By CEDIE SALIDO
Don’t take anything for granted. That’s a lesson everyone should always be reminded of. Apparently, there is one ironic story of a saint who left all that he had and chose a life completely different from what he was used to. This is the life story of St. John Baptist de La Salle.
Last April, a tercentenary mass was held at the Manila Cathedral to commemorate his journey. It was Manila archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle who led the ceremony. He talked about John Baptist de La Salle’s humbling life story.
St John Baptist de La Salle was born to a wealthy family in Reims, France on April 30, 1651. During that time, only a few people were lucky to live a luxurious life and the majority of the public lived in extreme poverty. St. La Salle, at a very young age, sensed a call to help the poor. He was moved by the depressing situation around him and he was determined to help people in need, making it his purpose. He took a brave step by renouncing his wealth and social status in exchange for a simpler life. Many people, especially the elites, found his decision to forsake a comfortable living as ridiculous. But despite being criticized for it, St. La Salle remained steadfast and true to his decision, to his mission to help the poor. He admitted that the new life he chose was a struggle. But it didn’t take long for him to adjust with his new lifestyle.
His actions might come to many as being ungrateful for what he already had. But Cardinal Tagle pointed out that he saint’s decision was not about neglecting wealth and prosperity. It was a symbol of total dependence on God’s will.
Through the humbling experience of being one with the poor, he dedicated his talents and knowledge to uplift and to help their situation by educating them. St. La Salle wanted education to be more accessible to the less fortunate so he established Brothers of the Christian Schools, a religious congregation that opened the doors to quality education to less fortunate children. He focused on equipping teachers with the necessary knowledge to do this and he introduced several advancements in the field of education. Some of his innovations included using the vernacular language (which was French, in his case) as a mode of classroom instruction, establishing institutions that aim to help at-risk youth, building a training center for educators, and emphasizing the involvement of parents with their children’s education. He was, therefore, a pioneer in founding training colleges for teachers, reform schools for delinquents, technical schools, and secondary schools for modern languages, arts, and sciences.
In 1950, St. La Salle was proclaimed patron of Christian teachers. Throughout his life, he encouraged others to teach and to care for young people—to meet failure and frailty with compassion, to affirm, strengthen, and heal. His work had a huge impact on society, spreading across France and,eventually, all over the world. Today, there are several La Sallian schools around the world that continue to teach the values of St. La Salle. These schools are proof that learning shouldn’t be taken for granted.