Dr Leonard Pinto, NSW, Australia

To celebrate the traditional feast of St John Baptist De La Salle on 15 May 2023.

(The Church now celebrates his feast on 7 April, as he passed away on Good Friday 7 April 1719. Pope Pius XII declared him as the Patron Saint of all Teachers on 15 May 1950 and it became his feast day. Still his feast is celebrated on May 15 in many parts of the world)

Anthropology in spirituality may sound a self-contradiction, as anthropology is often associated with the physical and material aspects of the human being and spirituality with the transcendental. That is the case, if human existence is defined totally in a materialistic sense, as some do. But the reality that we observe in everyday life is that there are non-material elements such as life, thoughts, feelings, love, relationships, virtues, vices etc. associated with and fundamental to our human nature, difficult to define, but are true.

On the other hand, is there such an entity as ‘anthropological spirituality’, as all spiritualities necessarily must originate from human beings and the term becomes tautological? This can be explained, if the three levels of functioning of religion, (i.e. personal, social and political) are considered.  Some drives that appear as religious, but are social and political cannot be considered as spiritual (e.g. Jihad in Islam, colourful processions that entertain). Anthropological spirituality can be explained through the psychoanalytical Theory of the Unconscious of Carl Jung (1875-1961), where a collective unconscious is recognised. According to the theory, a vast spiritual heritage shared among mankind is realised in each individual in diverse forms. Jung identified our anthropological spirituality in ‘architypes’ and ‘complexes’ that are deep-seated in the individual and in the collective unconscious spirituality manifested in cultures and religions. Add to that, the philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) recognised the human conscience, the inner voice of God in human beings to determine the right from wrong and good from bad, unless and until vitiated and conditioned by the environment (e.g. media, politics, consumerism). Philosopher-Theologian, St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) identified different types of consciences in the way people reason out right from wrong and good from bad.

The anthropological spirituality refers to the spirituality that is rooted in such aspirations in human thoughts, feelings, attitudes and memories and manifested through symbols, rituals and the way of life. The anthropological aspects of a spirituality can be identified if that aspect occurs in different human cultures and religions and goes beyond the theoretical systems of belief in different religions. The goal of the anthropological spirituality is to bring sustainable happiness and emancipation of the mind, spirit and even the body from suffering.

In the history of mankind, the spiritually oriented Homo sapiens originated about 50,000 years ago. Ever since, this innate drive continued in various cultures and religions till the ideals of the Age of the Enlightenment in Europe spilled over into materialism, consumerism and secularism in the 21st century, subjugating spirituality and its accompanying sustainable happiness. Could the current increase in mental disorders, drugs, family disintegration and violence have roots in the rejection of the spiritual aspects of our collective unconscious?

This paper refers to anthropological aspects of the spirituality of St John Baptist De La Salle (1651-1719) as revealed in his writings and practices. He hailed from a rich family in France. His father belonged to a family of wealthy textile merchants in Rheims, but he preferred to be a city magistrate. His mother belonged to a rural aristocratic family. He was formed at the Seminary of St. Sulpice, educated at Sorbonne and became a priest with a doctorate in theology.

