St. John Baptist de La Salle

Friends in Christ,
Today is the feast of St. John Baptist de Lasalle; St. John was born in Rheims, France, in 1641. He studied for the priesthood, and was ordained at age 37.  Along the way, both of his parents died, and he was left caring for his 4 brothers and 2 sisters, which he did.  

St. John was a man of refinement and culture, and was known for his kindness and affability. Somewhat tall, he had a commanding presence with large, blue eyes.   Really without realizing it, little by little he got involved in the field of education. He had an association with a congregation of sisters, and through them he met a man who asked his help in establishing a school, which he did.  Education gradually became St. John’s life work.  Trying to guide a group of young men as teachers, he would invite them to his home for dinner, hoping to teach them not only Christian doctrine, but culture and manners. He soon realized that he would have to take a further step – he brought his teachers into his home to live with him.  

Here was the beginning of a new type of religious congregation, which would grow into the Christian Brothers. At first such a group of consecrated lay brothers met with resistance from the Church. Nevertheless, they succeeded in creating a network of quality schools throughout France.  His methods were new: schools were free for all, rich and poor.  They taught in French, instead of Latin – a new idea at the time.  Students were grouped according to their ability, and the Faith was integrated into all subjects.  With the required involvement of parents,  and with teachers who had a sense of vocation and mission,  they met with great success.    
If we say ‘yes’ to God at every moment, in even things that are difficult, the Lord can lead us, little by little,  to achieve things we never dreamed of.   

St. John Baptist LaSalle had no plan of working in education. He says that if he had known that formation of teachers meant that he would have to live with them in community, he would have dropped the whole project!  But, as he says: God in his wisdom worked in an imperceptible way, so that one commitment led to another.  

Little by little: this is how God can do great things in us – if we let him.  

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