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Jean-Baptiste de La Salle

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John-Baptist de La Salle

Portrait of Saint John Baptist de La Salle
Priest, Religious, Founder and Confessor
Born(1651-04-30)30 April 1651
Reims, Champagne,
Kingdom of France
Died7 April 1719(1719-04-07) (aged 67)
Rouen, Normandy
Kingdom of France
Venerated inRoman Catholic Church
Beatified19 February 1888, Saint Peter's Basilica by Pope Leo XIII
Canonized24 May 1900, Saint Peter's Basilica by Pope Leo XIII
Major shrineSanctuary of John Baptist de La Salle, Casa Generalizia, Rome, Italy
FeastChurch: 7 April
15 May (General Roman Calendar 1904-1969, and Lasallian institutions)
AttributesBook, Christian Brothers' habit
PatronageTeachers of Youth, (15 May 1950, Pius XII)
Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools
Lasallian Educational Institutions
School principals

Jean-Baptiste de La Salle (/ləˈsæl/) (French pronunciation: [ʒɑ̃ batist la sal]; 1651 – 7 April 1719) was a French priest, educational reformer, and founder of the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools. He is a saint of the Catholic Church and the patron saint for teachers of youth. He is referred to both as La Salle and as De La Salle.

La Salle dedicated much of his life to the education of poor children in France; in doing so, he started many lasting educational practices.


La Salle was born to a wealthy family in Reims, France, on 30 April 1651. He was the eldest child of Louis de La Salle and Nicolle Moet de Brouillet. Nicolle's family was a noble one and operated a successful winery business; she was a relative of Claude Moët, founder of Moët & Chandon.[1]

La Salle was tonsured at age eleven on 11 March 1662,[2][3] in an official ceremony that marked a boy's intention, and his parents offer of their young sons, to the service of God.[4] He was named canon of Reims Cathedral when he was sixteen,[5] and at seventeen received minor orders.[2] He was sent to the College des Bons Enfants, where he pursued higher studies and on 10 July 1669 he took the degree of Master of Arts. When De La Salle had completed his classical, literary, and philosophical courses, he was sent to Paris to enter the Seminary of Saint-Sulpice on 18 October 1670. His mother died on 19 July 1671 and his father on 9 April 1672. This circumstance obliged him to leave Saint-Sulpice on 19 April 1672. He was now twenty-one, the head of the family, and as such had the responsibility of educating his four brothers and two sisters. In 1672 he received the minor order of subdeacon, was ordained a deacon in 1676, and then finally completed his theological studies and was ordained to the priesthood at the age of 26 on 9 April 1678.[6] Two years later he received a doctorate in theology.[3]

Sisters of the Child Jesus[edit]

The Sisters of the Child Jesus were a new religious congregation whose work was the care of the sick and education of poor girls. The young priest helped them become established and then served as their chaplain and confessor. It was through his work with the Sisters that in 1679 he met Adrian Nyel. With De La Salle's help, a school was soon opened. Shortly thereafter, a wealthy woman in Reims told Nyel that she also would endow a school, but only if La Salle would help. What began as an effort to help Adrian Nyel establish a school for the poor in La Salle's home town gradually became his life's work.[7]

Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools[edit]

Statue in the Church of Saint Jean-Baptiste de La Salle, Paris, France

At that time, most children had little hope for social and economic advancement. Moved by the plight of the poor who seemed so "far from salvation" either in this world or the next, he determined to put his own talents and advanced education at the service of the children "often left to themselves and badly brought up".[5]

La Salle knew that the teachers in Reims were struggling, lacking leadership, purpose, and training, and he found himself taking increasingly deliberate steps to help this small group of men with their work. First, in 1680, he invited them to take their meals in his home, as much to teach them table manners as to inspire and instruct them in their work. This crossing of social boundaries was one that his relatives found difficult to bear. In 1681, De La Salle decided that he would take a further step and so he brought the teachers into his own home to live with him. De La Salle's relatives were deeply disturbed; his social peers were scandalized. A year later, when his family home was lost at auction because of a family lawsuit, De La Salle rented a house into which he and the handful of teachers moved.[8]

La Salle decided to resign his canonry to devote his full attention to the establishment of schools and training of teachers. He had inherited a considerable fortune, which he could have been used to further his aims, but on the advice of a Father Barre of Paris, he sold what he had and sent the money to the poor of the province of Champagne, where a famine was causing great hardship.[9]

La Salle thereby began a new religious institute, the first one with no priests whatsoever among its members: the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools,[5] also known as De La Salle Brothers in Europe Australasia and Asia, and the Christian Brothers in the United States. The institute is sometimes confused with a different congregation of the same name, founded by Edmund Ignatius Rice in Ireland and known in the USA as the Irish Christian Brothers.

One decision led to another, and La Salle found himself doing something he had never anticipated. La Salle wrote:

I had imagined that the care which I assumed of the schools and the masters would amount only to a marginal involvement committing me to no more than providing for the subsistence of the masters and assuring that they acquitted themselves of their tasks with piety and devotion ...[3] Indeed, if I had ever thought that the care I was taking of the schoolmasters out of pure charity would ever have made it my duty to live with them, I would have dropped the whole project. ... God, who guides all things with wisdom and serenity, whose way it is not to force the inclinations of persons, willed to commit me entirely to the development of the schools. He did this in an imperceptible way and over a long period of time so that one commitment led to another in a way that I did not foresee in the beginning.[10]

La Salle's enterprise met with opposition from ecclesiastical authorities who resisted the creation of a new form of religious life, a community of consecrated laymen to conduct free schools "together and by association". The educational establishment resented his innovative methods.[9] Nevertheless, La Salle and his small group of free teachers set up the institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools which is, according to the La Salle website, entirely dedicated to the Christian education of the "children of artisans and the poor", in a life close to that of the Catholic religious.[11]

