Meditations for the Time of Retreat
While of course most importantly Saint John Baptist de la Salle was a saint, it is also the case that he was a very innovative educator. Moreover, he provides a classic example of reading the signs of the times in light of his faith with Jesus.
His life is filled with the rich experiences that cause one to turn to God. He had highs and lows in his life. Born into wealth, he had the available opportunities in life. Encountering the poor and allowing them to touch his heart made him a great educator and a holy man.
Spiritual Reading for Lent
And for this season of Lent, The Friar Book Club is adding the Meditations for the Time of Retreat to the selection of books we offer for this season. While Saint John Baptist de la Salle and his tory is likely familiar to Lasallians, it may not be so familiar to the rest of us.
His is a story of faith and trust in God, as the path his life took was quite different from the path his life was expected to take. Blessed by God, there were also times when it hardly seemed possible he was doing the work of God and would be blessed by God.
His story is also one where he can be seen as inspiring others. But even this had ups and downs, as brothers came and brothers went. At one point, the Christian brothers. were limited to Saint John Baptist de la Salle and two others. At the time of his death there were only 22 Christian brothers.
The book is the work of Christian Brothers who translated it and provided ample introduction to the text. This was very helpful in not only making the text available, but more importantly just like De La Salle inspiring others to learn of this powerful saint and innovative educator.
How is it the work of De La Salle has lasted more than 300 years after his death? How is it the educational innovations he pioneered are still considered innovative all this time later? This section helps to show how it is this can be true. The training of teachers, and mixing students of all backgrounds together in one classroom are only a few of the things he has done that are still considered best practice today.
It is often the case that the best of innovations occur in the midst of the darkest times. With the Church in France, and the country of France both in dire straights, the climate was surprising fertile for those who see a spiritually internal prayer life as an essential component of faith.
Every one of us is the result of a collection of relationships. Saint John Baptist de la Salle is no exception. From his good fortune of being born in a wealthy family which allowed him to be well educated, to is connection with people of faith and his study for a doctorate, Saint John Baptist de la Salle had a collection of influencers.
So this Sunday we take a break from the Mediations for the Time of Retreat in order to read a meditation written by De La Salle for the First Sunday of Lent. This is actually from Saint John Baptist de la Salle’s Meditations, and not the specific section limited to the Meditations for the Time of Retreat.
It is one thing to simply mimic the work of someone else, but another thing altogether when the contribution you make to the body of work is original. The Originality of the work of De La Salle lies in his application of spirituality specifically to the work of teachers.
To understand the French School of Spirituality it is necessary to remember that life was more than a little chaotic for France, and for the Church. Still digesting the teachings of the Council of Trent, and responding to the secular threats posed by the Enlightenment, it is easy to see why the French School of Spirituality could be harsh in its understandings between the human person and God.
The challenge for these meditations is that for a long time they were not widely circulated or known, even though they were read to the brothers on their yearly retreat. But in recent times, they have come to be seen as more important to Lasallian spirituality than originally thought.
Sometimes there is a challenge when reading theology that it can be too esoteric, too abstract, too far removed from the ordinary experience of people. Even though De La Salle was a very learned theologian, his genius was to see the needs of the times, and to alter the presentation of his theology in a way so that people could understand it.
The Purpose of the Friar Book Club
The purpose of the Friar Book Club is to make available, both to read and to listen, the texts of books. Given copyright, it is not possible for this website to provide many modern writers in this way. But the classics, being free from copyright are a great way to become acquainted with the rich tradition and spirituality that we share today.
This selection of Meditations for Time of Retreat is geared first to the community of teachers, staff and administrators with whom I work. The hope is that as they become more steeped in the charism of Saint John Baptist de la Salle, they will also find their hearts moved by the faith and zeal that comes from the Holy Spirit.
In addition to the reading of the book, it is also the case that each section will feature reflection questions. The reflection questions provide a way to help understand better the text and to apply it to your life. Happy reading!