Patronage: Educators, school principals and teachers
Name Meaning: God is gracious; gift from God.
Also known as the “father of modern education,” Jean Baptiste de La Salle (John Baptist) was born at Reims in April, 1651 to a wealthy French family. He was deeply involved with his Catholic faith early on: at age eleven he received the tonsure (the shaving of some or all of the hair off the scalp as a form of religious devotion or humility) and became the Canon of Reims Cathedral at sixteen. De La Salle was ordained a priest when he was 27 and then received a doctorate in theology two years later. During this time he was becoming highly involved with a group of poor and illiterate young men whom he was determined to establish schools for.
In the seventeenth century France, only a few families could afford to send their children to school. Being immersed in this environment, De La Salle was filled with pity and compassion for the poor and was determined to use his higher education to serve the children. Thus, he left everything, including his large family home, his position as Canon and even his wealth so he could live with the teachers and devote everything he had to the poor children. It was then that he formed the community known as the Brothers of the Christian Schools.
Originally, this new community was met with opposition from both ecclesiastical and educational authorities due to its creation of a new religious life and its provision of free education. Eventually, the brothers succeeded in developing a network of quality schools throughout France. In these schools, De La Salle and his brothers were able to integrate religious topics with secular studies. The brothers also created programs to train lay teachers and gave parents the opportunity to be involved with their child’s education.
Jean Baptiste de La Salle died on Good Friday, 1719 and was canonized May 24, 1900 by Pope Leo XIII. There are five miracles attributed to De La Salle that led to his canonization, all of which were miracles of healing. One miracle occurred in 1866 to a brother in the saint’s order, Brother Adelminiamo. Adelminiamo was being plagued by progressive multiple sclerosis and was forced to give up all physical activities. A famous doctor had told him that no one is cured of this illness. Finding no hope in medicine, Brother turned to his Father and Founder, Jean Baptiste de La Salle. He had himself taken from Paris to the tomb of De La Salle in Rouen, about 136 kilometers away. When Brother Adelminiamo arrived at the tomb he began to pray a novena. This novena gave no results, but full of faith Brother began another and was immediately stricken with pain greater than anything he had experienced before. His first thought was that he was about to die but instead found that he had been completely healed forever thanks to the intercession of the then Venerable Jean Baptiste de La Salle.
Today the mission of the brothers is “to provide a human and Christian education to the young, especially the poor, according to the ministry entrusted to them by the church.” According to America- The Catholic national weekly magazine, it is estimated that the Brothers of Christian Schools teach from 75,000 to 90,000 children to read and write every single year.
Watch how the brothers are impacting lives on their Lasallian Mission of education:
(You will also notice that these brothers have the most interesting collars in the entire church.)
Learn more about the Brothers of the Christian Schools and their founder, St. Jean Baptiste de La Salle.
Education is an incredibly powerful gift that permeates everything we do. Without it, almost nothing would be accomplished. It is a gift that each person deserves and has a right to, which is exactly what De La Salle believed and dedicated his life to.