April 8, 2011

From the Editor Emeritus / John F. Fink

Wisdom of the saints: John Baptist de la Salle

John F. FinkThis column is particularly for those men and women who teach children, either as full-time teachers at our Catholic schools, those who teach religion to children that attend public schools, parents who are our children’s first teachers or anyone else who helps form our children in the faith.

St. John Baptist de la Salle, whose feast day is on April 7, was named the patron of schoolteachers by Pope Pius XII in 1950 because of St. John’s efforts in upgrading school instructors.

He lived in France from 1651-1719 and is known especially as the founder of the Brothers of the Christian School, who are commonly known as the Christian Brothers, in 1680.

Although suppressed for a period during the French Revolution, the community continues today. In the United States, its 94 houses are spread over 33 archdioceses and dioceses. The brothers are teaching 30,000 pupils at parochial schools, academies and colleges. Worldwide, there are 1,335 Christian Brothers.

In a letter to his brothers, John reminded them that St. Paul declared that there are different kinds of ministry and work, but we all have a special place in the Church, depending upon our gifts.

Therefore, John said, “you should not doubt that you have been given the same kind of grace to teach boys, to instruct them in the Gospel, and to form them in religion. This is a great gift which God gave you when he called you to this holy work.”

At that time, the brothers taught only boys.

John told them that the children must see by the way they teach that they are true ministers of God, full of true charity and sincere in carrying out their task.

“It is most important,” he said, “for you to realize that you are ministers, not only of God, but also of Jesus Christ and the Church.”

In their teaching, he said, teachers should be driven by the love of God.

“Let your students be moved by your untiring care for them,” he said, “and feel as though God were encouraging them through you because you perform your duties as ambassadors of Christ.”

Above all, he said, teachers must let their charity and zeal show that they love the Church.

“Your work is for the Church, which is the body of Christ,” he said. “By your diligence, show your love for those whom God has given you, just as Christ loved the Church.”

Their most important task, he indicated, was to teach their students in such a way that they will “enter into the building up of this temple so that one day they may become worthy to stand, glorious and without spot or wrinkle, before the tribunal of Jesus Christ.”

The results of teachers’ labors will be seen far into the future as the students grow into adults.

Therefore, John said, “See to it that the abundant grace God has given them may be shown in the years to come as well as the grace given you to teach them and to bring them up to inherit the kingdom of God and our Lord Jesus Christ.” †

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