John started out in life much luckier than many of his compatriots and fellow French Saints. He was born in the year 1651 to wealthy parents, Louis and Nicolle de la Salle. His father had hopes that his intelligent son would pursue a career in law but John was of a decisive nature and had already decided to become a Priest.
After studying at various academy's where he impressed many of his teachers, John eventually gained a place at the Sorbonne where he studied theology and also excelled in that field. Though not all compliments were given because of his high intellect for John also had a pleasing personality which sought no fame for himself but instead sought to help others. John's obvious piety was witnessed by many of his teachers and fellow students, who all had high praise for this young man who wished to serve God all his life.
Grief though would touch the life of John when both his parents died within a year of each other, which brought much heartache to John who had dearly loved both his parents. This was a difficult time for John as he grappled with his own grief and tried to the best of his ability to provide for his younger siblings. It also meant putting his studies on hold as he took the reigns of the household till his brothers and sisters were able to take care of themselves.
Though he was immersed in the domestic activities of his home John did not forget his first love which was to serve God. So after speaking with his spiritual advisor Nicolas Roland, John was ordained as a subdeacon at Cambrai. During this time between looking after his family and his parish commitments John also did not forget the poor and sought out ways to help them in a practical manner.
John eventually fulfilled his longed for wish to become a Priest, he was ordained in the year 1678 and gained his Doctorate in theology in 1680. Though Father John wished to serve God as any other devoted Priest through the care of his parish, God had other plans for this true son of the Church. It so happened that he came across an enterprise where a few good men were trying to teach literacy to young boys who had been born in rough circumstances. One of the leaders of these young boys was Adrien Nyel who though he did his best his gift was in interacting with his students and not in the organizational needs that this little group desperately needed in order to succeed.
Father John first watched this group of boys and a few good men from a distance, rendering help when needed. Gradually though it dawned on Father John that the boys needed a strong figure head, one who could make this ideal of educating poor young boys into a movement. Father John even though he was very busy decided with his usual decisive nature to bring the boys back to his own house so they could be properly supervised, not everyone was thrilled with this idea, as questions were raised about the young boys moral characters. This love that grew within Father John for these poor boys would soon become a matter of principle as he grappled with the consequences of truly helping these young men gain a good future for themselves whilst regaining their lost dignity.
This great man of the Church though was never one to back away from a challenge and so Father John took the extraordinary step of leaving behind his comfortable lifestyle, so that he could become one with the poor rather than continue to remain aloof from them. Father John realised that in order to truly gain the respect of these boys he had to live with them in order to teach them a better way of life. This brought much contention within his own family and circle of friends, and also much heartache as many of his family disowned him through this act of true and authentic charity of spirit displayed by Father John.
Due to his love of these poor boys Father John endured the estrangement from his family, friends and some of his fellow Priests, he even faced prison when the authorities raised objections to his teaching techniques. It was just as well that Father John De La Salle was resolute of nature and not one to give up easily no matter how many hurdles were thrown at him, he would rise above them all. This was not done from a spirit of pride in himself but of a self giving to those who needed him most, the poor.
Father John would face many obstacles on the path he had chosen and he also faced betrayal from those he had trusted in founding this institute to educate the poor boys in France which was named, 'Brothers of the Christian Schools'. He struggled against many adversaries many of whom from within the Catholic Church, but always Father John kept his eyes on Jesus and did not waver in his attempts to form a school to help the young youth of France find better lives for themselves.
When it came to teaching the boys Father John would prove to be an innovator and with a small group of like minded men, he changed the face of Christian education as it had been into a more modern and more practical way of educating his young boys to equip them better when they left his schools and began lives of their own.
Though Father John faced much adversity he never allowed this to embitter him even when friends betrayed his trust, still Father John focused on Jesus and to Father John God truly did suffice.
Many thought that Father John gave up all the glories and honors that could have been his for the taking....but the one thing that Father John longed for and the only words that Father John wanted to hear were....'well done good and faithful servant'.
Father John Baptist de La Salle died in the year 1719.
Saint John Baptist de La Salle was canonized in the year 1900 by Pope Leo XIII.
Peace of Christ to ALL
Copyright © 2006 Marie Smith. All rights reserved.