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A Saint Worth Knowing ~ St. John Baptist de La Salle


The Catholic Church honours those, now in heaven, whose lives provide great examples of service to God and other people. The Church calls these people ‘saints’. One such example of a saint is, ‘St. John Baptist de La Salle’. St. John Baptist de La Salle is the founder of the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools, and also the Patron of Christian teachers. He was born in Rheims, France on the 30th of April, 1651 and died aged 67 on the 7th of April, 1719. St. John Baptist de La Salle devoted much of his life to the education of poor children in France. In doing so, he started many long-lasting educational practices. He is thought of as the founder of the first Catholic schools.

There are four stages or conditions for sainthood to be recognised by the Catholic Church. But before these stages can occur, it should be mentioned that: the process of documenting the life and virtues of a holy man or woman cannot begin until 5 years after death. This waiting period insures that the person has an enduring reputation for sanctity among the faithful. After the five years have come to an end, the Bishop of the diocese in which the individual died can petition the Holy See (The Holy See is the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Catholic Church in Rome) to allow the initialisation of a Cause for Beatification and Canonisation. If there is no objection by the Roman Dicasteries, this is communicated to the initiating Bishop. These are the 4 stages/conditions, in order.

Servant Of God

Once a Cause has begun, the individual is called a ‘Servant of God’.

Diocesan Tribunal: Informative Process

During this first phase the Postulation established by the diocese, or religious institute, to promote the Cause must gather testimony about the life and virtues of the Servant of God. Also, the public and private writings must be collected and examined. This documentary phase of the process can take many years and is brought to an end with the judgment of a diocesan tribunal, and the ultimate decision of the bishop, that the heroic virtues of the Servant of God have or have not been shown. The results, along with the bound volumes of documentation, are communicated to the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, the next phase in this stage.

Congregation for the Causes of the Saints: Positio

The bound volumes of documentation resulting from the informative phase of the process are committed by the Congregation to a Relator appointed from among the Congregation's College of Relators, whose task is to be responsible for the management of the Cause through the rest of the process. Working with a theological commission established by the Congregation, the Relator ensures that the Positio (a document or collection of documents used in the process by which a person is declared Venerable) summarising the life and virtues of the Servant of God is adequately prepared. When the Positio is finished, the theological commission votes yes or no on the Cause. This recommendation is then passed to the cardinal, archbishop and bishop members of the Congregation who in turn, vote as well. Their vote determines whether the Cause lives or dies. If the vote is positive, the recommendation of a Decree of Heroic Virtues is sent to the Holy Father, whose verdict is final.


Supreme Pontiff: Decree of the Heroic Virtues of the Servant of God

Once the person's Heroic Virtues have been acknowledged by the Pope, they are called Venerable.

Diocese: First Miracle Proposed in Support of the Cause

The remaining step before beatification is the validation of a miracle, evidence of the intercessory power of the Venerable Servant of God and thus of his or her union after death with God. Those who propose a miracle do so in the diocese where it is alleged to have happened, not in the diocese of the Cause, unless they are the same. The diocese of the candidates miracle then conducts their own tribunals, which are scientific and theological.

The scientific commission must come to a decision by accepted scientific criteria that there is no natural explanation for the supposed miracle that took place. While miracles could be of any kind, they are almost always medical miracles. These medical miracles must be well-documented in regard to the disease itself and the treatment, and also the healing.

While the scientific commission decides that the cure is without a natural explanation, the theological commission must decide whether the cure was a miracle by its nature can only be attributed to God. To avoid any question of remission due to unknown natural causation, or unrecognised therapeutic causation, theologians prefer to work with cures of diseases which occurred more or less instantaneously. This is because they, without a doubt, point to a divine cause.

The theological commission must also decide whether the miracle occurred through the actions of the Servant of God alone. If the family and friends have been praying without end to the Servant of God exclusively, then the case is demonstrated. However, if they have not only been praying to the Servant of God but to others also, then the case is clouded, and thus probably cannot be demonstrated. As a result, the task of the theological commission is two-fold, decide whether the cure was a miracle, and decide whether this miracle was due to the acts of the Servant of God. The conclusion of this is then forwarded to the Congregation in Rome.

Congregation: First Miracle Proposed in Support of the Cause

Under supervision of a bishop, the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints gathers both scientific and theological commissions. They then vote. If positive, this is transmitted to the General Meeting of the cardinal and episcopal members, whose positive judgement is then forwarded to the Supreme Pontiff.

In cases of martyrdom the miracle required for beatification can be waived. Martyrdom being understood as a miracle of grace. In this case, the vote of the Congregation would establish the death of the Servant of God as true martyrdom, resulting in a Decree of Martyrdom by the Holy Father.

