It is important for all of us to stop periodically, turn around, and evaluate how far we’ve gone. This is why we learn history in school. It is also why I enjoy drawing parallels between the life of Saint John Baptist de La Salle and his work in the founding of the Brothers of the Christian Schools and our work as 21st century educators. While there are many parallels to be drawn, today I will focus on the idea of challenges and obstacles as integral to the strength of our foundation.
As a young educator, De La Salle experienced great success. Just shortly after he opened his first school, he was invited to open numerous other schools not only in Rheims, France, but also in Paris. The boys could be seen walking daily from the schoolhouse to the church to attend mass. As his biographer Blain put it, “Hundreds of children, boisterous by character, playful and irreverent, lacking piety and respect for the holy place, could be seen walking two by two in order, each in his proper place with silence and modesty….” As passerby’s, the folks of Paris likely believed they were witnessing a minor miracle! However, it was with this superior quality of education that De La Salle’s schools became well-known.
As is sometimes the way in the world, De La Salle’s colleagues at neighboring schools became jealous of the reputation the Christian Schools were earning, and they plotted to scar his character and the standing of the schools in the community. In addition, there were occasions when pastors of the various parishes in which De La Salle ran schools disagreed with his modern-thinking methods and evicted him and his schools from the parishes. These are just two of many examples of the obstacles he faced as he lived his vocation.
Despite these obstacles, today there are 5,000 Brothers and 100,000 lay teachers teaching 1,000,000 students in over 1,000 ministries in 80 countries around the world. Clearly, De La Salle overcame those challenges. More than simply overcome them, he was strengthened by them.
You, too, will overcome and be strengthened by the challenges of the beginning of a new school year. Let us use De La Salle’s resolve and steadfast faith in the Providence of God as examples in our lives. Let us trust, as De La Salle did, the will of God in our regard.
May you have a wonderful week!
Michael J. Prat, Jr., Principal
Christian Brothers School, City Park Campus