In 1685 La Salle founded what is generally considered the first normal school, a school whose purpose is to train teachers, in Reims.[12]

Worn out by austerity and exhausting labour, La Salle died at Saint Yon, near Rouen, on Good Friday 1719.[13]


Relics of John Baptist de La Salle in the Casa Generaliza in Rome, Italy

Pope Leo XIII canonized La Salle on 24 May 1900 and Pope Pius X inserted his feast in the General Roman Calendar in 1904 for celebration on 15 May. Because of his life and inspirational writings, Pope Pius XII proclaimed him Patron Saint of All Teachers of Youth on 15 May 1950.[13] In the 1969 revision of the Church calendar, Pope Paul VI moved his feast day to 7 April, the day of his death or "birth to heaven", his dies natalis.


Statue of Jean-Baptiste de La Salle, De La Salle University, Philippines

La Salle was a pioneer in programs for training lay teachers. Of his writings on education, Matthew Arnold remarked: "Later works on the same subject have little improved the precepts, while they entirely lack the unction."[14] His educational innovations include Sunday courses for working young men, one of the first institutions in France for the care of delinquents, technical schools, and secondary schools for modern languages, arts, and sciences. The LaSalle University says that his writings influenced educational practice, school management, and teacher preparation for more than 300 years.[15]

The Lasallian schools form a 300-year-old network[16] following La Salle's principles. Many schools are named after La Salle, and several streets, often near a Lasallian School, are named after him. Since the 1980s increasing numbers of cases of sexual and physical abuse of children, covered up by authorities, in institutions of the Catholic Church[17] and others[18] have been reported. Cases of physical and sexual abuse of children in Lasallian educational institutions, and failure to investigate, report, and subsequently protect children have been investigated, admitted,[19][18] and apologised for.

In 2021 the International Lasallian Mission website stated that the Lasallian order consists of about 3,000 Brothers, who help in running over 1,100 education centres in 80 countries with more than a million students, together with 90,000 teachers and lay associates.[20]

Asteroid 3002 Delasalle was discovered in 1982 and was named after De La Salle.[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Van Grieken, G. (1995). To Touch Hearts - Pedagogical Spirituality and St. John Baptist de La Salle (Doctoral dissertation). Boston College, Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.
  2. ^ a b "In the Footsteps of De La Salle".
  3. ^ a b c  Graham, Matthias (1910). "St. John Baptist de la Salle". In Herbermann, Charles (ed.). Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 8. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  4. ^ Knight, Kevin (2020). "Tonsure". CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA. Retrieved 9 June 2021.
  5. ^ a b c "St. John Baptist de La Salle", La Salle.org
  6. ^ "La Salle, Ireland, Great Britain, and Malta".
  7. ^ Wanner, R., Claude Fleury (1640-1723) as an Educational Historiographer 1975 "No survey of French education in the seventeenth century would be complete without reference to the educational work of Jean-Baptiste de La Salle."
  8. ^ "John Baptist de La Salle: His Life and Times", Signs of Faith, Winter 2000, De La Salle Institute Archived 17 July 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ a b "St. John Baptist de La Salle", Lives of Saints, John J. Crawley & Co., Inc.
  10. ^ Koch, Carl (1990). Praying with John Baptist de La Salle. Saint Mary's Press. pp. 49–50. ISBN 9780884892403.
  11. ^ "Saint Jean-Baptiste de La Salle". La Salle France. 2016. Retrieved 21 January 2019.
  12. ^ "Discover the Priesthood", Diocese of Jefferson City, Missouri at the Wayback Machine (archived October 29, 2013). Archived from the original on October 29, 2013.
  13. ^ a b "Saint Jean-Baptiste de La Salle", nominis.cef
  14. ^ "Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 8.djvu/513". Wikisource. Retrieved 14 April 2019.
  15. ^ "History", La Salle University
  16. ^ "De La Salle: Institutions and Activities". lasalle.org. Archived from the original on 1 June 2009.
  17. ^ "Hundreds of priests shuffled worldwide, despite abuse allegations". USA Today. Associated Press. 20 June 2004.
  18. ^ a b Hart, A. R.; Doherty, Geraldine; Lane, David (20 January 2017). Report Chapters. Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry. ISBN 978-1-908820-91-4.
  19. ^ Molly Eadie (21 July 2021). "Latham man says he was sexually abused by teacher". Troy Record. Archived from the original on 5 November 2018. Original date 23 September 2014, updated 21 July 2021.
  20. ^ "The International Lasallian Mission". La Salle Worldwide. Archived from the original on 28 February 2021. Retrieved 11 May 2021.
  21. ^ "(3002) Delasalle = 1942 FG = 1959 LB = 1963 SC1 = 1965 AY = 1979 HU5 = 1980 TG11 = 1980 VB1 = 1982 BR3 = 1982 DM4 = 1982 FB3 = 2001 YG140". International Astronomical Union. Retrieved 27 October 2021.

Further reading[edit]

  • Salm, Luke (1996). The work is yours : the life of Saint John Baptist de La Salle (2nd ed.). Christian Brothers Publications. ISBN 978-1884904080.
  • Van Grieken, George (1999). Touching the hearts of students : characteristics of Lasallian schools. Christian Brothers Publications. ISBN 9781884904189.
  • Koch, Carl; Calligan, Jeffrey; Gros, Jeffrey (2004). John Baptist de La Salle : the spirituality of Christian education. Paulist Press. ISBN 978-0809141623.
  • Calcutt, Alfred (1994). De La Salle : a city saint and the liberation of the poor through education : a figure for our times from the age of Louis XIV. De La Salle. ISBN 978-0952139805.

External links[edit]