Supreme Pontiff: Decree of a Miracle

With the Holy Father's approval of a Decree of a Miracle, the Servant of God can be beatified.

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Supreme Pontiff: Beatification

With the beatification rite, conducted on the authority of the Supreme Pontiff, the Venerable Servant of God is declared Blessed.

Blessed’s may receive public veneration (an act done by the clergy, or delegated laity, in the name of the Church), which is usually restricted to those dioceses or religious institutes closely associated with the blessed’s life. Beatification is not considered an infallible papal act, and so it is not yet appropriate that the entire Church give liturgical veneration to the Blessed.

Diocese: Second Miracle Proposed in Support of the Cause

After beatification, the Church looks for a second miracle before moving on to canonisation. The process of this miracle is the same as it is for the miracle which makes beatification possible. The supposed miracle is studied by scientific and theological commissions in the diocese in which it allegedly had occurred.

Congregation: Second Miracle Proposed in Support of the Cause

After the diocesan process is finished the proposed miracle is studied by a scientific and then a theological commission of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints. The vote of this commission is forwarded to the episcopal members of the Congregation whose affirmative vote is communicated to the Holy Father.

Supreme Pontiff: Decree of a Miracle

The consent of the Holy Father to the decision of the Congregation results in a Decree of a Miracle. Canonisation has now been made possible.


Supreme Pontiff: Canonisation

By the Rite of Canonisation the Supreme Pontiff, by an act which is protected from error by the Holy Spirit, elevates a person to the universal veneration of the Church. By canonisation the Pope does not make the person a saint. Rather, he declares that the person is with God and is an example of following Christ worthy of imitation by the faithful. A Mass, Divine Office and other acts of veneration, may now be offered throughout the universal Church.

If the saint has some universal appeal he may be added to the general calendar of the Church as a Memorial or Optional Memorial. If the appeal is localised to a region of the world, a particular nation, or a particular religious institute, the saint may be added to the particular calendars of those nations or institutes, or celebrated by the clergy and faithful with a devotion to the saint with a votive Mass or Office.

St John Baptist De La Salle’s Life and Service to God

St. John Baptist de La Salle was born into a very large, wealthy family. His parents, Louis de La Salle and Nicolle deMoetde Brouillet had ten children, with John being the eldest. John received the tonsure (an act of shaving the top of a monk's or priest's head as a preparation for entering a religious order) at the age of eleven. Several years later, at the age of 15, John was named the Canon of Rheims Cathedral.

After he finished school at the age of 18, he went to the College of des Bons Enfants, where he pursued higher studies and in July 1669, he enrolled in obtaining the degree of the ‘Master of Arts’. When he had completed his courses in 1670, he was sent to Paris to enter the Seminary of Saint-Sulpice (a place dedicated to the education of priests and mission work among native people’ in France). The next year, his mother died on July 19th, 1671 and on April 9, 1672, his father also died. This circumstance was a catalyst for him to leave Saint-Sulpice, which he did on April 19th, 1672.

At this point he was now twenty-one, the head of the family, and because of this, he had the duty of educating four of his brothers and his two sisters. Whilst caring for his siblings, John completed his theological studies and was ordained to the priesthood at the age of 26 on April 9th, 1678. Subsequently, two years later, he received a Doctorate in Theology.

Sisters Of The Child Jesus

The Sisters of the Child Jesus were a religious congregation whose work was to take care of the sick and educate poor girls. Father John Baptist de La Salle helped them in becoming established, and then served as their chaplain and confessor. Through his work with the Sisters, in 1679 he met a man named Adrian Nyel. What began as a charitable effort to help Adrian Nyel establish a school for the poor in their home town, gradually became John’s life's work. With John’s help, a school was soon opened.


Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools

At that time a few people lived in luxury, but most of the people were extremely poor: peasants in the country and slum dwellers in the towns. Only a few could send their children to school; most children had little hope for the future. Moved by the unfortunate situations of the poor who seemed so "far from salvation”, he endeavoured to put his own talents and advanced education at the service of the poor children who were "often left to themselves and badly brought up".

John knew that the teachers in Reims were struggling and lacking leadership, purpose and training. Because of this he found himself taking increasingly deliberate steps to help this small group of men with their work. Firstly in 1680 he invited them to have their meals at his home, to both teach them table manners and to inspire and instruct them in their work. John’s relatives found this situation very difficult to bear. In 1681, he came to a realisation that he would have to take a further measures and thus he brought the teachers into his own home to live with him. Consequently, his relatives were very disturbed and his social class was scandalised. A year later, his family home was lost at auction because of a family lawsuit, being the kind person he was he rented a house into which he and the handful of teachers moved into.