Seeing the neglect of the education of the poor and the working class, he gave up his prestigious position of Canon of Rheims and focused on the education of the working class through the religious congregation he founded in 1684 – the ‘Brothers of the Christian Schools’ (FSC). He was a visionary, as he saw the class difference in the 17th century France and attempted to raise the socio-economic status and moral values of the working class through education. The vision he perceived in the inequity of classes was perhaps not an important matter for the State and the hierarchical Church. Even the Jesuits who opened colleges in France from 1563 and produced eminent men, including Rene Descartes and Voltaire, catered for the aristocracy and bourgeoisie. Within that scenario the French Revolution (1789-1799) was inevitable. It guillotined their king (Louis XVI), queen (Marie Antoinette) and over 10,000, reduced the temporal powers of the Church and popularised anti-clericalism in France. Following the revolution, the congregation that De La Salle founded was dissolved with other religious orders by a degree of the National Assembly. In 1804, Napoleon I accepted the congregation once again and the French government formally recognised it in 1808. Starting from France, De La Salle Brothers spread out to the world, and today there are about 3000 Brothers running over 1100 schools, colleges, universities, technical colleges, Boys Towns and other social welfare and educational institutions with their lay counterpart. At present, they run 64 universities. The Congregation of the La Salle Sisters was founded in 1966 in Vietnam amidst the war (1962-1975) and spread to USA, Australia and Thailand. Another congregation, Hermanas Guadalupanas de La Salle founded in Mexico has Sisters serving in Latin America, Africa and the Philippines. During the life time of St John Baptist De La Salle, the congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Child Jesus founded by Fr Nicolas Roland in Rheims was handed over to De La Salle by him as he died young.  

St John Baptist De La Salle’s spirituality was influenced by the Spirituality of the Council of Trent (1545-1563), the spirituality of the French abstract (mystical) school (L’Ecole Abstraite) and the incarnational spirituality. De La Salle adopted the spiritualities of St. Francis de Sales, St. John Eudes, Pierre de Bérulle, Charles de Condren and Jean-Jacques Olier that were prevailing in France at that time. He was also influenced by the Imitation of Christ spirituality from the Netherlands and mysticism of Spanish Carmelites, St Theresa of Avilla and St John of the Cross. He did not develop a new spirituality. His genius was in adopting the existing spirituality to create a spirituality for Christian teachers. The themes of his spirituality were, we are called by God to be co-workers in building the body of Christ in God’s presence by the action of the Holy Spirit and by our total abandonment to his will. Education of the poor and the working class was to be carried out in association with the other Brothers and in the service of the Church. The spirit of the congregation was the spirit of Faith and Zeal, enriched by interior life of prayer, meditation, asceticism, obedience, faithful observance of the Rule and the balance of their religious vocation with their professional work.

St John Baptist De La Salle made a significant contribution to education in the following areas: (1) democratisation of education and made it available to the poor and the working class, (2) introduced simultaneous teaching in a classroom instead of individual tutoring, (3) revolutionised the medium of instruction from Latin to vernacular French, (4) introduced  practical subjects instead of classics (5) pioneered Technical Schools and Teacher Training Schools, (6) emphasised moral education, disciplined values and good manners and (7) wrote texts on guidelines on the conduct of schools, decorum and civility and duties to God.

His spirituality has the following characteristics of the anthropological spirituality.

  1. Presence of God (Divine Milieu)

Even today as then, classes in La Salle schools begin with the prayer, “Let us remember that we are in the Holy Presence of God.” Then the students reflect in silence for a moment. The prayer ends when the leader says, “Live Jesus in our hearts” and the class responds with “forever.”  First it is living in God’s presence that is recalled and then it is a complete personal and a collective union with the divinity of Jesus. In the spiritualities of Christian saints these two elements are common and take diverse forms (e.g. Nature in St. Francis of Assisi and in Little Things in St. Thérèse of Lisieux). It was a time when Christian devotional spiritualities were proliferating in France, but Lasallian spirituality was focused on fundamental beliefs in Christianity – God (theocentric) and Jesus (Christocentric). Experiencing God’s presence and uniting with him have an anthropological foundation in the history of religions.

Fr. Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955), a Jesuit priest and a palaeontologist articulated this anthropological aspiration of exploring divine presence (Divine Milieu) in contemporary terms as he described God’s creative presence in the universe in the term cosmogenesis, and God within us in the terms noögenesis and ultra-hominisation, and the unity of diverse races in the term Omega Point in Jesus. In the Phenomenon of Man he explained that chemical and biological evolution is possible within faith, as matter becomes conscious in the transformation of atoms to molecules, molecules to organs, organs to organ-systems and organ-systems to organisms. Another Jesuit, Fr Georges Lemaître (1894-1966), a cosmologist and a physicist, proposed the theory of expanding universe (i.e. Big Bang as opposed to Einstein’s static universe), purely on scientific basis, but with some bearing on cosmogenesis.

