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Spirituality

Lasallians recognize that source of spirit deep within all members of the Lasallian Family and recognize that it is this spirituality that nourishes the sense of educational and vocational mission.

Lasallians continuously discover that living the educational mission meaningfully opens up ways to spirituality and awareness of the very Presence of God found in different faith traditions. Belonging to the Lasallian Family means experiencing the Absolute on a daily basis, in meeting others, in our ordinary tasks, especially when we discover the needs and talents of children and young people as well as our own.

The Lasallian involved in the work, project, or mission is called to be nourished in interiority and enriched in spirit, called to Transcendence and to sanctity in the tradition of faith and zeal for the educational mission to the children and young people begun by the Founder and the first Brothers. Lasallians are all called to nourish and share this view of interiority-spirituality, to perceive the mystery of the Divine indwelling in the midst of educational service.

A Conversation for the Lasallian Family: Deepening our Identity, September 2020

We have summarized our Lasallian Spirituality as follows:

Spirit of Faith

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Spirit of Zeal

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Spirit of Community

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Presence of God

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Love for Meditation

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Love for Scripture

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Love for Our Lady

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Love for Poor

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Love for Prayer

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Love for St. Joseph

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Love for Children

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Love for Politeness

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Love for Gentleness

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Spirit of Faith

Perhaps the strongest aspect of Lasallian spirituality is St. La Salle’s insistence on acquiring the spirit of faith. What did he mean?

In his own words we are to

look upon everything with the eyes of faith,
do everything in view of God,
and attribute all to God
.”

With this mindset we are to look upon everything in this world with the “eyes of faith,” to see all created things as God sees them. We are to do everything in order to glorify and please God and we are to accept both good and evil as coming from God!|s hands. In this way we will become more and more aware of the presence of God in our daily life, in the events of life and in other persons. We will use our senses, eyes, ears, touch, smell and taste for the glory of our Creator. We will do likewise with our gifts or talents.

St. La Salle recommends some Scripture passages to help us grow in the spirit of faith, such as

Whatever you do, whether you eat or drink, do it all for God’s glory.” (1 Cor 10:31)

and

The Lord gave, the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21)

and

Lord, increase our faith.” (Luke 17:5)

In his Meditation for the Feast of St. Stephen, La Salle sees Stephen as a model for us of the spirit of faith. After the example of St. Stephen we are to consider anything we have to suffer from other people as “gifts and benefits” of God. Only “pure faith” can inspire us to do this.

The spirit of faith helped La Salle to see street ragamuffins as children of God for whom he had personal love and concern. No wonder La Salle and the first Brothers chose the spirit of faith as the spirit of our Institute. It gives purpose and focus to our own lives and to our work with students.

Do you have a faith such that it is able to touch the hearts of your students and inspire them with the Christian spirit? This is the greatest miracle you could perform.” (Meditation 139)

Our world becomes a very interesting and challenging place when we look on it with the “eyes of faith.”

Spirit of Zeal

The other side of the coin to the spirit of faith is the spirit of zeal. According to the early Rule of the Brothers, we are to have “an ardent zeal” for the instruction of children, doing our utmost to bring them up in a true Christian spirit, in accord with the standards and values of the Gospel.

To be zealous is to be passionate or very enthusiastic about something. In our Lasallian world this zeal and passion is expressed in our service to others especially in the field of education. “Are you ardent and zealous for the salvation of your neighbour and in the performance of your professional duties?”

La Salle regarded the spirit of Zeal as so important that he includes it in his last will and testament. He also makes it one of the twelve virtues of a good teacher. He makes frequent reference to it in his Meditations and devotes two complete Meditations to this theme. (Meditations nine and ten for the time of retreat.)

Teachers above all need this spirit of zeal. To La Salle, teaching children is “the work of God” and of his Church and we are God!|s “ministers” and the “ambassadors of Jesus Christ.” We are to be the role models of all the virtues since children learn more by seeing than hearing. We are to instil moral values in the children, helping them to speak the truth, to forgive each other, to love and respect their parents, to be self-controlled, gentle, patient and so on.