From there he began a new religious institute, the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools. The De La Salle Brothers were the first Roman Catholic religious teaching institute that did not include any priests.

In his own words, one decision led to another until John found himself doing something that he had never expected.

John’s enterprise met opposition from the church authorities who resisted the creation of a new form of religious life, a community of consecrated laymen who conducted free schools "together and by association". The educational establishment disliked his innovative methods and his insistence on gratuity for all, regardless of whether they could afford to pay or not. At any rate, he and his Brothers succeeded in creating a network of quality schools all throughout France that featured instruction in the vernacular, students grouped according to ability and achievement, integration of religious instruction with secular subjects, well-prepared teachers with a sense of vocation and mission and also the involvement of parents.

In 1685, John founded what is generally considered the first normal school in Rheims, France. That is, a school whose purpose is to train teachers.

Worn out by difficult and exhausting labours, St John Baptist De La Salle died at Saint Yon on Good Friday, the 7th of April, 1719. This being only three weeks before his 68th birthday.

Relation to Jesus’ Parables and Beatitudes and Baptism

St John Baptist De la Salle’s life relates very strongly to Jesus’ Parables and Beatitudes and also baptism.

Jesus’ Parable ‘The Two Builders’ relates very well to St John Baptist De la Salle.

Matthew 7:21-29

21 "Not every one who says to me, `Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, `Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' 23 And then will I declare to them, `I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.' 24 "Every one then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock; 25 and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And every one who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house upon the sand; 27 and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell; and great was the fall of it." 28 And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, 29 for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.

When Jesus told the parable of the builders it is believed that he had the following proverb in thought: When the storm has swept by, the wicked are gone, but the righteous stand form for ever. The kind of foundation we build our lives upon will determine whether we can survive the storms that are sure to come. Builders usually lay their foundations when the weather and soil conditions are at their best. It takes knowledge to know how a foundation will stand up against adverse conditions. Building a house on a flood plain is almost guaranteed for disaster. Jesus prefaced his story with a warning: We may fool humans with our speech, but God cannot be deceived. He sees the heart as it truly is with its motives, intentions, desires, and choices. There is only one way in which a person's sincerity can be proved, and that is by one's practice. Fine words can never replace good deeds. Our character is revealed in the choices we make.

St John Baptist de La Salle relates to this parable because he had selfless motives, intentions, desires and made his choices based on what was right and just and with the guidance of the Lord. His sincerity is proven by his actions. His saint like character was revealed in the guided, selfless choices he made to help and teach the people around him with teachings of Jesus. The other so called ‘Christian’s’ did not like his decision to make education for everyone at no cost as they were greedy human beings. Through their choices and desires, the Lord saw their true character. Not very good people. St John Baptist de La Salle was truly a good man and was seen as a good person through the eyes of God. He not only spoke of good things but acted on them as well.

The Eight Beatitudes of Jesus

St John Baptist de La Salle demonstrates the Beatitudes of Jesus very well.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,

for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

"Poor in spirit" means to be humble. Humility is the awareness that all of your gifts and blessings come from the grace of God himself. To have poverty of spirit means to be completely empty and open to the Words of the Lord. When we are an “empty cup” and lacking pride, we are humble. Humility brings an openness and an inner peace, allowing one to do the will of God.

St John Baptist de La Salle demonstrates this beatitude as he was a very humble man. He wasn’t a proud man even though he did the great things he did for the less fortunate people. He was open and demonstrated inner peace, allowing him to do the will of God.

“Be warm-hearted to everyone, speaking to others in a gentle and respectful way.” ~ St John Baptist de La Salle

Blessed are they who mourn,

for they shall be comforted.”

If we are humble and appreciate that all of our gifts and blessings come from God, we grow in love and gratitude for our Saviour, Jesus Christ. But this produces mourning and regret towards our own sins and also the sins of this world, for we have hurt the one who has been so truly good to us. One may also mourn for the suffering of others.

St John Baptist de La Salle demonstrates this beatitude because he mourns for the suffering of others. He believes that everyone in this world has a right to be educated no matter your social class. He deeply mourns that everyone does not believe this and people are uneducated and homeless because they do not have the skills and qualifications they need to attain a well paying job.

“This work of teaching is one of the most important in the Church.” ~ St John Baptist de La Salle

“Blessed are the meek,

for they shall inherit the earth.”

We have been taught that the Beatitudes build upon one another. A humble person becomes meek, or becomes gentle and kind, and demonstrates a docility of spirit, even in the face of difficulties and hardship. A person who is meek is one that exhibits self-control.

