I participated and led the discussion of Chapters 10-12 of the Work is Yours by Br. Luke Salm in the faci applicant training for FORMDEV. This book that I’m referring to is a biography of St. John Baptist De La Salle, the universal patron saint of the teachers. Of course, since I am part of FORMDEV, I need to know the life of our founder and share it to other students. The book is very comprehensive and detailed on some key events in St. La Salle’s life from his ancestors to his childhood and to his fulfillment of mission (and death eventually). It showed different key people that played a role in St. La Salle’s life may it be positive or negative.
Anyway, I won’t further give my feedback regarding the contents of the book since this is not a book review although I can say that the book is a very good documentation of one’s biography. I would like to focus more on its contents- the wonderful and extraordinary life of St. La Salle. When you start reading “The Work is Yours” you will see that the ancestors of St. La Salle were rich and even his immediate family (from both mother and father side). That’s why it is very inspiring to think of St. La Salle as a person who gave up a “good” life (meaning, giving up all of his wealth and become literally poor) just for the sake of building schools for the poor and educating them as well.
Aside from that, I would like to stress three points of realization. First, the most important of all, St. La Salle was able to contribute a lot in the field of education (teaching, management and the like). When you study his life, he opened schools for those who cannot afford going to school. He therefore managed classroom size lectures and started training teachers- not just teachers but Christan brothers as well. They not only teach in classrooms but they are also involved in community involvement (like visiting the sick and in prison to name some) and spiritual life. He also revised the subjects to be taught and focused not only in the arts but also in sciences. This made a significant change in the education in France and to the rest of the world as well. But this change also brought criticisms from the church and different sectors as well. This leads to my second realization- good works are obstructed by people who should be supporting it.
Some signifcant people in the church like archbishops and priests, didn’t take the mission of St. La Salle helpful and important. The main “villain” in St. La Salle’s life was Fr. De La Chetardie who backed down in his plans. Furthermore, since the Lasallian schools were starting to grow, other educational institutions got envious with the former’s growth. They filed cases against De La Salle. While some succeeded, it didn’t stop St. La Salle from building more schools in different places. But the most challenging experience that he faced was when he was abandoned by some of the Brothers. He almost gave up but still went back after sometime in becoming the leader of the Christian Brothers.
The last point I would like to say is that St. La Salle’s good works were blessed by God and miracles happened to support it. For example, there were rich people in different instances who funded the necessary things that the Brothers need. When there’s famine, although all of the people suffered, they were able to bounce back easily and miraculously (food came suddenly and enough for them). Also, when some people try to contradict or disagree to the good plans of St. La Salle, other forces drove these contradictions away. And at one point, when St. La Salle was pressured by a particular individual, that person suddenly died and the pressure went away. Some of mentioned events may be considered coincidental but I’d rather call it miracle for the greater good.
I think and believe that St. La Salle deserves the title of patron saint of the teachers. Although the irony is, the Lasallian schools in the country are mostly for the rich and capable. The school has started its mission to reach out to the poor but deserving by giving out scholarships. But comparing it with the Lasallian schools in St. La Salle’s time, it was far from how schools are established in the country. Well it can be explained because of the difference in time and state of the country. But it will still go down to having responsibility in allowing education to reach poor people. That means hopefully, giving quality education to all. St. La Salle’s life is really an inspiration to all.