The spirit of zeal also involves watching over the children with care and concern. We are to pray for them earnestly and especially for those who are wayward. We will have zeal for the good of all, rich or poor, talented or slow, believers or unbelievers.

La Salle even went so far to say that, if need be, we should lay down our lives for the children, so dear and precious are they in God’s sight.

How do we know if we have spirit of zeal? Perhaps the clearest sign is if we try to practise what we preach.

Presence of God

One of the key elements in Lasallian spirituality is the beautiful and constant reminder that we are in the holy presence of God. It is like a refrain going through La Salle’s writings:

Since God is present everywhere
have you adored him everywhere?
All you need and all God wants of you
is that you remain in his presence.

To ensure that remembrance of the presence of God was part and parcel of school life, La Salle introduced the custom of a regular invocation:

“Let us remember that we are in the holy presence of God.”

It is the custom to say this a number of times during the day. Surely a beautiful way to focus our lives.

For La Salle, all prayer begins by putting yourself in God’s presence. There are different ways of doing this. La Salle recommends these three:

” God is present just where you are, since He is everywhere. “I fill heaven and earth.”
” God is present within us, since our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit who lives in us
” God is present in the Church, as the house of prayer and of the Blessed Sacrament
La Salle sees many advantages when we try to live in God’s presence. It will help us to

” drive away all evil and even useless thoughts from our minds
” kindle in our hearts the fire of the love of God
” bring us peace of mind and heart
” give life and flavour to our spiritual exercises

And all this can be done whether we are walking about or sitting quietly.

The pratice of remembering the presence of God is our  greatest happiness, the way to allow God be master of your heart.

“Let us remember that we are in the holy presence of God.”

Spirit of Community

The religious and the school communities were at the heart of St. La Salle’s work.

Members of his Institute are to be called “Brothers” to indicate close friendship and communion among each other as well as the relationship of older brothers to their pupils. An atmosphere of brotherhood and sisterhood, rooted in mutual respect and freedom, is to be a hallmark of our schools and educational institutions. Teachers and students should really feel this atmosphere and contribute to it.

La Salle knew well the importance of a community spirit and regarded it as “a precious gem,” something to be preserved at all costs.

He also knew well what would bring division and disharmony. This included intolerant attitudes, building up hatred, bitterness or resentment, scolding, murmuring, complaining and quarrelling. La Salle also pleaded for a non-judgmental attitude, not seeing big faults in others and being unable to see our own.

Rather, in order to build up a community spirit we are to:

  • speak to everyone with kindness
  • speak gently
  • bear with the faults of others
  • develop an engaging, friendly manner
  • be mutually forgiving
  • touch the hearts of our students

Of course La Salle also realised that children need correction and that they should not be allowed to do as they wish. However, correction or punishment should be reasonable and in proportion so that the students will accept it. In this area teachers are to be kind but firm.

St. La Salle had a vision of communities of joy and happiness continuing in the next life, in the presence of our loving Father. He can therefore say that it is “impossible to please God unless we live amicably with others.”

Be a community builder.

Love for Meditation

St. La Salle had such love and esteem for meditation that he regarded it as “the first and principal” daily exercise, the one which would most likely draw down God’s blessing on us.

He himself meditated every day and often spent long hours in prayer, and often before the crucifix.

He also wrote two substantial books, one on the Method of Meditation and the other containing sample meditations for Sundays, Feast days, Saints, and for the time of Retreat.

For beginners, La Salle recommends first and foremost placing yourself in God!|s presence. Indeed your entire meditation can be made like this. You may wish, however, to move on to different acts of prayer such as acts of faith, thanksgiving, humility and so on.

For those who have been practising meditation for some time, simply resting in God!|s presence may be enough. You look at him and he looks at you.

The practice of meditation will lead us closer to God as our loving Father and he will not fail to grant us the blessings of true peace and joy.

“If you love God, prayer will be the food of your soul. You will even have a constant hunger for Him.”

In Lasallian spirituality, we are hungry for God’s presence.

