St. John Baptist De La Salle
John Baptist de La Salle was born of a noble, well-to-do family in Reims, France, in 1651. Hence he received a good education. As a young student he felt the call to be a priest and even became a Canon of Reims Cathedral at the early age of sixteen. While studying for the priesthood in Paris, he suffered the loss of both his parents. Since he was the eldest of the family he had to return home to look after his brothers and sisters. However, the call to priesthood was very strong and he later returned to the seminary and was ordained priest at the age of twenty seven.
After a short time working as a priest, he noticed the lack of education for poor boys.
Their parents could not afford to send their sons to school. The parents had to work all day while their children roamed the streets of Paris, becoming involved in petty crime. To John Baptist they seemed far from salvation.
John Baptist de La Salle was a man of great vision and intellect, enriched with a deep faith and in ardent zeal. He was also a practical man, a man of action.
He knew that God loved these poor children and was calling on him to express this love in a practical manner. He realised too, that a basic education would help these children contribute to the good of society and lead them to salvation. He therefore set about taking these boys off the street by finding good teachers and establishing schools. The boys were taught how to read, write and compute. They were also taught how to pray, to receive the sacraments, to behave politely and to respect each other.
His reputation grew rapidly and in time, many young men, inspired by his vision and work, joined him.
He gathered them, as a small community, in his own house, gave them some basic teacher training and sent them out to teach. He faced opposition from his family, from some members of the Church, and from established schoolmasters but he carried on believing his work to be the work of God.
St. John Baptist De La Salle’s Life Story