SAINT JOHN BAPTIST de la SALLE (1651-1719), priest and founder – Patron saint of educators, teachers and school principals
Today, the universal Church honors Saint John Baptist de La Salle, known as the Father of Modern Pedagogy (the art of teaching) and for promoting and reforming Christian education, especially among the poor.
John was born in the year 1651 in the city of Rheims, France, and his parents were very attentive to his moral and intellectual development. At the early age of eleven, he was accepted into clerical studies in preparation for the priesthood, to which he was ordained at the age of twenty-seven in 1678.
He earned his doctorate in theology in 1680 and became the spiritual director for the “Sisters of the Holy Infant” who were devoted to teaching poor girls. In 1681, Father John founded the “Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools (Christian Brothers)”, an Order which even now teaches boys around the world, especially the poor.
Father John was one of the first to emphasize classroom teaching in the vernacular instead of Latin, along with separating students into grades. He also founded a Christian Academy for adults, in addition to high schools, trade schools and three teachers’ colleges; and, in 1705, he established a reform school for boys in Dijon, France. The motivating factor behind all of Father John’s endeavors was encouraging others to become good Christians, allowing his example to positively influence the youth and the adults he was helping.
Yet, even in spite of his many successes, Father John did not escape experiencing many trials: heartrending disappointment and defections among his disciples, and bitter opposition from the secular schoolmasters who resented his new and fruitful methods of teaching.
Afflicted with severe asthma and rheumatism in his final years, Father John died on Good Friday, April 7, 1719 in Rouen, France. He was canonized a saint on May 24, 1900 by Pope Leo XIII, and declared the patron saint of teachers by Venerable Pope Pius XII in 1950.
Saint John Baptist de La Salle inspired others how to teach and care for young people, how to meet failure and frailty with compassion, and how to affirm, strengthen and heal.
We commemorate his feastday on April 7.
(From catholicnewsagency.com, saints.sqpn.com, americancatholic.org, catholicculture.org and newadvent.org)
(The following prayer is from the Collect of the Roman Missal from the Proper for Saint John Baptist de La Salle)
“O God, who chose Saint John Baptist de La Salle to educate young Christians, raise up, we pray, teachers in Your Church ready to devote themselves wholeheartedly to the human and Christian formation of the young.
“Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”