The 11th Meditation
The obligation of the Brothers of the Christian Schools to reprove and to correct the faults committed by those whom they are charged to instruct
203.1 First Point
We might not think of things this way, but how specifically is zeal made real? For De La Salle, one way is through correction. This is not an easy thing for any of us to do. We can find ourselves afraid to correct because we ourselves need correction. But if the goal of Lasallian education is the salvation of those we teach, then it becomes quite important for us to be willing to correct the types of behavior that does not lead one to be saved.
De La Salle uses examples from the life of Jesus to demonstrate this truth. In anger he drove out the money changers. He challenged the Pharisees for “their hypocrisy and false piety, much less their pride, which led them to esteem and praise their own actions while belittling and blaming the behavior of others.”
For De La Salle, this correction was not about power. He really consistently saw the role as teaching, which is the root of the word discipline. The teaching of the correction would in fact be an invitation for the students to reflect on their behavior and ultimately to improve it. “The reproofs and corrections give them time to reflect on what they have to do and cause them to watch over themselves in order not to keep making the same mistakes.”
203.2 The Second Point
De La Salle was both a great theologian and a great psychologist. Why do I say this? Well, his theological knowledge is evident throughout his writings. In this meditation, he recognizes that human beings sin because we are broken. We are, because of our brokenness, predisposed to sin. We call this predisposition concupiscence.
Children even more so need to be taught. So too do we. Because of our brokenness, the bad can seem good and the good can seem bad. This is why we need wise teachers to help us. Wise teachers, or a spiritual director can help us to see the presence of God more clearly in our lives and enable us to embrace the good in our choices.
There is an even stronger insight from De La Salle in this section. Uncorrected sin, or bad actions, become bad habits, which are more difficult to correct. Even more so, bad habits can ensnare us in sin to such a degree that we lose almost all our freedom. We become ensnared in our sinfulness. This is quite the sad situation.
And so, the goal of all discipline is to lead the one disciplined into greater freedom. Rather than being enslaved by sin, the grace of God offers freedom. This is why all discipline is about teaching. “To do this, you need to have two qualities in your relationship with them. The first is gentleness and patience. The second is prudence in your reproofs and corrections.”
203.3 The Third Point
There is a legal concept called in loco parentis. Essentially this states that institutions and caregivers have instances where they act in the place of the parents, and therefore have a higher level of responsibility. Long before this was an established legal concept, De La Salle recognized this as an important spiritual concept for the brothers.
And for De La Salle, as an important spiritual concept the stakes could not be any higher. Because so many of the children in the Lasallian schools of his day were without any supervision from their parents, the spiritual concern was to be most critical. If the children were not corrected and led to a life of faith by the brothers, their salvation could be at risk. And so the brother that did not appropriately model this behavior, and correct the students when needed was putting his own eternal soul at risk.
Writes De La Salle, “He has entrusted you especially with the care of their souls, which is what God had most at heart when he made you the guides and guardians of these young children.”
Questions to Ponder
How is it you seek to correct bad behavior in yourself? In others?
What are the biggest difficulties in correcting those entrusted to your care?
How do you see these teachings of De La Salle being applied today?