Love for Scripture

Another important aspect of Lasalian spirituality is the love of scripture, the Word of God.

John Baptist de La Salle went so far that he asked the Brothers to carry around the New Testament every day and to read and meditate on it. And so our Rule says we are to “have a profound respect for Holy Scripture, especially the Gospel” and to “read and meditate on the Word of God every day.”

In his Meditation for the feast of St. Catherine, La Salle writes: “Often meditate on the words of Holy Scripture to encourage yourself to do what is right.”

St. La Salle wants us to make use of the treasure of the scriptures for our daily life. Peace, joy, praise, gratitude, sadness, desire for change; whatever is in my heart I say to the Lord in a simple and natural way.

And what about our students? La Salle asks the teachers to become so familiar with the main sayings of scripture that they will be able to “inspire” their students to follow, to behave well at all times. Scripture will also inspire us to pray constantly for our students and especially for those undergoing difficulty.

A nice summary of St. La Salle’s view of Scripture is taken from his Meditation for the Feast of St. Jerome.

“If you wish to be filled with the mind of God and entirely fit for your work, make the sacred books of Scripture your special study, and particularly the New Testament, so that it serves as a rule of conduct both for yourselves and for those whom you instruct.”

Perhaps we can make some sayings of Scripture our own?

Love for Our Lady

St. La Salle had a deep reverence for Our Lady and in his last will and testament he recommended the Brothers to have a special devotion to the Most Blessed Virgin.

Indeed, after the first General Assembly and Retreat in 1686, La Salle took the Brothers on a pilgrimage to the shrine of Our Lady of Liesse, Our Lady of Joy. There he celebrated Mass and gave out Communion and entrusted the future of the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian School to Mary. Our Lady became the Patroness of the Institute.

According to St. La Salle we are to seek Mary’s help to preserve the virtues, especially the virtue of purity. We are to imitate her virtues, especially her humility, faith and purity. We are to invoke her name whhen we are in danger, in narrow and perilous paths. We are to look upon her as the masterpiece from God’s hands.

We are also to say the Rosary every day if possible and celebrate all her feastdays with great joy and solemnity.

St. La Salle wrote a number of beautiful meditations in honour of Our Lady such as that in honour of her holy name.

In Lasallian spirituality, Mary is never far from her Son.

Queen and Mother of Christian Schools, Pray for us.

Love for Poor

Although John Baptist de La Salle was born into a well-off family, he was led gradually to associate and identify with the poor and needy. In particular the sight of poor children wandering the streets and being led astray by bad companions “deeply moved” our Founder.

He decided to do something about it and so step by step, led by God’s Spirit, he became involved in founding schools open to all but especially to the poor and not so well-off.

De La Salle’s love for the poor went further. In order to become as poor and insecure as his first teachers, he decided to give away his earthly belongings to the famine-stricken people of his native city, Reims. De La Salle and his teachers would now work together in the schools to earn their daily bread but never at the expense of the children.

In his writings, La Salle shows his deep love and tenderness for the poor.

“You are required by your work to love the poor. Look upon them as images of Jesus Christ.”

“Recognise Jesus beneath the poor rags of the children.”

And he asks us some very direct questions.

“Do you love the poor children?
Do you honour Jesus Christ in their persons?
Do you have as much care for their salvation as you have for your own?”

When it came to love for the poor, La Salle practised what he preached.

Nowadays we realise we still have the poor and needy with us, even in the midst of plenty. It is our Lasallian mission to love and help the poor and needy of whatever kind through our educational service.

Love for Prayer

With St. John Baptist de La Salle, prayer always happens when you place yourself in the presence of God.
Even if you cannot pray just tell God you cannot and then remain at peace in his prescence. To be open each day to the presence of the living God is deeply rooted in Lasallian spirituality.

But, you may ask, God never answers my prayers. To St. La Salle God always answers those who look for him.
Or perhaps we only pray with our mouths, uttering so many words. Is it possible we do not really want what we pray for? ‘When you pray, let it be with such deep humility that God will not be able to refuse you anything
you ask.’ says La Salle.