If we move out of the Christian theological and spiritual sphere into the anthropological domain of Hinduism, we find the experiencing God’s presence and union with him to be fundamental to Hinduism. For a religious Hindu, the purpose of life and the final achievement is the complete union of one’s atman (spirit) with Brahman (God). Hindus try to achieve this union frequently through rituals, symbols, yoga, transcendental meditation and occasionally through Hindu philosophy contained in the Vedas.

While in polytheistic ancient religions, god was identified in many creatures (e.g. Sumerian, Egyptian cultures) and personified in humans (e.g. Hinduism), in monotheistic religions such as Judeo-Christian and Islamic religions, one God who is not a creature is identified and worshiped. In Judeo-Islamic religions, reverence, awe, fear, mercy and strength are drawn from him, more than in attempting to unite with him. While all people encounter God through their experiences, Christians experience God’s presence within the framework of their theology – i.e. the wisdom, energy and power of God driving the universe, yet he is loving and merciful as a personal father, and we derive our ethics from this absolute good, just, truthful and loving God. It appears that from a human perspective, the conceptualisation of God has anthropogenic roots. We have only an incomplete picture of God.  

  1. Trinity Sunday

In his spirituality, St. John Baptist De La Salle gave special importance to the Holy Trinity. First, he pronounced the vow of obedience for a year on a Trinity Sunday in 1686. Then with 12 Brothers he pronounced the vows of association, stability and obedience on the Trinity Sunday of 1694. In uniting with God, it is with the Triune God that the Brothers were urged to unite and make their commitment to God. In 1726 when the Institute was recognized by Rome, vows of poverty, chastity and obedience became mandatory. In the 20th century the Brothers pronounced the vows of poverty, chastity, obedience, association and service to the poor on a Trinity Sunday in keeping with the Lasallian spirituality, and in the 21st century priority was given to association, as it gives meaning to the other traditional vows. 

In the history of Christianity, the Christian God was defined as Triune God by the Council of Nicaea (325 AD), Council of Constantinople (381 AD) and Council of Ephesus (410 AD). Although some terms in the creed sound archaic (e.g. Nicene Creed – “is seated at the right hand of the Father”…), the functions associated with the persons of the Trinity have an anthropological meaning. God’s creative function was associated with God the Father, the redeeming function with God the Son (Jesus) and purifying function with God the Holy Spirit. Creativity, liberation and purification are human aspirations deeply embedded in our human nature. We are creative in looking for new things; new births, new ideas, new projects, new jobs and new events that bring us happiness. We like to be redeemed or liberated from burdens; cure from sickness, children’s settlement in marriage, completion of a difficult task and achieving milestones. We like purification of self; a bath, a clean record, a clear conscience and a not-guilty verdict.

These anthropological aspirations are not unique to Christianity, for in Hindu anthropology the same functional divinities are reflected in the Trimurthi. The three deities in the Hindu Trimurthi are Brahma the creator, Vishnu (or Krishna) the preserver (redeemer) and Shiva the destroyer (purifier). They are analogous to the creator, redeemer and purifier in Christian Trinity. By emphasising the union with Triune God, John Baptist De La Salle touched on the spiritual side of human nature, to provide human fulfillment and bring sustainable joy and happiness to the Brothers in the conduct of their daily duties.

