Fr John Baptist de la Salle


imageSt. John Baptist was born into a family of the French nobility in the city of Reims in 1651 and, as a boy lived a luxurious life. Still, he was a devout child, in love with the Church and received the tonsure at the tender age of 11. Since he was from the nobility he was able to study at the College des Bons Enfants where he earned a Master of Arts degree and moved to the Seminary of Saint Sulpice to become a priest. We can assume all was well until both his parents died and he had to leave home, now head of the family, to care for and help educate his four brothers and two sisters. Four years later, he completed his studies and was ordained a priest in 1678 and two years later completed a Doctorate in Theology.

Fr. John was a man of fine manners and taste, as might be expected from a member of his class, but he was also quite competent and capable of getting things done in the real world. He became interested in education and related issues by agreeing to help the Sisters of the Child Jesus who were dedicated to helping poor and uneducated girls and helping the new order become established and serving as their confessor. Through this work he met Albert Nyel who was trying to establish a school in Reims to help the poor, who at the time had little or no access to education and less hope for the future. Nyel had a benefactor in a wealthy woman in Reims who would fund the project, but only if Fr. De La Salle would also participate. It was from the work establishing this school that the order now known as the De La Salle Brothers, or the Brothers of the Christian Schools, the first Roman Catholic institute that did not contain any priests, grew.

Fr de La Salle wrote: “I will always look upon the work of my salvation, and the foundation and government of our community, as the work of God; hence I will abandon the care of both to him, acting only through his orders;… I will often consider myself as an instrument which is of no use except in the hands of the workman. Hence I must await the orders of Providence before acting, and be careful to accomplish them when known.”

Worn out, Fr. John died on April 7th Good Friday in 1719 and was proclaimed a saint in 1900. He is the patron saint of teachers of Youth in the Catholic Church. In 1950, Pope Pius XII declared him the patron of teachers.

 

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