St. John Baptist de LaSalle, Confessor
John Baptist de La Salle, born of an honorable family at Rheims, when still a boy showed by his manners and actions that he was called by destiny to the Lord, and was to be adorned with the excellence of holiness. As a youth he studied literature and the philosophical sciences at the academy at Rheims. During this time, although his mental powers and his lively and pleasant disposition endeared him to all, he nevertheless shrank from the company of his fellows, so that, being inclined to solitude, he might the more easily find time for God. Already having been for some time enlisted in the ranks of the clergy, he was enrolled among the canons of Rheims at the age of sixteen years. He went to Paris to study theology at the university of the Sorbonne, and was admitted to the Sulpician seminary. But he was soon forced to return home because of the death of his parents, and undertook the education of his brothers, which he carried on, without meanwhile interrupting his sacred studies, and with the greatest success, as was proved by subsequent events.
He was finally ordained priest, and said his first Mass with the intense faith and ardor of the soul which, throughout his whole life, he brought to those holy Mysteries. Meanwhile, burning with zeal for the salvation of souls, he devoted himself wholly to their service. He undertook the direction of the Sisters of the Infant Jesus, founded for the education of girls; and not only managed them most prudently, but saved their institute from dissolution. From this time onwards he turned his attention to the education of poor boys in religion and good morals. And God had raised him up for this very end, namely, that he should found in his Church a new family of religious men, and should look after boys' schools, especially of poor boys, with unceasing and efficient care. And, indeed, this duty, entrusted to him by Divine providence, was successfully accomplished, in spite of very much opposition and great hardships, by the foundation of an institute of brothers which he named the Christian Schools.
His male associates in this great and arduous work he at first received into his own house; and then, establishing them in a more suitable dwelling, thoroughly inspired them with his method and with those wise laws and regulations which were afterwards confirmed by Benedict XIII. Because of humility and love of poverty, he first resigned his canonry and distributed all his property among the poor; and later also, after many unsuccessful attempts to do so, he of his own will resigned the government of the institute which he had founded. But meanwhile his solicitude for the brothers and for the schools which he had opened in different places, did not lessen, though he began to give himself more diligently to God. Showing his hatred for self in constant fastings, in the use of the discipline and in other austerities, he spent his nights in prayer. At length, conspicuous for every kind of virtue, especially, obedience, and zeal for fulfilling the divine will, and love and devotion to the Apostolic See, full of merit, and having devoutly received the sacraments, he fell asleep in the Lord in the sixty-eighth year of his age. The supreme Pontiff Leo XIII placed him in the list of the Blessed; and, illustrious by new miracles, he was adorned with honors of the Saints in the year of jubilee, 1900.
Prayer to St. John Baptist de La Salle
O Glorious John Baptist de la Salle, Apostle of Children and young folk, be thou, from the heights of heaven, our guide and our patron. Offer thy prayers for us and help us, that we may be kept free from every stain of error and corruption, and remain ever faithful to Jesus Christ and to the infallible true head of His Church. Grant that we, practicing the virtues of which thou has been so wondrous and example, may be made partakers of the glory in heaven, our true country. Amen.
The Story of John Baptist de la Salle
by Brother Leo, 1921
"St. de la Salle little dreamed, when he prayed for the blessing of Christian education, that he himself would be the answer to the prayers, that already God had chosen him to be the founder of a society of teachers who would conduct Christian schools in France and throughout the world, that in the years to come he himself would be hailed as the patron saint of popular education and as an authority on the organization of schools and the training of teachers.
For, although at a very early age John Baptist felt that God wanted him to be a priest, he had no idea whatever that God likewise wanted him to be an educator. All young men, even saints, sometimes like to fancy themselves older and wiser and better, like to think of themselves as doing something worth while in the world; and, doubtless, John Baptist had his little day-dreams, too. Perhaps he pictured himself as a priest laboring in the confessional reconciling sinners to God, or in the pulpit preaching impressive sermons, or in the streets of his native city visiting the poor and the sick; but certainly he never pictured himself teaching in a schoolroom. Yet it was to the schoolroom that God called him.--page 36
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