St John Baptist de La Salle demonstrates this beatitude because in the face of difficulty and hardship he demonstrated a docility of spirit. He also demonstrated this beatitude as he shows that he exhibits self control. In 1 Timothy 3:2-3 several forms of self-control are mentioned. “The overseer then must be above reproach… temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, an apt teacher, 3:3 not a drunkard, not violent, but gentle, not contentious, free from the love of money.” St John Baptist de La Salle shows these qualities.

“When you encounter some difficulty…, turn to God with confidence.” ~ St John Baptist de La Salle

“Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,

for they shall be satisfied.”

Justice and righteousness indicates the fulfilment of God's will with your heart. It is not mere observance of the law, but rather an expression of brotherly love. A continuous desire for justice and moral perfection will lead one to a fulfilment of that desire. This is true for all the virtues; if you hunger and thirst for temperance, you will head towards the goal you have in mind.

St John Baptist de La Salle demonstrates this beatitude as he tried to do what was right and just by the people of France and God. He had a desire to create opportunities for everyone, rich or poor to gain an education with a religious teaching allowing students to gain a relationship with God. Many people disagreed this as they we greedy for money and thought that people should have to pay for an education. He did what was right and just by the Lord and by himself morally.

“Young people need good teachers, like visible angels.” ~ John Baptist de La Salle

“Blessed are the merciful,

for they shall obtain mercy.”

Mercy is the loving disposition towards those who suffer distress. Love, compassion, and forgiveness towards one's neighbour will bring peace in your relationships. If we are merciful to others, our Heavenly Father will be merciful with us.

St John Baptist de La Salle demonstrates this beatitude once again by giving distressed, poor people an opportunity to gain a free education. He showed everyone mercy, love, compassion and forgiveness equally. Thus the Heavenly Father was merciful with him and he stands as an inspiration to us all.

“It is impossible to please God if you do not live on friendly terms with others.” ~ St John Baptist de La Salle

“Blessed are the pure of heart,

for they shall see God.”

To be pure of heart means to be free of all selfish intentions and self-seeking desires.

St John Baptist de La Salle demonstrates this beatitude as his life mission was to educate people with nothing in return, and this shows how he is not selfish at all and has no self seeking desires. He was a very selfless man.

“You must pray not only for yourself but also for those whom you are guiding.” ~ St John Baptist de La Salle

“Blessed are the peacemakers,

for they shall be called children of God.”

Peacemakers not only live peaceful lives but also try to bring peace and friendship to others, and to preserve peace between God and man. The Lord wants you first to be yourself filled with the blessings of peace and then to communicate it to those who need it. By emulating God's love of man, the peacemakers become children of God.

St John Baptist de La Salle demonstrates this beatitude by loving all of mankind and giving everyone an equal chance to live just as a fulfilling life as the next guy. He wanted happiness in the world with no social classes but only equality and peace. He emulated God’s love.

“By the care you take of your students show that you have a real love for them.” ~ St John Baptist de La Salle

“Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,

for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Jesus said many times that those who followed him would be persecuted. "If they persecute me, they will persecute you.” Martyr’s are strong examples of this.

St John Baptist de La Salle demonstrated this beatitude by dying of exhaustion from the hard labour of his life’s mission of bringing education and a sense of equality to the people of France.

“Are you ready to give your very life, so dear to you are the young people entrusted to you?” ~ St John Baptist de La Salle



Through the sacrament of Baptism, St John Baptist de La Salle was able to live a fulfilling life and become an admirable saint who now lives in the kingdom of Heaven with God. Through baptism he gained the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit:

• Wisdom

• Understanding

• Right Judgement

• Courage

• Knowledge

• Reverence

• Wonder and awe in God’s presence

Through these gifts he was able to live a life dedicated to God, become a saint and make the world a better place. He also could guide people to discover answers to their ‘human heart’ questions and strengthen himself to live the answers to these questions.

Relationships People Can Have with Saints and What That Can Do for Our Lives

People can have a very spiritual relationship with saints. In the same way that people can relate spiritually with God, they can also relate to saints like this. All saints, whether recognised or not, are able to pray to God for living people. Saints are our role models and they have the ‘help of Christians’’. Having a strong spiritual relationship with saints can make our lives better. This is because people who pray to saints receive many blessings in many forms as a result of their prayers and the more people begin to understand the depth and richness that spirituality can bring to their lives, the more they will want to develop spiritually. They will want the kinds of strong lasting relationships that only spiritual growth can bring. All thanks to the spiritual relationships between saints and living people.

© 2015 Shelby Rideout - Andrews

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