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It is characteristic of the providence of God and of his vigilance over human conduct to substitute for fathers and mothers people who have enough knowledge and zeal to bring children to the knowledge of God and of his mysteries. According to the grace of Jesus Christ that God has given to them, they are like good architects, who give all possible care and attention to lay the foundation of religion and Christian piety in the hearts of these children, a great number of whom would otherwise be abandoned.
(Meditations for the Time of Retreat, 193.2. De La Salle)
Part One: Fall
In this module we will explore how De La Salle sees the Christian Schools as a means for Salvation.
Part Two: Spring
The second part of the modules focuses on Forming Master Learners to use their gifts for the common good.
Mission answers the question “Why do we exist?” Vision answers the question “What will the future look like as we fulfill our mission? What will be different?” While mission is about today, vision is about the future, what we will become.
Your mission can and should be written in a short, concise statement. It should pass the “T-shirt” test, meaning, it should be able to be printed on a t-shirt and still be readable. The vision needs to be more than a statement. It should be a description. This description may be a paragraph or a whole page. It should paint a picture of the future that will come to be as we carry out our mission.
St. John Baptist de La Salle’s 16 meditations for the time of retreat (MTR) are a collection of reflections written for the Brothers on their annual 8-day retreat, so that they might look at their way of life, get a better grasp on its meaning and orientation before God, and reconnect with their spiritual identity in the very roots of their calling. They are 16 of a total of 208 meditations that De La Salle developed and put to paper in his later years, many based on the spiritual talks he had regularly given to those in his community, especially to the novices. The Sunday Gospel or the life of a saint would be the basis for developing a topic on the spirituality, the professional work, or the community life of the Brothers. In the style of the time, each meditation consisted of three parts and ended with very direct questions that applied the content to a person’s own life. Of all the meditations, it is these 16 that especially stand out because of their profound character and content.
That God in his Providence has established the Christian Schools
193.1 First Point
God is so good that having created us, he wills that all of us come to the knowledge of the truth. This truth is God and what God has desired to reveal to us through Jesus Christ, through the holy Apostles, and through his Church. This is why God wills all people to be instructed, so that their minds may be enlightened by the light of faith.
We cannot be instructed in the mysteries of our holy religion unless we have the good fortune to hear about them, and we cannot have this advantage unless someone preaches the word of God. For how can people believe in someone, the Apostle says, about whom they have not heard anyone speak, and how can they hear him spoken about if no one proclaims him to them?
This is what God does by diffusing the fragrance of his teaching throughout the whole world by human ministers. Just as he commanded light to shine out of darkness, so he kindles a light in the hearts of those destined to announce his word to children, so that they may be able to enlighten those children by unveiling for them the glory of God.
Because God in his mercy has given you such a ministry, do not falsify his word, but gain glory before him by unveiling his truth to those whom you are charged to instruct. Let this be your whole effort in the instructions you give them, looking upon yourselves as the ministers of God and the dispensers of his mysteries.
The Heart of a Teacher...
De La Salle asks in his meditation on the Feast of Saint Peter (MF 139.3), "Do you have a faith that is such that it is able to touch the hearts of your students and inspire them with the Christian spirit? This is the greatest miracle you could perform and the one that God asks of you, for this is the purpose of your work."
The real miracle is that when we touch students' hearts, our own are touched.
After watching the video continue to step 5.
Recognize Jesus beneath the poor rags of the children whom you have to instruct; adore him in them. Love poverty, and honor the poor, following the example of the Magi, for poverty ought to be dear to you, responsible as you are for the instruction of the poor. May faith lead you to do this with affection and zeal because these children are members of Jesus Christ. In this way this divine Savior will be pleased with you, and you will find him because he always loved the poor and poverty. (MF 96.3)
De La Salle calls us to not only look at our students but see who they are.
In De La Salle's vision: when children are truly seen they are transformed
as exemplified by Elizabeth Huntley.
