When he formed the Christian Brothers, the first religious congregation of dedicated, Christian Teachers, St. John Baptist De La Salle gave those willing to follow him a challenge. Like Jesus who dared His disciples to be made into “fishers of men,” La Salle defied the laity to become “Fishers of Children” through Education.
Four hundred years later, La Salle’s legacy of faith formation through education remains a pillar dug deep into the foundation of the Church. It has remained sturdy for two solid reasons: faith and zeal.
“The spirit of this Institute is, first, a spirit of faith, which ought to induce those who compose it not to look upon anything but with the eyes of faith, not to do anything but in view of God, and to attribute everything to God, always entering into these sentiments of Job: ‘The Lord gave me everything, and the Lord has taken everything away from me; nothing has happened to me except what pleases him…’”*
“The spirit of this Institute consists, secondly, in an ardent zeal for the instruction of children and for bringing them up in the fear of God, inducing them to preserve their innocence if they have not lost it and inspiring them with a great aversion and a very great horror for sin and for all that could cause them to lose purity.”*
We Teachers are a zealous breed. We have to be if we want our students to get excited about school. Animation (or coffee for some) is a natural grace that effective Teachers receive from God that produces the energy necessary to plan, deliver, reflect and respond to all of the other happenings of the day.
Faith, on the other hand, is a spirit much more difficult to attain. Seldom do we find time to learn our faith or even to pray because we are so zealous in our planning or correcting of student work. In truth, we sometimes leave our faith at Church and forget about it amongst the pressures and expectations that our work presses upon us.
La Salle challenges us today in the same way he did in the early 1700s – he asks us to place our priorities in order. Our faith must come before everything so that every aspect of our lives, especially our instruction, will be animated properly by the Holy Spirit. When He gets into us, our persona will take on a zeal much more potent than our own.
Like Jesus before him, La Salle doesn’t just give us a challenge to grow in faith without a means to do so. In fact, he offers us the same instruction that Jesus offered His disciples (in an accommodated way, of course).
“To enter into this spirit and to live up to it, first, the Brothers of this Society will have a most profound respect for Holy Scripture; in proof of this, they will always carry with them the New Testament and pass no day without reading some of it through a sentiment of faith, respect, and veneration for the divine words contained in it, looking upon it as their first and principal rule.”*
So there you have it, a challenge for the wise- bring your Bibles to school and “pass no day without reading some of it.” You’ll be surprised how much more effective your Teaching will become.
Live Jesus in our hearts forever!
*De La Salle, St. John Baptist Rule and Foundational Documents of 1718, The Spirit of This Institute, Copyright © 2002 by Christian Brothers Conference, Volume 7 of Lasallian Sources: The Complete Works of John Baptist de La Salle Chapter 2,Sections 2, 3 and 9, p 16-19