Do you ever find yourself unjustly accused of wrongdoing, at odds with the government or Church hierarchy, and even, perhaps, not welcomed among or understood by colleagues, including people who claim to be fellow Lasallians?
You're not alone!
These difficult realities were also part of the real life experience of John Baptist de La Salle, the patron saint of educators whose legacy inspires the Mission of Manhattan College!
Considering how De La Salle responded to these difficult life realities may be for you a source of hope and inspiration as you journey forward as a person of faith and zeal.
The following excerpts from the writings of Brother Luke Salm in “The Work is Yours” and from Brother Leo Burkhard in “Encounters at Parmenie” – along with the accompanying video – call to mind some of these difficult circumstances in the life of John Baptist de La Sale. They also highlight the significance of a number of De La Salle’s intentional decisions and actions that turned difficulties into redeeming realities.
- De La Salle took time for reflection and prayer (on a daily basis, and also for extended periods of time, such as a "Parmenie Retreat").
- De La Salle also confided his troubles to a spiritual counselor: Sister Louise, during his Parmenie Retreat.
Each of us is invited and encouraged to be people of faith and zeal in our contemporary place and time. As we carry on and contribute to the Lasallian legacy, perhaps during Mission Month you may wish to consider, as De La Salle did:
- The value of taking time to “PAUSE FOR A MOMENT” for our own reflection and prayer (daily and also for extended periods of time).
- The benefit of confiding our troubles, joys, and hopes with a trusted friend, counselor, or colleague.
Here's some of De La Salle's life experience.
In the process of establishing schools in his time in France, John Baptist de La Salle (1651-1719) gained prominence for the innovations he had introduced to educating the young. By 1712 there were thirty or so Lasallian schools around France and Brother Gabriel Drolin was setting up a school in Rome.
However, while the schools were well-received and achieved relative success, De La Salle was also met with great opposition — false accusations were being hurled at him, court cases were filed against him as the reading and writing masters (that is, the ‘established teachers’ of the day) saw these new schools that De La Salle and his teachers had established as a threat to their livelihood.
Father de la Chetardye, the Parish Priest of Saint Sulpice attempted to take over De La Salle’s schools. However, De La Salle remained steadfast despite this threat to the governance of the Institute, that is, the network of the schools and community of Brothers who were the teachers in the schools. De La Salle was unyielding and uncompromising.
The greatest test, however, came in 1712, or what was known as the Clement Affair. In short, De La Salle accepted a donation for a teacher training center in Saint Denis based on the promise of a certain sum of money by Jean- Charles Clement, who was then a minor under French law (not yet 25). Certain members of the Clement family contested in court the legitimacy of this gift.
De La Salle found little support, even from his own lawyers. The judges ruled in favor of the Clement family. This was a disaster for the Brothers because they had already begun the school and had taken loans to see the project through. This and his conflict with the Church hierarchy in Paris led De La Salle to flee Paris to journey to the South.
During this time of despair, De La Salle went to visit various Brothers communities from 1712 to 1714. However, even in the very places where he thought he would find a welcomed home, De La Salle was turned away.
It was only in Grenoble where he was welcomed by his own. Here, he revised the book Duties of a Christian and also returned to teaching, taking over some of the classes of the Brothers. He then took a three-day retreat at the Grande Chartreuse, a Carthusian monastery on the mountains. Here he found peace and solace and even seriously considered leaving the Institute and abandoning the project of the Schools and Communities of the teaching Brothers.
De La Salle was then encouraged by his former classmate at St. Sulpice, Father Yse de Saleon, to be the substitute director of another mountain retreat center called Parmenie. It was an old monastery from medieval times that was restored by a humble shepherdess fondly called Sister Louise Hours. She was known in Dauphiny for her holiness, hence, people sought her advice. In her, De La Salle found a kindred spirit with whom he was able to confide his troubles. He shared that he plans to leave the Brothers. However, Sister Louise was convinced that he must not abandon his vocation to work actively.
A letter dated April 1, 1714 was delivered to De La Salle at the retreat center in Parmenie. The Brothers wrote to De La Salle, whom they referred to as their Father, and called him back, to return to the care and general direction of the schools. The Brothers wrote that they were convinced that God had called and given De La Salle, the Founder, the grace and talents to govern the Institute.
In the name of the same vow that he and the Brothers took together, the Brothers called De La Salle, the Founder, to obedience and to take up once more the general government of the society.
Sister Louise challenged De La Salle to practice what he preached to others. He should no longer hesitate to accomplish what God clearly wanted him to do.
Edified by this letter and Sister Louise’s advice, De La Salle began his journey back to Paris. On August 10, 1714, he arrived in Paris and greeted the Brothers with the words: “Well, here I am. What do you want of me?”
For a brief animated video about De La Salle's Parmenie expreience, click here.
And you, what about you?
- When you may feel abandoned, unjustly accused, at odds with authorities … where is your “Parmenie”? … who is your “Sister Louise”? …
- What does God clearly want you to do … today?
- What do others need and want from you in order to serve the Common Good?
“The Work is Yours” by Luke Salm FSC
“Encounters at Parmenie” by Leo Burkhard FSC
Video from the Christian Brothers of the Midwest
Adapted on April 6, 2019 by Brother Jack Curran, FSC, PhD, Vice President for Mission at Manhattan College from the Facebook posting on March 31 at 8:50 pm by The Lasallian Mission Office at DLSU (De La Salle University, Philippines) https://www.dlsu.edu.ph/