The term “Guardian Angels of Education” is a metaphor that was coined by one of the first pioneers of worldwide Christian Education and spiritual pedagogy, St. John Baptist De La Salle of France. His legacy lives on through the religious congregation he founded known as the Christian Brothers, a group of consecrated men who have dedicated their lives to the development and institution of Christian Education.
The following is an excerpt of a reflection given by one of De La Salle’s predecessors, Brother William Harkens, FSC, during his keynote address for the Cardinal Spellman Retreat House back in April of 1988. The theme of his speech illustrates the dual-mission of those who are called to be educators in that they are considered to be both “Academic Teachers and “Ministers of Grace” in their vocation.
The first Lasallian image or metaphor or analogy that I want to present is one that will be more familiar to us older folk than it is to the younger folk among us. It is the image of the guardian angel. Years ago when you went to grammar school you did not need to be reminded that your guardian angel was sitting next to you, invisible but definitely there with a clear job — to help keep you out of trouble. The guardian angel prayer said it all: angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom God’s love commits me, ever this day at my side to guide and guard… Unambiguosly, De La Salle states that teachers must excel in two ways: tenderness and vigilance.
Caring and watchful like the guardian angel, the teacher finds every possible way to enlighten and assist students. The teacher is alert to any sign of trouble, in order to keep students out of danger. Thus, De La Salle writes that it is all too easy for children to trip and fall over a steep precipice. Therefore, they need the light of watchful guides. In meditating on the guardian angel, De La Salle writes,
“You will see clearly every obstacle … and keep away every harm.” (5th Meditation for the Time of Retreat)
Traditionally, angels have been associated with enlightenment. But De La Salle emphasizes that it is not enough for teachers to enlighten students. Listen to these three-hundred year old words of De La Salle. Remember that he was often dealing with young street kids. You may find that the watchful but compassionate roles assigned to the guardian angel continue to give some sense of what it means for a teacher to be a minister. De La Salle writes as follows:
(First) It is your duty to admonish the unruly in a way that will lead them to give up their former way of life. (Second) You must cheer the fainthearted, support the weak and be patient toward all. (6th MTR)
But as guardian angel, the teacher does more than admonish, more even than cheer up the fainthearted and support the weak. The teacher also tries to get youngsters to look out for each other. De La Salle writes:
Consider how teachers as ministers do this today. Consider also what it means for adults in a school to minister to each other: supporting and looking out for each other; encouraging each to be kind to one another, compassionate and mutually forgiving.
“You must help them be kind to one another, compassionate, mutually forgiving — just as God has forgiven them. You must help them love one another, just as Jesus Christ has loved them.” (6th MTR)
To see the complete text of this speech, please click here
May Jesus live in our hearts forever!