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St John Baptist de La Salle
Founder of the Brothers of the Christian Schools (entered heaven this day in 1719)
I empathize with your indecision. Your first job out of college will be an important one. It won’t be as important as you think – if you choose badly it won’t be the end of the world – but it will definitely set a tone. I can’t decide for you. I can recommend prayer and prudence (the latter involves reflecting not only on what you want, but on why you want it; it also involves getting good advice from people you trust). And I can also warn you about one factor that would be sure to lead you down the wrong road. The spiritual masters call it human respect. It means doing things because of what other people will think of you, not because of conviction. You will understand it perfectly by taking a look at today’s saint, who perfectly illustrations its opposite.
St John was the Founder of the Christian Brothers, so he is the ancestor of all the Christian Brother schools in the world (with 700,000 students in 85 countries). But he didn’t set out to do that. He was actually a bright child of French aristocrats. He felt called to the priesthood and went to seminary in Paris. He did well, got along with everyone, was ordained, and started his ministry in the Cathedral. Life was a breeze. He had money, connections, ease, nice clothes, a cushy future. He was in the right crowd, and it looked like smooth and comfortable sailing ahead. Then an intrepid layman asked him to help start a school for poor boys (at that point only the aristocracy received an education). He complied. In fact, he started two of them. But they needed good teachers, so he started teaching some young men to be good teachers. That was tougher than he had thought it would be. He had to turn his family palace into a little college for them in order to be able to give them the academic, human, and spiritual formation they needed.
And that was the beginning of a whirlwind of a life. He ended up revolutionizing education – he invented the classroom; he invented grades; he switched from Latin to French for the language of instruction; he opened more schools; he opened seminaries; he gave a rule of life to his community of teachers… This one man became a colossal volcano of creativity, holiness, and service.
But to do that he had to step out of his comfortable circle of aristocratic friends. He had to trust the voice of God as it resounded, quietly and politely, in his conscience and his heart. And that meant NOT trusting in a lot of other voices… Get the message?
Your loving uncle,