Saint Jean-Baptiste de la Salle
Jul 02, 2015 / Written by: America Needs Fatima
Feast April 7
Jean-Baptiste de la Salle, the famous founder of the Brothers of the Christian Schools, or the Christian Brothers, was born in Rheims of the noble family of la Salle.
Showing signs of a rare piety from an early age, Jean-Baptiste was destined for the priesthood, which fit well with his own inclinations regarding the future. He entered the seminary in 1670 at nineteen and was ordained in 1678.
A young man of refinement and good connections, he seemed to be destined for high office in the Church. But in 1679 he met a layman, Adrian Nyel, who had the idea of starting a school for poor boys in Rheims.
The newly-ordained Fr. Jean-Baptiste became engrossed in the project and began to guide Nyel and seven schoolmasters in the high educational ideals taking shape in his own mind. He even invited the group into his paternal home to live. But there, unwilling to submit to the discipline for which they had not bargained, they took leave.
Undaunted, the reformer waited patiently. Soon, he was joined by another group of interested men. To these Fr. Jean-Baptiste imparted a new method of teaching, which revolutionized the elementary schooling of the day.
Until then, children had been taught on an individual basis. Jean-Baptiste introduced into education the classroom setting, silence during lessons, and teaching in the vernacular rather than in Latin.
Soon requests began to arrive for teachers trained in the new method. Parish priests also began to send young men to the institute to be trained as masters for their own parish schools.
In time, Fr. Jean-Baptiste formed a novitiate and a rule of religious life.
After much prayer, he also established that his teaching institute would be constituted of lay brothers and not priests. From France the Christian Brothers spread throughout Europe and the world.
In 1717 the founder resigned the headship of his institute and lived like the humblest of brothers.
Suffering from asthma and rheumatism, Fr. Jean- Baptiste gave up none of his austerities.
Early in 1719 he met with an accident which ultimately led to his death on Good Friday of that year. He was sixty-eight years of age.
The Catholic Church set her seal of approval upon the life and apostolate of this man, a reformer and innovator of primary importance in the history of education, by canonizing him in 1900.
In 1950, Pope Pius XII declared him patron of all school teachers.