St. La Salle has much practical advice for us when it comes to prayer.

  • As soon as you awake, think of God, perhaps by using a short prayer.
  • During the day make use of short prayers to help drive away useless thoughts and to ignite the fire of God’s love. Learn these short prayers by heart.
  • Pray for your friends, for those you dislike, for your students and especially for the most troublesome ones, for those who have passed away!K
  • We will obtain all we ask for in the Lord’s Prayer if we place no obstacle in the way, since it is the noblest, the most excellent, the easiest, and most efficacious of all prayers.
  • Help your students to pray, show them how to do so. Help them to learn the !��art!�L of speaking to, about, and for God.
  • The most precious time in life is the moment you receive Holy Communion and the time immediately following. This is the time for a heart to heart relationship with Jesus.
  • When tormented by impure thoughts beg God without ceasing to deliver you from them.
  • Have respect faith and piety when using sacramentals such as holy water, holy pictures and medals.
  • Cultivate a special devotion to Our Lady, St. Joseph, your patron Saint and to all the Saints.

St. La Salle has written much about prayer. Meditations 36, 37 and 38 are devoted solely to this topic.
From his life and writings It is easy to see that he was a man of prayer. We get an insight into this when he says in a letter to a Brother, Pray often for me; I am in great need of your prayers. I will also pray for you and will try to help you in every way I can.

Love for St. Joseph

John Baptist de La Salle had a special love for St. Joseph, so much so that in his last will and testament he named St. Joseph as the Patron and Protector of our Institute.

Another indication of our Founder’s devotion is that the very first seal of the Institute depicts St. Joseph with the Child Jesus.

In his meditation for the Feast of St. Joseph, La Salle explains the main reasons why he considered love for St. Joseph so important. First, St. Joseph was !��a just man!�L that is !��holy in every way!�L and therefore fully fit to care for and guide the son of God. Second, he obeyed God’s will perfectly. !��He did not hesitate a single instant!�L to do what God required. Finally, he cared for the child Jesus and protected him from all harm.

“Take St. Joseph as your model since he is your patron. You have been made responsible for your students just as St. Joseph was made responsible by God for the Saviour of the world.”

We are, then, to treat our students in the same way Joseph treated Jesus. A tall order indeed!

The original prayers of the Brothers included a Litany to St. Joseph and had this concluding prayer:

“O God, who in your unfathomable Providence was pleased to choose blessed Joseph for the husband of your most holy Mother, grant that we may deserve to have as our advocate in heaven him whom on earth we revere as our protector, you who live and reign for ever and ever. Amen.”

Note: When the Brothers first arrived in Hong Kong in 1875, they took over a small school called St. Saviour’s but promptly renamed it St. Joseph’s College. I suspect they did so in honour of the Patron and Protector of our Institute.

Love for Children

Our Lasallian world is largely peopled with children. This is not surprising since our mission has always been to provide a human and Christian education for young people. Our love for children, then, takes the form of educational service .

The spiritual basis for showing love and concern for children may perhaps come from our moral beliefs. In our Lasallian world it comes also from the life and work of our Founder, John Baptist de La Salle.

La Salle was deeply moved by the plight of the poor children roaming the streets of his native city Reims. They were not going to school or had no proper schools to go to. They were running wild and being led astray. They were like sheep without a shepherd.

La Salle wanted to save these children and gradually he found a way by training teachers and founding well-run schools.

To St. La Salle, children, however weak, poor or wayward, were images of God and therefore were to be treasured. Each child is unique and to be treated as such. Indeed he went so far as to say: Look upon the children God has entrusted to you as the children of God himself. They were to be treated with more care and concern than the children of a King.

He went even further. A Lasallian teacher’s care and concern must go so far that you are ready to give your very life, so dear to you are the children. This reminds us of Jesus laying down his life for his friends.

