St. John Baptist de La Salle (1651-1719) was a French priest who became famous as a teacher of underprivileged boys. John, who came from a noble family, was ordained a priest at twenty-seven, and was assigned to the city of Rheims, a very prestigious position. It seemed his life would be one of privilege and easy dignity, but as he became aware of the needs of poor children — especially education — he felt himself called to respond (even though at first the work was distasteful to him).
John left Rheims and gave away his share of the family fortune. He began training a group of young men as teachers, thus beginning the order known today as the Christian Brothers. John successfully introduced several new educational methods (such as teaching in the local language, instead of Latin), and he established colleges for training teachers. His success in training delinquent and underprivileged boys provoked bitter opposition from secular schoolmasters, who resented his emphasis on Christian values; ignoring his critics, John urged his teachers to treat their students with love and compassion, making time for them and being concerned for their spiritual well-being.
St. John Baptist de La Salle suffered from asthma and rheumatism in his last years; he died on Good Friday in 1719.
1. Our calling from God may at first be distasteful to us, but if we persevere, we will learn to love the life God intends for us. St. John Baptist de La Salle initially didn’t want to work with children, but he obeyed the Lord’s will, and ended up being very happy and fulfilled in his educational ministry.
2. As John learned, educating young people is an important way of serving Christ — especially by preparing them for eternity through an emphasis on faith and morality.
Other Saints We Remember Today
St. Herman Joseph (1241), Priest, Religious