  1. Spirit of Faith

At the core of Lasallian spirituality is the Spirit of Faith, which goes beyond the limits of Faith. Faith refers to matters that we believe as in the creed. The Spirit of Faith is a much deeper and a broader concept. In the Rules for the Brothers he wrote, “The spirit of this Institute is first, a spirit of faith, which ought to induce those who compose it not to look upon anything but with the eyes of faith, not to do anything but in view of God, and to attribute everything to God.” He took quotations from scripture to support the Spirit of Faith during challenging periods. He also referred to the traditions of the Church and lives of the saints to strengthen this faith. Going back in history to ancient sacred texts and role models have some reference to Jung’s ‘collective unconscious’ reflected in ‘archetypes’ and ‘complexes,’ and would have enriched the concept of Spirit of Faith.  In the revised Rule of 2015, the text has been made conducive to the trends in theology and spirituality of the current times, although in essence, the sentiments have remained the same.

There are two aspects of anthropological spirituality that is demonstrated here. (1) God is interposed between self and the object of perception or sphere of activity with a high level of ‘sublimation’. In some Lasallian schools, at the end of class periods the prayer, “I shall continue O my God to do all my actions for the love of thee” is said, which brings God and love into actions of the teacher and the pupils. (2) a strong sense of ‘detachment’ is proposed, which provides joy in the midst of challenges, hardships and sufferings. Without being sadistic, fanatical or spiritually excessive, one can perceive that human nature seems to derive spiritual happiness out of these two aspects.

For early Greek philosophers, the purpose of life was happiness or eudaimonia. For them, happiness had a material and non-material dimension, which is obvious. Buddha’s enlightenment was to find a way to overcome unhappiness, a form of double negation in search of happiness. For the Greek philosophers in the West and Buddha in the East who lived around the 5th century BC, the non-material or spiritual happiness was more important than the temporary happiness that generates from possessions and physically stimulated pleasure. In the eastern philosophy, the illusory nature (maya) of the material world is a central theme that dictates the worthlessness of attaching to non-existing things. The mind is then directed to the reality of life and understanding of dhamma.

The western philosophy turned into materialism; physical pleasure and happiness in the possession of the material world. The naked body became a source of happiness in the art of the Renaissance. Science and technology drove the intellectuals to a narrow reductionist way of thinking over the holistic understanding of the divine. Following the physical materialism of Epicurus, atomism of Democritus and the positivism of Auguste Comte, modern atheistic scientists began to dogmatise that what cannot be tested, cannot exist. This is notwithstanding the fact that DNA occurred on earth long before it was tested by Miescher in 1869 and its structure elucidated by Watson and Crick in 1953. Technology isolated us in to selfish individualism. We became prisoners in our own scepticism. Further, we began to think subjectively and discarded responsibility in morality by fabricating the noble concepts of Freedom and Rights into extremely selfish notions of ‘my freedom’ and ‘my rights’ with no concern for the other (i.e. including the foetus, spouse, children and the society). As God does not interfere with one’s freedom, it is in order to decriminalise certain activities that are traditionally considered to be immoral. But it is wrong to glorify them as they have deep roots in the human anthropology, history, biology and religion. The Bible articulates anthropologically and theologically the collapse of societies that glorified in traditional immorality, as depicted in the stories of the Tower of Babel, Sodom and Gomorrah and the captivity in Babylon. 

During the time of De La Salle there was also a heated theological debate on man’s free will and God’s grace in human redemption between the Protestants and the Catholics, between the Dominicans and the Jesuits, and more specifically between the theology of Bishop Cornelius Jansen (Jansenism) in Belgium and Rome. Finally, Pope Innocent X in 1653 condemned Jansenism as a heresy. With a doctorate in Theology, De La Salle must have been interested in the debate, but he advised his Brothers to keep away from Jansenism in obedience to the Church, and just focus on Christian school education.

