It Changed Everything!

(Prayer offered over the Public Address system for the entire La Salle Academy educational community on Friday morning, 21 November 2014)

Let us remember that we are in the holy presence of God.

As I look back on my life, and as you look back on yours, I bet, one thing that often occurs to me is how very different things could have been.

When I was a senior at La Salle, I applied  to only one college.  What if I had not been accepted?

When my draft board, during the Vietnam Era, refused to allow me to join the Peace Corps, I hustled to get into a graduate school – and there fell in love with the woman who would become my wife, the mother of our five children.

I bet you have things like this in your life, small things, even negative things, that have helped turn you into the person you are now.

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Well, today we Lasallians around the world are celebrating one relatively small thing that has had an enormous impact on who we are today, and where we are today.  In 1691, our Founder, John Baptist de La Salle, was besieged in his effort to establish his schools.  People misunderstood him.  Others were jealous of him.  Still others, teachers, blamed him for harming their business.  Many thought that he was just “too good” to be taken seriously.  I mean, really, what sort of person gives up a comfortable and promising life to teach poor city boys?  It certainly looked as though his schools might not survive.

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De La Salle’s response was to gather his brothers for an enlivening retreat, and then, on November 21, he and two of his hand-picked best brothers pronounced what we now call the Heroic Vow.  Each one of these early Brothers vowed solemnly to do everything necessary to carry out the mission of the newly-founded schools, even if it required living on bread alone.

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This Heroic Vow is for us today both symbol and substance.  It is a symbol of determination, the same determination that the Brothers are showing today.  When I was a student at La Salle the number of lay teachers that taught me could be counted on two hands.  Today, if you have a brother in your daily routine you are mightily blessed.  But in the face of this absence of vocations the brothers have not panicked.  Rather, they have heroically trained teachers, like all those you know here, about their history, their devotion to God, their mission, their spirituality, thus ensuring that the mission will endure.

And the Heroic Vow is substance, because De La Salle’s fledgling Institute did survive those early challenges.  As we know, the Institute flourished and, as our newest first-floor mural attests, now has a presence across the globe.

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So, let us all be thankful for John Baptist de La Salle, for Brother Nicholas Vuyart, and for Brother Gabriel Drolin for the commitment they expressed on that November day in Paris some 320 years ago.  It has resulted in the spirited community we all call our own.

Let us pray.

God, Creator and Sustainer, we thank you for guiding the remarkable priest, John Baptist de La Salle, in the work of educating the young, especially the poor.  And we thank you, also, for his many Brothers, especially those who serve us in this community in Providence.  Bless them with the determination of our Founder, and bless all their associates and all their students.  Praise and glory to you always.

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St. John Baptist de La Salle, pray for us.

Live, Jesus, in our hearts.  Forever.

Michael McNamara, AFSC–Mathematics Department

You Can Do More with the Grace of God Than You Think

“Do not have any anxiety about the future,

But leave everything in God’s hands,
For God will take care of you.
Be satisfied with what you can do,
Since God is satisfied with it,
But do not spare yourself in what you can do with grace;
And believe that, provided you want it,
You can do more with the grace of God than you think.”

– St. John Baptist de La Salle

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In November of 1691, John Baptist de La Salle found himself and his group of teachers in a dire situation. At that time, he and the Brothers had established several schools that provided a Christian education to all children without regard to social class or income, but their ministry was now at risk as opposition to De La Salle’s work grew and this fragile congregation experienced harassment and lawsuits. It was a bleak moment for the struggling movement that would become the Brothers of the Christian Schools.

We might expect that this overwhelming adversity would be enough for our Founder and the Brothers to quit or give up the schools. However, it was in this new crossroads that in 1691 a strong sense of association emerged among three friends—De La Salle, Brother Vuyart, and Brother Drolin. They vowed to keep together for the sake of the mission even if all others left and they were obliged to beg for alms and live on bread alone.  Together, they would discern what was best for the “Society of the Christian Schools” and what God required of them.

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It came to be known as “the heroic vow,” a statement that radically committed these founding teachers to the work they were called to do. This “vow of association and union” pronounced on November 21, 1691, was an act of hope at a time when the work of De La Salle and the early Brothers was in serious jeopardy.

