- Historical event:
- 7 April 1719
- He noted that local teachers were very poor and deprived, so he began to invite them to take their meals in his home, where they acquired better table manners, and further educated them. The saint's family objected to this, because the teachers were from a lower social class. But La Salle then even asked the teachers to live in his house, which caused a scandal.
St. John Baptist de La Salle died on this day in 1719.
He is remembered as the man who did so much in the field of education that he was even proclaimed the patron saint of those who are engaged in the teaching profession. He was born in the time of the famous French King Louis XIV, who was known as the “Sun King”, and died less than four years after the death of that king.
The de La Salle family was rich and respected in the French city of Reims – an important center of the famous Champagne region. The city is famous because the French kings were crowned in its cathedral. Interestingly, his mother’s maiden name was Moet, which is the name of the family famous for being the producers of champagne. St. John Baptist de La Salle was the oldest of seven children.
When he was about 20 years old, both of his parents died within a single year. So, already at the age of 21, he found himself at the head of the family, responsible for the education of four younger brothers and two sisters.
After he completed his theological studies and was ordained to the priesthood, little by little he became involved in education. Namely, he participated in an endeavor to establish a school run by nuns, and there he gained some experience in the organization of education. Soon, another wealthy woman in Reims wanted to start a school and asked La Salle for help.
Eventually, he became strongly committed to improving education. He noted that local teachers were very poor and deprived, so he started inviting them to take their meals in his home, where they acquired better table manners, and further educated them. The saint’s family objected to this, because the teachers were from a lower social class. But La Salle then even asked the teachers to live in his house, which caused a scandal. The house was taken from him in a family lawsuit, after which he rented another house and moved there with the teachers.
With time, the community in which he and the teachers lived grew into a religious institute. They were given the name of “Fratres Scholarum Christianarum” or “Brothers of the Christian Schools” (“Christian Brothers”). Interestingly enough, it was the first Catholic organization dedicated to education whose members were not priests. La Salle was dedicated to the education of teachers themselves, and founded a school dedicated to training them. He died at the age of 68, on Good Friday, which fell on this day in the year 1719.
John the Baptist de La Salle was declared saint in 1900. Today, the organization that he founded participates in the education of around 900,000 students in approximately 1,000 locations in 84 countries around the world.