In the 21st century, Christian schools face a major challenge from atheism, proposed by the intellectuals of the West (e.g. Friedrich Nietzsche, Bertrand Russell, Richard Dawkins, Michael Onfray etc.) and taught in most western universities. Atheism has limitations and flows both in its conceptualisation and in its application. The ontology of atheism is based only on the existence of a physical world, its epistemology only on science & reason and its axiology on values derived from the majority view on good and truth (i.e. a subjective view). The ontology of theism is based both on a physical and a non-material universe (a more comprehensive and realistic view), its epistemology on both science & reason plus revelation (i.e. encompassing science, reason, anthropology and theology), and its axiology on values derived from an ideal on good and truth based on deontological ethics (i.e. an objective view). Modern philosophers may reject the ‘objective’ good and truth as akin to Plato’s idealism, but its methodology is analogous to critical analysis and falsification of scientific method of Karl Popper. The ethics of atheists are based on fragmented justifications and personal preferences, lacking in holism. The axiological values of the atheist are convenience, maximum pleasure, vice made to appear as virtues and the total denial of the potential to do evil by humans (i.e. sin). They claim that morality is decided by majority view, and as such they attempt to change the majority view through TV, radio, internet, social media, politics and the legislation (e.g. In Australia the equality of same sex marriage, attempts of LGBTQ to supress counselling therapy to confused children questioning their gender and the Safe School Program of NSW Education Department to make it easier for children to change gender). On the practical side western society has seen a degradation of social moral values and an increase in sexual liberalism, casual sex, homosexuality, unfaithfulness in marriage, divorce, drugs, mental disorders and suicides.

Although De La Salle advised his Brothers to keep away from the new ideas coming from the Age of the Enlightenment, and continue to teach Catechism in a Spirit of Faith, the world view (weltanschaunng) on religion and social paradigm on what we believe had changed significantly, particularly in the West. Today’s Catechism needs to take counter measures to protect the reverence for life as it is challenged by abortion and euthanasia laws and the sacredness of marriage as it is undermined by the so-called same sex marriage and its equality with traditional marriage. Anthropologically, historically, culturally and spiritually we humans entertained reverence for life, considered marriage as a profound human encounter between the opposite sexes of our species and brought stability and true love to the spouse and the children in the family. Religion became a medium through which we derived tranquillity of the mind and the platform that set the standards to moral values. As they are anthropological human drives, they appeared in diverse cultures in the human history of mankind, and superbly in the Holy Bible.  

In the East, Buddha’s Enlightenment had detached itself from the materialistic Enlightenment of the West.  It consists of realisation of four noble truths: that (1) life comprises unhappiness (dukkha), (2) unhappiness originates from the craving for pleasure, (3) the craving can be eliminated, and (4) elimination is through a disciplined path made into a habit. To support Buddha’s postulates, erudite monks of the 5th century AD developed such Buddhist philosophical concepts as the illusory nature of the world (maya), impermanence (anicca) of everything and the folly of attaching to self, as self is non-existence (anatta) and explained the world in terms of the five aggregates (skandhas), dependent origination (patticca sammuppada), universal laws of existence (dhamma) and so on.

La Sallian spirituality as in Buddhist Philosophy, recognises the transitory nature of matter, illusions of the world, impermanence of cravings and surpasses its temporary pleasures, an anthropological spirituality common to both. Thereafter, La Sallian spirituality turns to God, Jesus and scripture with a strong positive spirit of faith, while Buddhism turns to dhamma, as it denies the existing of God. La Sallian spirituality is more positive today than then, realises the divine milieu in the world and accepts it, while rejecting the evil thereof. The Brothers are in a world, where God is present in every moment of their lives and they experience his divine presence in whatever they see and do.

