To fully appreciate what Jesus is up to when he sends the 70 disciples out with instructions to travel in twos, to leave their baggage at home, and to eat and drink what your hosts put in front of you, it’s helpful to remember they are sent to the poor. To the families scratching to get by, the desperate and defeated, the ones without a voice. Trust me, Jesus is saying: they will receive you, look after you, listen to you.
Saint John Baptist de La Salle did much the same beginning in 1680. He founded schools that didn’t charge a cent, supported by a community of Brothers who left their baggage at home. For the families scratching to get by, often desperate and defeated, and their children, vulnerable and voiceless. They offered their presence and the “gospel free of charge.”
Three hundred years have passed following his death, and the mission and the community he founded is now pulsing and vibrant in 79 countries. It’s been a wonderful year to ponder the question, “How in the world does a single school in a single town not charging a single sou give impetus to a global movement?”
Maybe it was the fact that they learned how to read, write and speak in their native language. Maybe it was the fact that teaching and mentoring poor kids in the skills of reading and writing opened doors that were bolted shut. Maybe it was the fact that they had reason to hope for a future of meaningful work rather than menial work. Maybe it was the fact that they learned how to speak and listen to God and understand the divine language of love and salvation as though for the first time.
Maybe it was all of this—which leads me to think that De La Salle’s purpose was one with Jesus’ purpose. To help the poor “find their voice” in the family, society and church.
Today, even if an educational mission charges tuition and fees, the sharp, prophetic edge of our founding story still calls out to us. How do we ensure that young people find their voice, especially those who are vulnerable and voiceless? And then once they find their voice, how do we guide them to use it? How do we teach them civility in the public square, compassion in their relationships, the prayer of the heart?
In Jesus we meet the presence and personality of God. God is Love. It seems to me that’s where we begin. All of our policies, protocols and priorities flow from that alpha point. This was the same starting point for De La Salle. It’s then natural to ask, “What are we up to in 2019 to ensure that this intense Love takes shape in the everyday life of our students?”
From the General Councilor’s Reflection Page
By Brother Timothy Coldwell, FSC