Saint John Baptist de La Salle

7 April

Getting to know John Baptist de La Salle takes us back 300 years to Reims, France.

He lived in a world totally different from ours. It was a time when very few people had a comfortable life . Most people were very poor, being either peasants living in the country or living in town slums. People could not or did not care to send their children to some kind of school, while those who were well-off had private tutors.

Jean Baptist de La Salle was born in 1651, the eldest son of wealthy parents and brought up in the Catholic Faith. He was given a good education as he showed an aptitude for study. While still young he was named Canon of the Reims Cathedral. It meant he had become an official of the Church and gave service at the Cathedral. When he was 21 years old, both his parents died within a few months of each other. He had to take over the administration of family affairs  and take responsibility for his 4 brothers and 2 sisters. This did not deter him from continuing his theological studies, having set his heart on becoming a priest. In fact he was ordained priest in April 1678 and after 2 years he received a doctorate in Theology.
During his pastoral work he became involved in the establishment of a free school for boys who were ‘often left to themselves and badly brought up.’
This experience developed in a ‘wake-up call’ for Jean Baptist. Eventually, he gave up his position as Canon with the prospect of a high rank position in the Church and abandoned his family home and his wealth. He moved in with the teachers, later forming a community dedicated to a total change in the methods of education. They became known as the Brothers of Christian Schools, a new form of religious life committed to create a new approach to learning and establishing a ’network of quality schools.’

To make learning accessible to all, the local language was included in the methods of teaching, while students started to be assessed and grouped according to their abilities. Religious themes started to be integrated with other subjects and efforts were made for parental involvement. Programmes for teacher training were organised, developing into training colleges for educators. Young men were offered Sunday courses as well as the possibility of attending technical schools. Institutions were also set up to offer care and reform for delinquents.

John Baptist became an inspiration to all educators, so that, following his example and values, they sought not only to teach young people but also to care, to show compassion, to support those under their care, especially those who were weak and discouraged.
Throughout their endeavours, John Baptist and his companions had to face criticism, disappointments, and opposition. But they struggled on.  When John Baptist died at the age of 67, after being riddled with asthma and rheumatism for a number of years, his methods had spread not only throughout France, but also through Europe and beyond.

Today Lasallian schools are spread in 80 different countries, including Malta, where they became known as the Freres.

The mission of St. John Baptist de La Salle was all about education, about schools, teaching and learning. Today he is acclaimed as the Patron Saint of Educators.

  • Our children spend the best part of their day with a teacher! Seek an opportunity to discuss with the  children how they see the role of a teacher: if they think it is an easy job or a difficult one / if they would like to be a teacher and why or why not ~ what they admire in their teacher ~ or what puts them off
  • According to the age of the children ~ you may explain the course of study to become a teacher ~ introduce them to the Educational Establishments beyond their school experience, basing on their interests and aptitudes.

You may encourage them to prepare a card for their teacher (or catechist), to mark a special occasion, to wish her/him well, to show appreciation.
Help the children become aware and appreciate the educational equipment in their class/school that makes learning easier and fun. We tend to forget that there are so many children in the world deprived of so many things we take for granted.

  • Learning processes carried out even at the best of schools, by the best of teachers, need to be supported by practices at home. Child psychologists suggest that developing good balance between playtime, leisure activities, homework/study, prepares children gradually for academic challenges and time management as they grow older.
  •  You might consider taking the opportunity to start helping organize the day to include study/homework time, playtime, other activities, organizing school things, a study/homework corner for the older children (let them decorate it !)

Family Prayer Time

Make a prayerful experience by following: Jesus, the Great Teacher (Bible for Children) 

Choose excerpts from the presentation and talk to children about it. Talk about what Jesus is teaching us. Pray together to put it into practice.

How to use this space

God speaks to us in many ways, including through the Saints of the Church. Here you will find useful background and activities to better understand the holy life, helping you to connect the saints to daily life in a meaningful way.