In his First Meditation for the Time of Retreat for the Brothers, St. La Salle makes his point that “God in his Providence has established the Christian Schools.” At the time, the “Christian Schools” referred to the schools run by the Brothers, who were at the forefront of religious education. For St. La Salle, the Christian School had a dual aim: to not only bring the young children on the streets out of their earthly poverty but also, more importantly, to procure for the children their eternal salvation as members of God’s Kingdom. This is why the mission of the Brothers is the “human and Christian education of the young, especially the poor.” The Brothers recognize, in their wisdom, that education of the mind is only one part of the complete picture; formation of the soul is the primary component and goal of the Christian school.
I recently attended a workshop sponsored by the Lasallian District of San Francisco New Orleans of which Christian Brothers is a part. The keynote speaker was Assistant Professor of Theology and Religious Education, Hosffman Ospino, Ph. D. , of Boston College. He provided for us a fascinating and thorough picture of the evolution of Catholic education in the United States from the turn of the 20th century to modern day. In the middle of the last century, parents’ decisions regarding sending their students to Catholic schools began to shift from the mindset that “Catholics go to Catholic school because they are Catholic” to “We want to send our children to the best academically excellent school we can regardless of religious affiliation.” Although this is a simplified rendition, it speaks to the general shift in motivation of the population over the last 60 or so years.
As I say often, St. La Salle was visionary. He understood hundreds of years ago that a combination of both of these mindsets was necessary: Children need enlightened minds and enlivened hearts. Thus, the goal of the Christian school is the human and Christian education of the young. As adults, parents and teachers alike, we strive to provide our sons, daughters, and students with an education that is both worldly and faith-filled, centered upon Christ on earth and Christ eternally.
St. La Salle calls us to “diffuse the fragrance of [Jesus’] teaching throughout the whole world.” Together, let us follow his call as we procure the salvation of souls entrusted to our care!
Have a great weekend! I look forward to seeing everyone at the picnic!