De la Salle was born on April 29, 1651 in Reims; he was the oldest child in his family and was obligated to perform the duties of setting the example for his younger siblings and being a model citizen. He grew up in a home that was dedicated to the strengthening of moral and intellectual fiber. Louis de la Salle and Nicolle de Moet de Brouillet, the parents of de la Salle and sent his to school at a young age where he excelled. After years of school de la Salle went to achieve a higher level of education proclaiming a degree as a Master of the Arts. He was watched very closely by the higher members governing the University of Reims, and was looked at as a very intellectual and promising young man. It was thought that young de la Salle would follow in the footsteps of his family’s tradition and achieve a career in law, but when approached by the idea de la Salle said that he had received a calling to work for the church and become a priest.
At the age of nineteen, after his studies were completed in the arts and philosophy, de la Salle left to enter the seminary of Saint-Sulpice. While at Saint-Sulpice he was noticed by the faculty for his rapid progression in the area of virtue. At a young age de la Salle was thought to be a very promising student. Tragedy struck the young student when his mother died and then father past away less than a year later. De la Salle being the oldest son was now in charge of the household, which forced him to leave Saint-Sulpice. Along with having the duties of managing the family de la Salle also had the obligation of educating his younger siblings. The mental strain played a significant role in his demeanor and lifestyle, a time when he was said to be in great reflection and prayer. In his time of need de la Salle was aided by the canon of Reims, Nicolas Roland and was helped to being ordained sub deacon at Cambrai on June 2, 1672, continuing his work for the church.
De la Salle made progress in his work of ministry and was ordained a deacon. After being ordained a deacon he wished to work on his parish life but was denied his wish by the Archbishop of Reims. De la Salle went back to his job as a deacon and continued his work until he ordained a priest on April 9, 1678 by the Archbishop of Reims. De la Salle was a man of great piety in the church; many people looked to him for guidance and spiritual help. During his time as a priest de la Salle finished his school work and obtained his doctorate in theology, and found his calling as an educator.
By the biding of de la Salle’s good friends and mentor in his time of need, Nicolas Roland, de la Salle took over the Congregation of the Sisters of the Child Jesus. In the school de la Salle found himself living amongst the poverty stricken teachers and it was there that he found his calling as an educator. He jumped from school to school and even helped in the establishment of free schools for those who could not afford an education. Working with those in poverty de la Salle opened many free schools in the city of Reims and dedicated himself to the teachers of Reims. De la Salle housed the teachers when they needed it and also paid for some of the housing costs, he educated them in ways of time management and classroom management and became a mentor for the teacher’s school them in ways in which education could be more beneficial for the students. De la Salle resigned from his canonry and started to distribute his fortune to the poor who were in need and to those in his schools were in need. De la Salle proved that in his mission he would do whatever was necessary.
De la Salle was the founder of the Christian Schools, which were free schools run by priests and brothers. The task of establishing this school was not easy because there was a shortage of educators because of those brothers who would leave to join the priesthood. After the death of a very promising brother who went off to become a priest de la Salle changed the rules of the school and made it so that no priests would be educators in the Christian schools. De la Salle wanted his brothers to not stray from their mission and live a life dedicated to education and to whatever means were necessary to achieve their goal of educating those who were poor. This was the beginning of what would be called the Christian Brothers.
De la Salle devoted his life to the education of young people over time his mission grew and more were drawn to his cause. He developed Sunday schools that were not only a time for learning scripture but also a time devoted to learning skills such as geometry and algebra. De la Salle retired many times during his life but always found himself coming back to helping his cause. St. John Baptist de la Salle died on the morning of Good Friday April 7, 1719. His feast day is celebrated on May 15.
St. John Baptist de la Salle is the founder of the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian schools, recognized by the church for its work with the advancing the education of youth through Christian Education, paying especial attention to those who were in poverty, keeping up with the mission of de la Salle. Its message is to educate young men in every aspect of life and to instruct them to find God in all things and to sacrifice all for him.
The Christian Brothers run what is now the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian School. They are a denomination within the Catholic Church that follows the message of de la Salle. That take a vows of poverty chastity and obedience, and as educators they take a vow to educate the poor. The Christian Brothers teach young men to see God in everything and to suffer everything for God. Brothers are asked to live a life of faith and zeal. Education was the important message of de la Salle, and the education of young men was taken very seriously amongst the Christian Brothers of de la Salle. The Brothers are ordained catechists and the catechist is their main teaching tool.
In the present day there are Christian Brothers schools all over the world, and they all carry the same message. There are institutes within the United States and even in New York State, New York is even considered the most important in America, it contains 38 houses, some of which you may have heard of. Within New York the Christian Brothers run many high schools, colleges, and orphanages. The Christian Brothers occupy Manhattan College in Manhattan, New York, where the Brothers teach and educate young men and women.
The Christian Brothers occupy many different kinds of schools today. They now educate young men and women as well as those who are in trouble with the law and those who are stricken by poverty and homeless. Some noticeable high schools that you may have heard of are St. Joseph’s Boys Institute in Buffalo New York, an all boys school; in Syracuse, New York, Christian Brothers Academy, a co-ed Catholic school. There are schools within the capital region as well that are more than just a Catholic school. Christian Brothers Academy and LaSalle Institute are Christian Brothers schools that are all boys as well as military high schools. These two schools are supported by the JROTC program of the U.S. army and the young men are not only taught the values of St. John Baptist de la Salle but also the leadership skills used in the U.S. Army.
St. John Baptist was a devoted man of God and a devoted man of education and helping those obtain the knowledge necessary to live a successful life. De la Salle’s message is still the same no matter what type of school setting it is presented. I myself attended Christian Brothers Academy in Albany New York. I was under the tutelage of the Christian Brothers for seven years of my life (6-12th grade). My life has been dramatically affected by his message and the values I learned through my time in their institute. Much like we learn about the work of St. Bonaventure and St. Francis here at Bonaventure I have been taught the works of de la Salle in the same manner. I believe that I am a better man because of what I have been taught in my Christian Catholic life. I see God in all things and am a devote servant to his message. I will now conclude this paper in a way that we concluded prayer every day at CBA (Christian Brothers Academy). St. John Baptist de la Salle
Pray for us.
Live Jesus in our Hearts
New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia. “Institute of the Brothers of the Chritian Schools.” Copyright 2008 by Kevin Knight. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08056a.htm
New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia. “St. John Baptist de la Salle.” Copyright 2008 by Kevin Knight. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08444a.htm
De la Salle Christian Brothers. “De La Salle.” Copyright 2007. http://www.lasalle2.org/
John J. Crowley & Co., Inc. “Lives and Saints.” St. John Baptist de la Salle. Published 1954. http://www.ewtn.com/library/MARY/LASALLE.htm