|In my class today, we continued our exploration of the theme “The Spirituality of the Teacher”, focusing on the idea of the Teacher as a Prophet and a Healer, inspired by Luke 4:16-21: “The Spirit of the Lord is Upon Me, Because God has anointed me”.
Saint John Baptist De LaSalle
I shared with students the wonderful story of John Baptist de LaSalle, the founder of the Christian Brothers. De LaSalle was a priest in 17th century France at a time when being a priest carried tremendous status. He was named a “canon” of the cathedral of Rheims, which came with a “benefiche” (a guaranteed income). His 0nly duties as a canon were to come together with the other canons in the cathedral a few times a day for the celebration of the Divine Office and the Holy Mass, to advise the bishop whenever the bishop asked for advice, and, upon the death of a bishop, to recommend who should succeed him. A pretty easy life, huh?
And yet, the story of De LaSalle is a “Jesus Story”, one that reminds us—as all of the stories of the saints do—of how Jesus chose to live his life. Saint Paul tells us in his letter to the Philippians that Jesus’ life was marked by “kenosis”, by self-emptying: “Though he was in the form of God, Jesus did not deem equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in the likeness of humankind” (Philippians 2). God, in Jesus, is moved to this kind of kenosis, this kind of self-emptying, because he so thoroughly identifies with us, with the human condition, that he wishes to share it in every conceivable way, including death itself.
Now, De LaSalle reminds us of Jesus in that he, in his own time and place, sought to do the exact same thing as Jesus, though of course within the limits of his human condition. De LaSalle is moved by the plight of the poor street youth of France—little or no supervision by their parents, or perhaps having been abandoned by their parents or perhaps their parents are dead, running the streets, getting into trouble, perhaps even being pulled into things that we would describe today as prostitution or “human trafficking”—and he is inspired to do something so that these young boys, abandoned and forgotten by everybody, will have some options in life.
De LaSalle’s Brothers teach reading, writing, and arithmetic, but also religion. He wants these boys to have a happiness now, and in the life to come.