Last night, I was listening to Catholic radio as I was falling asleep and the host of the show mentioned about the saints that he was particularly drawn to during this particular year of grace. Indeed, the Communion of Saints is one of the most wonderful things that a Catholic can be a part of. The saints are our best friends, they are our powerful intercessors, and, above all, they are our cheerleaders on the road to our home in heaven.In God’s Holy Providence, each one of us is given saints that will guide us and help us along that road. Since each person is different, each person has different patrons. Some saints find us in the most peculiar and wonderful ways, while others have been there with us all along since the moment that we were given their names in baptism and confirmation. There are yet others that we have met in our own lives. People who have not as yet been formally canonized by Holy Mother Church, but whose holiness drew us at a particular time in our lives.
Our patrons can be housewives, mothers, children, priests, missionaries, lay brothers, nuns, bishops, cardinals, and popes. Some of them were powerful theologians and preachers like St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Anthony of Padua, while others were humility incarnate like St. Therese of Lisieux and St. John Baptist de La Salle. In every saint, there is something that calls to each of us. What that something is only God knows for sure, but we know that we will find something there.
I remember once reading a biography of St. John Baptist de La Salle last year. I had met a Brother of the Christian Schools at my college and was interested in learning more since I had never heard about this particular Order. The book that I read was a scholarly biography that focused more on what St. John Baptist de La Salle did as a teacher and pedagogue. As I read further and further in the book, I realized severak things about why St. John Baptist De La Salle had found me where I was.
First of all, I was training to become a teacher and the teaching profession is one that demands much patience and trust in God. As any teacher will tell you, it is also one in which God will entrust to you the souls of your students. It is an awe-inspiring responsibility for the teacher to form these souls so that they recognize God and His goodness.
In St. John Baptist de La Salle, I saw what the perfect teacher was: kind, gentle, quiet, unobtrusive, and yet willing to discipline if necessary. Above all, however, St. John Baptist de La Salle taught me what it means to love one’s students. Although I do not always see Christ in them, I have learned that I must love them if I am to be of any profit to them. For my love of my students is not something carnal or lustful, but it is rather the love of God shown by a sinful and worthless servant. Indeed, it is that love that transforms the hearts of the most stubborn hard-hearted students and it is the firmness with which that love is exercised that allows students to grow. As St. John Baptist de La Salle once wrote, the teacher is a mirror of God’s goodness, justice, and mercy. As a teacher, what better patron could I ask for?
Yet there is more to St. John Baptist de La Salle. He was not merely a pedagogue, but he was also a man who was able to see other people’s needs and put them before his own. When he was first approached with founding a group of teachers for young boys, the young canon was extremely reluctant to accept. He told the man that approached him that he would give money to found the school and make recommendations, but that his work would stop there. God, however, had other plans and St. John Baptist de La Salle was forced reluctantly to found a group of teachers who revolutionized the profession for centuries to come.
In his service to his teachers, St. John Baptist de La Sallle was able to put everything else aside for the glory of God. He did not sit around all day in his office and issue orders. No. He was right there in the classroom with them supervising, encouraging, and allowing them to do their work. He interceded on their behalf with cardinals and bishops. He criss-crossed France numerous times in order to establish the schools of his fast growing brotherhood. He wrote letter after letter defending his brothers and their way of life from those that believed they were much better off as clerics or priests. Indeed, St. John Baptist de La Salle was the epitome of ceaseless activity.
In my own life, I am still learning about putting others in front of myself rather than behind. Sometimes, it can be very difficult to be in your twenties and not be completely self-absorbed. Our society encourages selfishness almost from the womb and its fruit is bitter. Yet selflessness is so much better because it gives to others without asking anything at all. By giving of ourselves, we receive so much more than what we have given.
A friend of mine once said that when someone gives a hug, they receive one back. It is the same way with our life of oblation. If we sacrifice ourselves daily for Him, He will give to us beyond measure. St. John Baptist de La Salle sacrificed a career in the Church, his family, and his fortune to begin an order. Yet by giving all of this up, St. John Baptist de La Salle gained an imperishable crown from the Lord. All of this from a man that was pampered from the earliest days of his youth and whose family was from the aristocracy. Many rich young men can learn from his example.
In St. John Baptist De La Salle’s life there is yet another thread that allowed me to recognize him as one of my patrons. St. John Baptist de La Salle was a firm believer in the Providence of God. From the earliest days of his Order, he would always tell his brothers that God would provide. When the food ran out, when the bishops went against him and everything he stood for, when everything seemed absolutely lost, St. John Baptist de La Salle would always repeat over and over again, “God will provide.”
It is easy for us in this day and age to think that we can do all things by ourselves without God’s assistance. Yet we must learn to trust in His Providence. We must learn to see His will in everything that happens. In good days and bad, in times of war and peace, Our Lord’s will governs everything that happens in this world. By discerning what this will is for us and how we are to grow, we will become better people and, by God’s grace, saints.
Let us begin today with a prayer to all of our patrons to guide us and intercede for us before God’s throne. Let us ask God that He show us those patrons that we do not yet know or that He has not revealed to us. Let ask God to grant us those patrons that will be most profitable to our state in life and to our vocation. Yet above all, let us beg Him that His will be accomplished in our lives by whatever means He deems necessary.
Live Jesus in our hearts forever!
Our Lady of the Angels, pray for us!
St. John Baptist de La Salle, pray for us!