Over 300 years ago a young Frenchman, called Adrian, was on fire. He was on fire about education, especially education for the poor and needy. He began to establish schools. The problem was that Adrian, while a good young man, tended to start things and then move on. He did not, or did not know how to, consolidate.
Enter another young man, a priest called John. Adrian was led to believe that John could help him. One day, as John was about to enter a convent of Sisters to say Mass for them, Adrian was lying in wait. At the door of the convent he told John of his plight. John promised to think about it.
Little did John think that the meeting with Adrian would be the first step in his life-long journey and that he, too, would be on fire with a passion for the education of youth. Gradually, step by step, he got involved until he found himself head over heels caught up in the educational world. All this took place in northern France in the 17th century.
John trained teachers, founded schools for boys, founded a school for unruly boys, founded a teacher’s training college and introduced the native language, French, as the medium of instruction. There was opposition, much opposition, but John persisted until the movement grew and became sustainable. This was the kind of consolidation that had been lacking before.
John left us a good body of writings. Let’s listen to a few of his thoughts and instructions.
“You should not only take all possible care of your students, but consecrate your life entirely to procure salvation for them.”
“It is not harshness and rigour that produce good order in a school but rather vigilance combined with mildness.”
“To touch the hearts of your students is the greatest miracle you can perform.”
John’s Lasallian movement grew, first with schools throughout France, then to Rome, then to the world. And so today, 300 years since the death of John, there are Lasallian schools, universities and educational centres in 80 countries. Here in Hong Kong there are eight schools run in the Lasallian tradition.
The mustard seed, sown at the convent door so many years ago, has grown into a mighty tree. St. John Baptist de La Salle, pray for us.
Live Jesus in our Hearts. Forever!