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St John Baptist de La Salle
Founder of the Brothers of the Christian Schools (entered heaven this day in 1719)
Well, today the Church celebrates the fellow to whom you owe your early education, St John Baptist de La Salle, patron of teachers. His Christian Brothers were once the largest teaching order in the world, and have done incalculable good for innumerable souls. As you are still undecided about what you will be doing after college, I think you should reflect a little bit on how St John discovered his vocation. The intelligent, good-looking boy was of noble birth, from Rheims, France (just northeast of Paris – if you know where Paris is). He had a knack for the things of God, and began preparing for his ordination at age eleven. (Which just goes to show you that God doesn’t invent our vocations at random; he creates us with them in mind, and that’s why even kids can feel the call.) He did well, was ordained, and was appointed to a chic position in the Cathedral – nothing but velvet gowns, sumptuous meals, and comfortable circumstances for this blue-blooded cleric. Then a layman who wanted to start a school for poor boys came into the scene. St John helped him get two schools going, and got interested in helping the teachers be more effective. He began spending more and more time with this first group of teachers. Then he invited them to live in his family palace. Working with them, he developed an entirely new method of teaching – using classrooms instead of individual instruction, French instead of Latin, and other innovations. Soon he gave up his cushy position at the Cathedral, gave away his inheritance to the poor, and dedicated himself 100% to creating a religious order totally dedicated to Christian education. One project piled onto another – more schools for poor children, a school for noble children accompanying the English King James II in exile, a school for young men who wanted to be teachers back in their parishes, novitiates for members of his own congregation, a junior novitiate for boys who wanted to join his growing community of Christian Brothers… Nothing was planned out ahead of time; God simply propelled this great work forward because St John was willing to take one step at a time in whatever direction the Holy Spirit led him. I don’t mean to say that you shouldn’t weigh your options and make prudent decisions and try your best to come up with sensible plans, but I do mean to say that God’s plans for you may not be exactly what you have in mind right now. The Church has many needs, and one young man united to God’s will can make a big impact – if he has a bit of faith. Count on my prayers. Uncle Eddy.