Spirit of Zeal

In the Rules for the Brothers, St John Baptist De La Salle wrote, “Secondly, the spirit of their Institute consists in an ardent zeal for the instruction of children and for bringing them up in the fear of God…”  For De La Salle, Zeal was the praxis of the Spirit of Faith. Unlike the monastic monks and hermits, who spent their lives in prayer and meditation for personal holiness alone, La Sallian spiritually leads reflection into action and faith into zeal. The action is not in the administration and governance of the Church, parish work or dispensing sacraments, but in the education of children, particularly the marginalised and the mischief makers. On the meditation on St Stephen he wrote, “this is how faith should make you act and how you should make known by your conduct, as (he) did, that you are true disciples of Jesus Christ, having only God in view in all your actions, and announcing with as much boldness and intrepidity, as he did, the maxims of the holy Gospel. In all this what should strengthen your zeal as well as your faith is the fact that you announce these truths in your position as ministers of God.” He wanted the Brothers to touch and win the hearts of students and lead them to Jesus, as they are with them the whole day.

Brothers had taken zeal in educational very seriously, opening schools in every habitable continent, currently over 1100 schools including 64 universities. Their quality of education is so good that property developers in some Asian countries have invested in “La Salle” colleges adjacent to their subdivision developments. In other countries “La Salle” has become a trade name and a franchise in education, as developers had requested “La Salle” name for the schools they built with royalty offers. Unfortunately, in some other Asian countries, their schools were taken over by the governments with socialist policies (e.g. Myanmar and Sri Lanka) as their schools were better run than State schools. In the present time, their zeal in education is expanding in the midst of a secularised, pluri-religious and multi-cultural world, transforming the society in to accepting truth, moral values and humanism. They take special consideration of the marginalised and the vulnerable, who fall by the wayside in the global socio-economic struggle in competition.

  1. Community of Brothers

Living in communities has been an anthropological behaviour among human beings since the paleolithic man emerged in the Pleistocene. Humans have learnt in the history of mankind the value of living in communities, both for physical and mental support and enrichment. In the Jungian psychology, it would be a positive aspect in human mind contained in our collective unconscious and transferred to us for good mental health and a happy life. Hermits and monks in early Christianity, yogis, sadhus and sages in Hinduism and Vanavasi monks in Buddhism live solitary lives in union with the unfathomable or exploring the dhamma. From the 2nd century BC, Essenes, a Jewish sect in Qumran (Israel) lived an ascetic monastic community life, sharing possessions, praying, eating and working together. Later in the history of religions, monasteries and convents emerged. St Benedict (480-547AD), the Father of western monasticism who contributed to the upgrading of the European civilisation through scholarship, education, agriculture, construction and medicine, also introduced monasteries to Europe. His motto, ‘Ora et Labora’ (pray and work) praxis is analogous to the La Sallian faith and zeal praxis, within the structure of the community.

A unique feature of the congregation that De La Salle founded with respect to the structure of the Church is the fact that he excluded priesthood from the congregation. At the assembly in Reims in 1686 with his band of teachers, they decided to call themselves ‘Brothers.’  When Brother Henri L’Heureux, who was preparing for priesthood died suddenly in 1690, he took it as a sign from God that there will be no ordained priests in the congregation. He discouraged the Brothers from wearing priestly garments or studying Latin that would take the focus away from education. But he guided them to be involved with children’s activities in the church, such as singing with them.

He believed in consultation and consensus with the Brothers in the spirit of the community. In 1716, he invited the Directors of 22 communities in France to come to an assembly to review and revise the Rule of 1705. In the Rule of 1718, they agreed to repeat the old text in Chapter 3 on community life as follows.  “A true spirit of community will always be shown and maintained in this Institute. All the exercises will be performed in common from morning to evening”. In the Meditations, he wrote, “Since God has given you the grace of calling you to live in community, there is nothing that you should more earnestly ask of him than this union of mind and heart with your Brothers… Deepen within yourself the spirit that in community you should live anew the spirit of the first Christians, who were of one heart and one soul…The way to maintain union in a community, in spite of all these different personalities, is to bear up charitably with the defects of one another.”

Anthropological aspect of the community living may have added to the spiritual aspect to make the education mission of the De La Salle Brothers a successful venture in the modern world.

