Brother George Van Grieken, F.S.C., Trustee of Saint Mary’s College, offers a reflection on the celebration of De La Salle Week. He relates his experience of celebrating the same during his time of service as the head of our school in Singapore, a predominately Buddhist nation.
Why Celebrate De La Salle?
Brother George Van Grieken, F.S.C.
Two years ago, when I was at our International School in Singapore, our Buddhist Vice Principal gave me an answer to this headline question. I had been deliberating the introduction of a first-ever student body Mass on the Feast of De La Salle, both as an educational exposure experience for the multi-racial, multi-religious student body and as a simple celebration of our educational charism.
“Brother,” she said, “of course you should have this for the students! De La Salle is the reason that this school is here, and his Catholic faith what was behind it all. We should recognize that and celebrate it.” Her encouragement was vocal, sincere, and persistent; coming from her wide experience with the school’s many aspects and from her simple, deep integrity. And so we proceeded, providing education resources for parents, teachers, and students along with a full slide-show during the Mass that helped those unfamiliar with the rite understand a bit of what was going on. The Franciscan priest was the school chaplain, a graduate, and a teacher, who knew exactly what to say when about which parts. All in all, it turned out to be very successful and has continued annually since.
The reason we celebrate De La Salle is because he continues to be such a vital touchstone for the living heritage of Lasallian education. His charismatic DNA shapes our own. His words become our words. His educational outreach calls forth our educational outreach. His compassion inspires our compassion. His challenges become our challenges. His peace brings our peace. He is the central inspirational figure in the ever-growing worldwide ministry of Lasallian education. Of course we should celebrate him!
And what drives that inspiration? Look at what De La Salle himself says: “Your work will be of little value if you do not have for your purpose the salvation of souls. … The more ardently you apply yourselves to prayer for the good of the souls entrusted to you, the more God will help you find the skill to touch their hearts.” (Med 148.2) In his usual rather stark way – not unlike my Buddhist colleague – De La Salle cuts to the heart of the thing. The value that drives us is found in bringing souls to life, to love, to wisdom. The means are faith and zeal – prayers, attitudes, intentionalities that drive the capacity for the work, the creativity, and the insights that lead others towards the deeper truths of things. “Salvation” happens from beyond the horizon of individual lives. We are partners moving towards that horizon, “cooperators with Jesus Christ in the salvation of souls.” (Med 195)
One fine way to celebrate De La Salle is to take him seriously; to read a bit of his meditations once in a while; to become aware of today’s efforts, movements, and projects throughout the million-strong Lasallian world; and to find in Jesus Christ the heart that lay so deeply within De La Salle’s own.
If all that isn’t worth celebrating, I don’t know what is.
Photos by Brother George Van Grieken, F.S.C.