Liz Huntley, a successful lawyer and children's advocate, didn't start out where you might expect. Born into abject poverty, she shares the story of how a game-changing teacher set her on the right path, and challenges us to see the opportunities for us to have a similar impact in others' lives.
After watching the video continue to step 6.
"Like many of us, Jesus also believed he did not have any prejudice, until that moment when he was tested. He could rethink his borders; can we?"
Lasallian Reflection 3
The Power of a Vision....
Vision is the bridge between the present and the future. Vision is what we see, but it is also the way in which we see. Vision is the lens that interprets the events of our life, the way we view people and our concept of God. If we have a scratch on our glasses, it may seem like everybody around us has scratches too, but the problem actually lies with us because our vision is impaired. Jesus said that our eyes are the windows of our heart.
After reading the material proceed to step 7.
Conduct of Schools...
John Baptist de La Salle was not concerned solely about pedagogical training: his vision was much broader. For both the teachers and the pupils he wanted a holistic education.
Brother Leon Lauraire presents the Conduct of Schools as an overall plan of human and Christian education and to insure the implementation of the early community's vision.
After completing the reading continue to step 8.
Every Kid Needs A Champion
We end with Rita Pierson who embodies this Vision Module in her TED talk.
After watching the video proceed to step 9, the reflection for this module.
What were the Signs of the Times which De La Salle saw and needed to be addressed. How did De La Salle and the early Brothers respond to those needs? What is another example in history in which a person or group responded to the signs of the times. On flipgrid or padlet respond to the following question: What is the one thing I take away from my reflection?
De La Salle's vision was not just about earning a living but to achieve fullness of life. His vision was about a life in the spirit that inspired hope and nurtured them in making contributions to the world in which they lived.
He always told his brothers that they were here for something bigger than themselves. They were here to enrich their students through faith.
...now it's your turn.
Proceed to Step 1.
Be Thou my Vision...
Fear of failure does not have to prevent us from moving forward. De La Salle experienced significant failure: the loss of all but two of his original community; the ransacking of his schools by the writing masters; conflicts with the bishops and pastors; the death of trusted friends. But he never lost hold of the thread that propelled him forward. His vision was clear and rooted in his faith in God. Even when his faculties were taken away as he lay dying, he said: "I adore in everything God's will in my regard."
After the video, proceed to step 2.
The situation facing De La Salle in 1679 was a daunting one. Not only did the teachers not receive any special training, but their reputation was very low in social circles. To remedy this situation, De La Salle set about dealing with the problem simultaneously from a variety of angles. Using his writings and his schools as a reference, I should like to highlight in particular six of the points he targeted.
• First of all, provide new teachers with a solid formation. This formation was human, social, professional and spiritual. He set about this task with a few companions in 1679 when he first met Adrien Nyel.
• Restore dignity to the profession in the eyes of society and of the Church. Convince the teachers themselves of this and invite them to behave accordingly: dress, language, behavior, lifestyle.
• Make teachers aware of their responsibilities towards the pupils themselves, especially the poor, and their parents, society, the Church, and God himself. They were accountable for this responsibility to all of these.
• Lead them to establish a pedagogical relationship with the pupils, based on gentleness, patience, good example and vigilance. Concern and love for the pupils were at the very heart of educational and pastoral work.
• work as part of a team, within an association - a source of mutual enrichment, a guarantee of the smooth running of a school, the real origin of present-day educational communities.
• discover gradually that, as Christian teachers called to proclaim the Gospel, their profession becomes a true ministry in the Church by providing young people with a holistic education.
The Founder had understood that the success of an educational programme depends essentially on the quality of those who implement it.
The importance of Joy
To do any kind of work—and especially the demanding work of education and service—requires both external and internal resources. We need resilience and strength to persevere through challenges. And there’s nothing quite like joy to bring resilience and strength to the heart.
On Joy: https://www.mindfulschools.org/personal-practice/joy/
After completing the reading joyfully proceed to step 4.
While the vision pulls us forward...
