Monday, April 7, 2014

St. John Baptist de la Salle

Happy Feast of St. John Baptist de la Salle!

Today I'm going to start a little differently.  I want to recommend G.K. Chesterton's Father Brown Mysteries to you.  My eldest has been doing writing projects on books for school and honestly, I needed short stories he could analyze.  In comes The Father Brown Reader, which is adaptations for younger readers.  I must say, these are fun (and short).  If you are in a crunch, as I was, or if you just need a fun read with Catholic morality, try it.  We have ALL been enjoying these stories about a quaint little Catholic priest who seems to always end up in the middle of some crazy mystery or problem.  It is also quite fun when your children get the realization of what our sweet priests sometimes hear.  When that light goes on that their confession over not cleaning their room and disobeying their parents is not the worst the priest has ever heard, I must say....the facial expression is priceless!

St. John de la Salle was an Educator and founder of the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools.  He was born in France to a noble family and was the eldest of 10!  (Wow, and my kids think they have to fight for attention.)  At the age of 11, he dedicated himself to the religious life and was ordained at the age of 27.  He founded 2 schools in Reims, his hometown, and became increasingly concerned with the children of poor families.  He was convinced the spiritual life should be cultivated first among teachers, so he gathered a community of men dedicated to teaching.  As with all great plans, he met some failure, but kept trying and in 1683, he gave away all of his fortune, resigned his canonry, and dedicated himself to the training of the men in his service.  This was the founding of the Brothers of the Christian Schools.  He actually forbade priests from joining his order.  (I need to know why...)  His methods of teaching were revolutionary, using vernacular instead of Latin and classroom instead of individual teaching.  King James II actually asked him to come to England and teach boys in the royal court.  In 1698, he opened a college for Irish teachers.  There was some opposition, which led to him being deposed (forcibly removed from office), but his congregation saved him by their support.  He retired in 1717 and died in 1719.  Pope Pius XII canonized him in 1900.  He is the patron saint of teachers.  His congregation remains the largest religious institute of lay brothers.

Last week I must say, I was not as pleased with my children's teachers as I should have been.  I was allowing myself to put the needs of my child first (which is good), but in doing so I forgot to look at what the teacher is going through as well.  I am so very happy to be looking at a saint for teachers today.  St. John Baptist de la Salle did so much for the way children are taught.  Take the language alone, this allowed all children to be taught.  The wealthy knew Latin, but not the common or poor children.  Then to move teaching from private to classroom, allowed for an even broader group to be taught.  Think of the exclusivity of education.  I know this didn't solve everything, but it did bring education--reading, writing, etc. to the masses.  Today I will thank a teacher, actually 15 in our case, and I urge you to as well.  It doesn't have to be much, just a note or an e-mail, letting them know that you appreciate their time and effort that they give to your child daily.  Remember, your children spend more of their awake time with their teachers than with you!

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