This window depicts the childhood of the Saint who was born in 1651 in Reims, France. He was the first of 11 children. Three of the sons became priests, and each became a doctor of theology. De La Salle was ordained a priest on Holy Saturday in 1678. The detail of his childhood home appears in the window, and his parents can be seen on the right.
He Offers Children of All Nations to the Holy Family
Notable in this window are the extension of De La Salle’s arm heavenward, the children in native garb, and Saint Peter’s Basilica in the background, representing the worldwide character of the work of the Brothers. The cherub symbol is used to remind us of God’s presence. The garland of fruit represents the bountifulness of Divine Providence, while the face represents the fullness of life.
De La Salle’s spiritual advisers, Fathers Nicolas Barre and Nicolas Roland, were known for their work with the poor — a path that De La Salle would follow. The Cathedral of Reims, pictured in the background of this window, is where De La Salle was installed as a canon at the age of 15, resigning this position in 1683 to share in the poverty of the Brothers. The artistic detail in these windows is reflected in the vestments and the halo in the Consecration window.
The window of De La Salle teaching at Saint Yon is based on the painting by Cesare Mariani done for the Saint’s beatification in February 1888. It was presented to Pope Leo XIII and now hangs in the Vatican. Twelve years later, the Pope canonized John Baptist de La Salle, and he was proclaimed Patron Saint of Teachers on May 15, 1950. In 1705, De La Salle moved the motherhouse to Saint Yon. In the window, the Saint can be seen teaching. The sign on the wall says: “You must apply yourself in school to study your lessons.”
King James II of England was defeated at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. Supported by King Louis XIV, he took up residence at St. Germain-en-Laye, near Versailles. He asked De La Salle to establish a school for the children of his Irish followers, which was duly established in Paris in 1700. James II and Archbishop Noailles of Paris are seen here visiting the Irish children. The cathedral in the background is Notre Dame of Paris.
De La Salle distributed his inheritance to the poor of Reims during the severe winter of 1684. When his inheritance was gone, De La Salle continued to solicit aid in order to feed the poor during that winter. In the upper corners of this window are two classical images — symbols of the “Corona Civica,” the second highest honor in the Roman republic — that point not only to De La Salle feeding the poor but also to the spiritual nourishment he provides for their souls.
This window reflects the first vows taken by the Brothers. John Baptist de La Salle and 12 Brothers made the temporary vow of obedience for the first time in Reims, circa 1684, and renewed their vows after a 25-mile journey to the Shrine of Our Lady of Liesse. It is here that they stood before Our Lady of Joy and chose her as the first Superior of the Institute. A similar window in the Basilica of Liesse commemorates this event.
On April 5, 1719 in Rouen, De La Salle received the Last Sacraments. In his spiritual fervor, he leaves his sickbed to receive Viaticum. Notice the gentle solicitation of the Brother and the intensity of focus on his face. He died at Saint Yon on Good Friday, two days after receiving the Last Sacraments and two weeks before his 68th birthday.
The Glorification of Saint John Baptist de La Salle
On April 8, 1719, De La Salle was buried in the Chapel of Saint Susanne in the Church of Saint Sever across the Seine from Saint Yon. His remains were later moved to the Chapel of St. Yon in 1734. On the lower left-hand side of the window, Saint Ignatius is welcoming De La Salle to his heavenly seat of glory.
Pope Benedict XIII granted the Bull of Approbation for the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools in 1725 to Brother Timothy, the second Superior General. Brother Joseph, the 13th Superior General, portrays his image in this window. Just to his right is Brother Donatian Joseph, Visitor of New York. Archbishop John Farley is second to the right of the Pope, and just to his right is the image of Archbishop John Hughes, who was so instrumental in bringing the Brothers to New York.