You’re bound to make plenty of mistakes throughout your career (and generally throughout your life, too!). But the important thing is to turn those experiences into lessons, no matter what. (https://www.themuse.com/advice/8-painfree-tips-for-learning-from-failure)
De la Salle writes: In today’s Gospel Jesus Christ compares those who have charge of souls to a good shepherd who has great care for the sheep. One quality he must possess, according to our Savior, is to know each one of them individually. This should also be one of the main concerns of those who instruct others: to be able to understand their pupils and to discern the right way to guide them. (MF 33.1)
Pope Francis' advice to priests, “shepherds living with the smell of the sheep."” also applies to us.
After watching the video proceed to step 5.
Understanding the Lasallian School in the Context of the 21st Century
"The Brothers maintained their position, acquired over centuries: this was not a debate. It was to affirm what was making sense for Christian education in the schools." We continue to offer a model born from three centuries of ongoing reflective experience.
This article is excepted from the first work on the new Declaration which will be focused on Lasallian pedagogy within the context of the challenges of the 21st century due out in 2020. The commission has identified some key themes for consideration: the understanding of the school in its current context; the identity and spirituality of Lasallian Educators; the faith- culture dialogue within the Lasallian School and finally, the defense of the rights of children and young people along with the development of citizens today. Each key theme will be studied by a multidisciplinary team, and they will produce a publication that will be submitted for study, reflection, and response by the entire Institute.
After completing the reading that follows proceed to step 6.
What’s in your hands to make a difference in the world?
Education is for social change - making the world a better place. We educate leadership - change agents - for creating moral and just life. Our futures, those of educators and those of students, are interconnected. What kind of world do we hope to live in?
Dr. Artika R. Tyner is a passionate educator, author, sought after speaker, and advocate for justice. At the University of St. Thomas, Dr. Tyner serves as the Associate Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion. She is committed to training students to serve as social engineers who create new inroads to justice and freedom.
Artika Tyner ask us, "What’s in your hands to make a difference in the world?" as she begins her presentation.
After watching the video proceed to step 7.
What does a Lasallian Educator Do? by Luke Salm
Fidelity to the present moment of history and fidelity to the Founder, far from opposing or excluding each other, are closely related, provided we do not expect Saint John Baptist de La Salle to have known in advance all our problems and the answer to all our questions ... Fidelity to the specific intentions of the Founder and to the tradition of the Institute is entrusted to us as [lasallians] . It is we who carry on the task of discovering how fidelity to his charism can be lived in the present time. (Declaration, 1967)
After completing the reading continue to step 8.
We close this module with the song the Impossible Dream...
a favorite of Brother John Johnston (who during conferences would sometimes begin singing this song) former Visitor of the St. Louis District, Superior General, member of the Midwest District, and for whom the John Johnston Institute takes its name.
There were moments when De la Salle might have thought his dream was impossible but three hundred years later, we are living it.
After the video proceed to step 9, a reflection.
The Vision of the Oak
A measureless time the deepest of visions came to me
When all human voices rested in sleep
It seemed I beheld the mystery of the Wood.
It was a marvel touched with rays of golden light
Shining like jewels stretching to the four corners of the forest
Radiating throughout eternity. I observed it
Saw the fiery glow in the glory tree.
It ran through all creation a beacon of splendour
A magnificent, perfect light. And through that radiance
I was able to witness when it first began.
And as I began to grow there
The most ancient of ancient trees began to speak.
'It was long ago but still I remember
My roots at the forest's edge.
I too saw the world's edge the light of the world
Throwing out rays of perfect light
Before the sky darkened and the Earth was once again
Cast in shadow veiled under clouds.
I witnessed it all.'
Vision, strength of my oaken heart deliver this message
That my soul is urging me upwards
I hardly dare move. Gradually my solitude is relieved
But still I have to endure the sensation of longing.
The time will come for me to honour
The whole glorious creation from the canopy above
To the ground below worshiping this beacon
More than all other trees. My life's hope
Is to seek out that triumphant Wood
And become that most glorious of ancient trees.
La Clairvoyance, 1936 by Rene Magritte
Questions for reflection:
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