was inspired by last Sunday’s reading from 1 Corinthians 1:16-23: “All belong to you, and you to Christ, and Christ to God.”

In God, I have everything already. When you fast, it opens you up to the Other, and I’d like to be more open to God. When you fast it is not just to be a hero, it’s not just an act of will, but an act toward the Other.

“Faith is what someone knows to be true, whether they believe it or not.”
― Flannery O’Connor, Wise Blood

You’re reading Flannery O’Connor’s fiction and essays right now, which often involve moments of grace happening in ugly or dark situations. What is a moment of grace you have experienced since you first came to Casa San Salvador several months ago?

Creating community in individualistic society, like America seems to be, always provides moments of grace. I always rejoice when I see people caring about others in community, for example, in preparing meals; that brings me joy; those things are important to me.

Another sign of grace was meeting the missioners in training before they went to Bolivia. They are willing to offer themselves in service for two years in Bolivia and then a lifetime of service in the United States after they return, and it was a time of grace knowing them personally, seeing their good will in offering themselves in their strengths and weaknesses to go and serve others and grow in faith.

What would you tell someone who has no experience living in a faith-community like Casa San Salvador, but is considering it?

I’m very excited to offer this experience for someone, to invite them into our community. As a faith-community, we care about others we live with, our relationship to the Other, and we’re trying to care about creation. Community is a big school of life. Life is meant to be lived outward, to put yourself at stake for others. And then you’ll find out just how much you receive. When you become poor for others, you will be rich by this kind of poverty.