Surely these three men were fearful that all might be lost.  As those around them gave up, they must have questioned themselves and their ministry. Yet, in their dismay, they didn’t avoid their difficulties…they didn’t try to go around them. De La Salle, Brother Vuyart and Brother Drolin were steadfast. They had the courage and faith to step through their fear and into the light as they committed to each other and their shared mission.

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We all find ourselves in similar situations on that difficult road where fear and uncertainty blind our way. We face many adversities in our lives. Some of them we seem to bring upon ourselves and others seem to come out of nowhere. Some last only for a short time while others we carry for a lifetime. Either way we find ourselves asking, “Why does this have to be so hard?” “Why is this happening to me?” I am sure that these are the same questions that De La Salle and his Brothers were asking in 1691.

Is it possible that we experience these challenges and adversity because God wants more from us? Just as God knew the fruit that the Brothers of the Christian Schools would bear, He knows the gifts and talents that he has given to us even though we may not even recognize them yet. So God will push us, stretch us, prod us, and sometimes bring us to our knees in order to bring about our gifts that those around us so desperately need. So, when we find ourselves with what seems too much to bear, and we struggle to find our way, let us remember the words of our Founder, “Do not have any anxiety about the future, but leave everything in God’s hands for God will take care of you.” Trust and know that “you can do more with the grace of God than you think.”

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Let us pray…

Dear Lord,

We pray for strength as we face our own adversity in our lives. Grant us the courage and faith to step through our own fears and into your light so that we might do your will.

Let us trust in your Providence. Just like La Salle called his Brothers to see themselves as older brothers to their students, so too we are called to be mentors to those around us so we can build a community of faith and love. We are called to touch hearts and change lives like La Salle and so many Christian Brothers have done before us.  We give thanks for all the Christian Brothers and all those who teach around the world in the spirit of De La Salle.

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St. John Baptist de La Salle…Pray for Us.
Live Jesus in our Hearts…Forever.

Wynter Kelly–Dean of LSA Class of 2015

The Spirit of Spirit Week

(Prayer offered on the Public Address system for the entire La Salle Academy educational community on Monday morning, 17 November 2014)

Let us remember that we are in the holy presence of God!

Let us remember

We begin the week with these words and  we will hear these same words 40 times this week and every week of the school year.  These words, which resound through this school and every other Lasallian school around the world, remind us of the very foundation on which this school bases its existence.

Well over 300 years ago, St John Baptist de La Salle and the early Brothers spoke and wrote regularly about the schools imbuing in its students the spirit of Christianity.  This meant that not only were reading, writing and arithmetic stressed to prepare young people to live a productive life but that religion was taught in class.  More importantly, the spirit of Christianity, the living out of the Gospel message in practical ways, was highlighted in all that the students did.

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As we begin Spirit Week here this week, we pray that the spirit of Christianity, the living of the Gospel in all we do, be the handbook that is written  on each of our hearts.

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Let us pray:  Father in heaven, I give you today, all that I think and do and say. And I unite it with all that was done by Jesus Christ, your dear Son.  Amen.

Saint John Baptist de La Salle…pray for us.

Live Jesus in our hearts…forever.

Brother James Dries—Science Teacher

Go to the Margins of Society

(Prayer offered on the Public Address system for the entire La Salle Academy educational community on Thursday morning, 13 November 2014)

Let us remember we are in the holy presence of God

My best friend Kelly is an emergency room nurse in a major Boston hospital. One day, the ER was particularly busy.

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 As she scanned the waiting room for the next person she would help, she saw a man sitting among the rest of the patients that caught her eye.  He was covered in dirt and grime.  Kelly watched people recoil as they walked by him and saw tears in his eyes.  She looked at all the other people who had broken arms, sore throats, and other issues, and went over to him.  She escorted him into a room and asked him what she could do to help him.

He was embarrassed to be in the condition he was in and told her that he thought he might have a fever.  She took his temperature and it was slightly elevated.  She ordered him a shot of penicillin and began to address his real issues. She began cleaning him up, helping him out of his filthy clothes and into a shower.  She found clothes for him in the lost and found.  She grabbed 2 meals for him, one for him to eat while she was waiting for his medicine and one for the road.  As he left the emergency room, he thanked her for everything and walked out into the Boston streets.

