On the 300th anniversary of St. John Baptist de la Salle’s death, Pope Francis urged the Lasallian Brothers to continue their educational mission with the zeal of their founder.
“Dear spiritual children of St. John Baptist de La Salle, I urge you to deepen and imitate his passion for the least of these and the rejected,” Pope Francis told the Brothers May 16 in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace.
The pope called the brothers to bring a “culture of resurrection” into the schools where they serve, especially in contexts where the “culture of death” prevails.
“Teaching cannot be just a job, but a mission,” Pope Francis said as he described St. John Baptist de La Salle’s founding impetus.
St. John Baptist de La Salle, a 17th century French priest, established a lay community to offer a Christian education to the children of the poor that later grew into a new form of consecrated life, the “religious brotherhood,” in which “lay religious” take vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience without ordination.
Pope Francis praised La Salle’s bold reforms of teaching methods, calling him a “a pioneer in the field of education.”
La Salle was one of the first pedagogues to emphasize classroom teaching in the vernacular rather than Latin. He also divided pupils into learning groups for more effective work, set up Sunday schools for adults, and rehabilitative programs for juvenile delinquents and prisoners, Francis explained.
“He dreamed of a school open to all, so he did not hesitate to face extreme educational needs, introducing a method of rehabilitation through school and work,” the pope said.
Three centuries later, more than 4,000 Christian Brothers continue La Salle’s mission educational mission with a “preferential option for the poor” in 79 countries in conjunction with the Lasallian Sisters, Signum Fidei Fraternity, and Guandalupana Sisters de La Salle.
“Do not get tired of looking for those who are in the modern tombs of loss, degradation, discomfort and poverty, to offer new life hope,” Pope Francis said.
In addition to La Salle himself, 14 Christian Brothers have been canonized and 150 beatified. St. John Baptist La Salle is the patron saint of teachers.
“The impetus for the educational mission, which made your founder a teacher and witness for so many of his contemporaries, and his teaching, can still today feed your projects and your action,” the pope said.