Elements of Lasallian Spirituality

Elements of Lasallian Spirituality


Brother Charles

What is the extra added something that the Catholic religion brings to the work of higher education? A little bit of insight can be gained from the way that faculty, staff, and administrators go about their work at Saint Mary’s College. The traditions of the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools give a particular color to the Catholic religion as it is lived here. Inspired by Saint John Baptist De la Salle and a three-hundred-year-old educational practice, Lasallian educators, led these days more and more by lay partners, have cultivated a distinctive spirituality, which enlivens the work that they do with their students.

Mini Buttimer
Mini-Buttimer Conference, Saint Mary’s College, June, 2017

Recently, long-time Associate Registrar Leslie Welty organized a three-day workshop attended by twenty colleagues who gathered to reflect on the history, pedagogy, and spirituality of Lasallian education. The workshop ended with a consideration of the last of these themes. Together the participants gave expression to a set of tenets of the Lasallian spirit of education. Briefly, these tenets are

  • faith and zeal considered together;
  • prayer;
  • recognition of the divinely-charged humanity of our students, especially those with disadvantaged circumstances;
  • salvation;
  • and the role of guardian angels assumed by Lasallian educators.

It is an indication of the vitality of the special grace, or charism, given to the Brothers at their founding that the workshop participants called out faith and zeal as fundamental elements of spirituality of the Lasallian educator. The original Rule of the Institute (dated 1718) describes faith as the first great gift to Brother teachers, one that induces them to look upon everything they do in their work in light of their relationship with God. Zeal, their second special gift, is a burning desire for the instruction and spiritual welfare of their students. There is a palpable liveliness present among our peers today that is a mark of these gifts of faith and the desire to teach.

Prayerfulness speaks to the way that we prepare and maintain ourselves as educators. We remind ourselves individually and corporately of God’s presence on our campus. Various forms of liturgy, meditation and occasional retreats provide opportunities for needed refocusing in the midst of the busy demands of college life.

In the language of De la Salle, his Brothers were to recognize and adore Jesus in the poor rags of the children sent to them. For us today this means really seeing our students and one another. Allowing the full humanity of those before us in the work that we do opens us to the mystery of the world charged with divinity. God entered the world in the distressing disguise of a poor. Saint La Salle wrote in his meditation for Christmas Eve, “For how long has Jesus been presenting himself to you and knocking at the door of your heart to make his dwelling within you, and you have not wanted to receive him? Why? Because he only presents himself under the form of a poor man, a slave, a man of sorrows.” For Lasallian educators, everyone has a dignity, and if the circumstances of their lives mask the divinity within them, then the urgency of our call to seek out and share with them what we have is all the greater. Sharpening our vision to see the face of God in all those in need of a quality education, especially the poor, awakens us to the holiness in all people, colleagues and visitors alike.

Lasallian educators are cooperators in the salvation of their students. We seek, through the ministry of education, to help lead our students to God—that at the end of their lives they will experience the beatific vision. But salvation touches this life also in a very tangible way. Consider the parable of the Good Samaritan and the Beatitudes. Together with our students we strive to build up the human community, ensuring for them and for all, in the language of Pope Francis, the three L’s—labor, lodging, and land.

Finally, Lasallian spirituality leads its adherents to see themselves like guardian angels for those they educate. Saint Lasalle employed the image of Jacob’s Ladder to remind his followers of their charge to go up to God in prayer for the sake of their students and to return to meet their students as brothers and sisters, speaking the same language and walking side by side in the pathways of education.

Ladder of Jacob
Jacob’s Ladder, Romania, Sucevita Monastery, 16th century

These thoughts are the results of the collective reflection born of the experiences of a group of colleagues at Saint Mary’s College. They are offered as an invitation to dialogue about the spirituality of a Catholic educator. They are offered in love.

Mini Buttimer Group
Mini-Buttimer Conference Participants, 2017

5 thoughts on “Elements of Lasallian Spirituality

  1. Dr. James Alan (Jim) Temple says:

    Dear Brother Charles,

    Thank you for writing up these comments and sharing them with all of us. It is good to be reminded of why all of us came to this place (SMC) at this time. I have been thinking about the fact that Saint Mary’s is truly one of a vanishing breed of Colleges and Universities in this country … i.e., Teaching Institutions. So many of us have been drawn to this “community” because of the passion and the zeal that animates the teaching of our colleagues and friends. Indeed, THIS is a community in which such passion and zeal does NOT “stand out” in the sense of being rare or limited to a small number of us … it is truly remarkable (to me at any rate) to be a part of a community in which such passion and zeal (and joy) characterizes many (perhaps most) of the Faculty, Staff, and Administrators (as well as our students). THIS is the place that I was looking for as a teacher … and I am grateful to have found a home here at Saint Mary’s College. I haven’t ever really realized and acknowledged what a unique place this is, and what a fantastic group of people “inhabit” and “embody” these principles. While principles themselves are relatively common (i.e., everyone has them) … living one’s life in accord with such principles (i.e., “integrity”) is vanishingly rare. I am proud to a part of a community that has made a conscious personal decision to do precisely this.

    Once again, thank you for reminding me of who and where I am! Take care and be well, my friend!

    Jim Temple


  2. Brother Dominic says:

    What a clear and wonderful expression of “who we are as La Sallians at Saint Marys” !!!!!
    It is a truly renewing and refreshing article to read and to reflect on!
    thank you for this !!
    Brother Dominic


  3. Robert Schieler says:

    Thank you for this excellent reflection on fundamental elements of Lasallian Spirituality as experience and lived at the level of higher education. My thanks to the organizer and participants.


  4. Elise Wong says:

    Mini-Buttimer is a valuable opportunity for us to journey together to remember, share, and actualize the mission of the College. Thank you!


  5. Sheila Hughes says:

    I am really grateful for having had the opportunity to participate – especially to learn more of the specific history that informs and animates our mission and current work at Saint Mary’s!


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