  1. Mental Prayer

Prayer and meditation are anthropological phenomena as they occur in all religions. Prayer is directed to God in religions where God is a central belief, as in all monotheistic and polytheistic religions. In the real or virtual human liberation, God’s power, love, compassion and mercy are recognised in the meditating mind. Absolute values and standards in ethics are reflected in God, mirroring them in one’s life. In non-theistic religions, meditation is directed to mindfulness, and the mind explores the non-existence of its very self (anatta) and the impermanence of beings (anicca) in an illusory world (maya), bordering on fatalism and nihilism, yet finding meaning in worldly possessions and the desire for Nirvana beyond this world through a series of rebirths. Monks, yogis and sages spend considerable time in meditation,

St John Baptist De La Salle realised the importance of meditation to his Brothers, as much as the Church services and dispensing sacraments are important to priests. Everyday Brothers spend more than an hour in mental prayer, besides their vocal prayers and participation at Holy Mass.  De La Salle wrote several books on the method of mental prayer and subject matter for meditations, that included Meditations for Sundays and Feast Days and 16 meditations for the Time of Retreat.

According to De La Salle’s method, the beginner in mental prayer starts it through Multiple Acts, and as he progresses acts become few, and more time is spent on affections. Those who are advanced in mental prayer use the Simple Attention method, with no acts and no mental ‘words,’ but simply experiencing God. In Christian spiritual books, the former approach is referred to as mediation, where the person speaks to God, and the latter as contemplation, where God speaks to the person as one remains silent. In the Christian tradition, both are considered as mental prayer.

In the methodology of St John Baptist De La Salle’s meditation, there are three (3) parts; first two with nine acts (9) each, and the third with three (3) acts, totalling up to 21 acts. Multiple acts keep the beginner engaged in meditation. The first three acts of the 1st Part, places oneself before God, considering his universal presence, in us or in the church. The other acts of the 1st Part refer to how one should feel in God’s presence. The 2nd Part takes the mind to a specific subject, a mystery, a virtue or a maxim. To provide subject matter for the 2nd Part on Sundays, feast days and during the time of retreat, he wrote meditations with three points for each meditation. The 3rd Part ends with a review, resolution, thanksgiving and an offering. Thus, the Lasallian mental prayer is continued to the day and into life, analogous to the Faith-Zeal praxis. The spirituality that runs throughout his meditations is the spirituality that prevailed in the 17th century France.  Some of the favourite themes of that spirituality are theocentricity, Christocentricity, human person before God and the actions of the Holy spirit.


The congregation that St John Baptist De La Salle founded about 340 years ago amidst challenges from State authorities, tutors who lost their students, the Church (Cardinal Louis Antoine de Noailles-removed him from the office of superior and Archbishop of Rouen suspended him from his priestly functions near his death) and his own Brothers who abandoned him, the congregation has flourished in to a global gigantic pillar in Christian education. Besides the quality education and academic excellence in Lasallian colleges and universities, he laid the foundation for the catechetical movement and in training lay catechists, an aspect realised in the life of the Church after Vatican II in the 1960s. Its success is attributed to the vision of the founder and the spirituality that he introduced to his Brothers.

To those who believe in God, this is indeed the work of God. To those who don’t believe, it is an inspiration that grew from within the heart of John Baptist De La Salle. It flowered in to the spirit of faith and zeal and produced a rich harvest. One can also discover the anthropological aspects of his spirituality that would have contributed to the success of the De La Salle Brothers. That itself may have been the divine plan.


I am grateful to Bro Henry Dissanayake of Colombo District for reviewing this paper on the life and works of St John Baptist De La Salle. I also wish to acknowledge the long animating discussions I had with Basil Fernando, the Founder of Asian Human Rights Commission, Hong Kong, in comparing and contrasting the concepts and outcomes of the spiritual, supernatural and the meditation based on the body, including yoga and transcendental meditation.


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Document ID :AHRC-ETC-001-2023
Countries : World
Date : 05-05-2023