In dealing with the children Lasallian teachers are to act like Guardian Angels, like Good Shepherds, like Ministers of God, like dedicated gardeners and like fathers and mothers: loving, caring, watching, preventing, encouraging and nurturing. They are to lead the children to speak the truth, to be gentle and forgiving with one another, to love and respect their parents and teachers, to read good books, to pray well. Lasallian teachers are to be straightforward in dealing with the children, not trying to impress with learned words. They are not to show favouritism and are to be especially kind to the slowest and poorest. They are never to use harsh, insulting words or any form of rough treatment.

Lasallian teachers will above all pray for their students. They will talk to God about their needs and difficulties. They will pray especially for those who are weak or wayward.

In our love for the children, however, we are to ensure that they behave well. We are to be kind but firm. For their own good, children are to corrected and reproved when they do wrong. Such correction or punishment is never to be done in anger or resentment. This is training for a morally good life.

In Lasallian Spirituality, the child, created in the image of God, is central. Whoever welcomes one such child as this in my name, welcomes me. (Mt. 18:5)

Love for Politeness

It may seem strange at first that politeness is regarded as part of our Lasallian Spirituality. Yet, St. La Salle rated this virtue highly and even wrote a whole book on the subject.

Politeness, Courtesy, Civility, Good Manners, all refer to the correct way of behaviour. For La Salle, Christian politeness is based on love for God and neighbour. We are to behave properly, not merely because this will save face, or because we fear punishment, but because we owe respect to one another. We owe respect to one another because we are all children of God and we honour God in the person of our neighbour.

St. La Salle wanted teachers and students to behave like true gentlemen, polite, courteous, modest and refined. Such behaviour would foster the spiritual and moral life of the schools. Parents and teachers should train the young to act in the right way.

Here are some ways of acting politely according to La Salle:

  • Show your respect for others in the expression of your face and eyes.
  • Speak and answer everyone with great gentleness and respect.
  • Never insult anybody and let nothing bitter or disdainful creep into your voice.
  • Never speak to anyone except with kindness.
  • Always say please, thank you, I’m sorry& as the situation demands.
  • Always use clean words, nothing suggesting indecency or impurity.
  • Tell the truth in all charity.
  • Avoid gossip.
  • Avoid boasting; your actions should speak for you.
  • Receive visitors cordially and show hospitality to honour your guests.
  • When at table, do not be greedy but eat with moderation.
  • Cleanliness of the body should be an outward sign of the soul’s purity.
  • No wonder La Salle himself was regarded as a gentleman and a Saint.

Love for Gentleness

St. La Salle was a true gentleman having been brought up to treat others with dignity and respect. He would never offend anybody in word or deed. In this he was trying to follow Our Lord who said: “Learn from me for I am gentle and humble of heart.” (Mt 11:29)

It is in this spirit that La Salle is able to say: “Never speak to anyone except with kindness, and if you fear to speak otherwise, keep silent.” For him, speaking in a gentle and friendly manner is the way to “touch hearts”.

Gentleness, kindness and tenderness are especially needed by educators. Absolute authority, a harsh, unbearable attitude in a teacher is negative and non-productive. This attitude sees the children as objects or instruments, the teacher unable to sympathise with human weaknesses.

Of course this does not mean letting the children do as they please. La Salle insists they must be corrected when they do wrong; otherwise thy will become wayward, idle and unruly. He therefore recommends that we correct the children firmly but kindly. Our zeal for what is good is always to be tempered by love and gentleness.

Like good shepherds great tenderness must be shown to those entrusted to our care. We are to help our students “to be gentle and to have a tenderness for one another, mutually forgiving as God has forgiven them in Jesus Christ.”

La Salle makes gentleness one of the twelve virtues of a good teacher. Indeed much more is written on this virtue than all the others. We are also rightly reminded that our gentleness and humility will be tested by fire. Angry or abusive words, unjust accusations, real or imagined slights, will test whether our gentleness is genuine or not.

La Salle’s approach is that we should remember Our Lord’s attitude when he was most harshly treated and also remember the words of St. Paul: “For when I am weak, then I am strong”. (2 Cor 12:10)

Some people call this “tough love”. In any case, to be firm but gentle is the Lasallian way.

Canonization