Health Overhaul Hospital Bailouts

At the end of Kelly’s shift, she was called into the nurse manager’s office and presented with a disciplinary write-up for spending too much time with one patient and not helping her fellow nurses with the busy waiting room.  She was outraged, as was I, when she relayed the story to me.  It was only a half hour out of her day, but it made all the difference to that man.

This past Friday, I was reminded of this story when Brother Fred used a meditation from our Founder to honor the Spanish Martyrs of the Brothers of the Christian Schools with a prayer group I am a part of.

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The 9th Meditation states, “Look upon yourselves as ministers of God, carrying out your ministry with love and a sincere and true zeal, accepting with much patience the difficulties you have to suffer, willing to be despised by men and to be persecuted, even to give your life for Jesus in the fulfillment of your ministry.”

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For our Founder, for Jesus, and lately for the Holy Father, Pope Francis, in order to live an authentically Christian life, we have to be willing to risk our reputations, to go to the margins of society and to act as the good shepherd, bringing the lost sheep back to the flock.

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It’s easy to love our friends and our nice neighbors, but are we welcoming to the dirty, disagreeable, angry, hurt, and difficult people among us?  As we turn our eyes toward the Advent season and prepare for the birth of Jesus, can we have the faith of the Magi to put the poor first?

Let us pray:

Lord, help us to look beneath the rags of those we encounter in our daily lives.  Help us to see your son and our brother, Jesus in them.

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St. John Baptist de La Salle…Pray for us.

Our Lady Queen of Peace…Pray for us.

Live Jesus in our hearts…Forever.

Margaret Naughton—Campus Ministry

Just Treat Others the Way You Want Them to Treat You

(Prayer offered on the Public Address system for the entire La Salle Academy educational community on Monday morning, 10 November 2014)

Let us remember that we are in the holy presence of God.

When I was growing up, we lived on the 1st floor of a tenement house and my Nana lived on the 2nd. Every day I would spend as much time as possible with her by running outside and up her steps to see her. She was the most kind and gentle woman I knew and no matter what little problem I was having when someone wasn’t nice to me, she would always say, “Remember to just keep treating others the way you want to be treated.  You never know if that mean person has had a much worse day than you.”

Grandma Winters & Jana

I always tried to do what she said, but sometimes it was hard especially when I was teased by another teenager. I figured they were like all teenagers—they wake up each day, get dressed, collect their homework, and get to school.

That sounds typical, right?

But suppose that teenager has just done all that in the back of a car. They’ve just collected their homework from under the seat of the car where they put it before going to sleep sitting next to their little brother. At sunrise they walked to the YMCA to take a shower and get dressed. Instead of running to Dunkin’ to get a nice drink and muffin for breakfast, they skip that because they just had the last piece of a loaf of bread for breakfast.

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When the day is over that teenager walks to the library to do some homework and then meets their mom and sibling at the closest soup kitchen and they wait in line for supper. They consider themselves at least lucky enough to go back to the car and have a place to sleep inside away from the elements.

People in RI live just like this every day. This scenario is played out not because the parents are too lazy to work, but perhaps because they lost their jobs 2 years ago and cannot find full-time work. They used to make $90,000 together, but after their job loss, eventually they also lost their home. In a blink of an eye, they went from easy street to perhaps living on the street. This is a true story of a mom at a soup kitchen who was asked how she ended up there.

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There are so many homeless in RI, that there are not even enough beds.

A new shelter is being built right in St. Edward’s parish—5 minutes from here, and we have the opportunity to help them at the Dress Down Day Thanksgiving collection on Thursday.

So remember what my Nana said—just treat everyone the way you would want to be treated. There are so many who are in desperate need and we can make a big difference in their life. Wouldn’t we want someone to lend us a helping hand?

Let us pray.

The prayer of St. Theresa of Avila should inspire us:

Christ has no body but yours,

No hands, no feet on earth but yours,

Yours are the eyes with which he looks

with compassion on this world.

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May we have compassion enough to be the one who sacrifices a little so that others can live decent lives.

 

St. John Baptist de La Salle, pray for us.

Live Jesus in our hearts, forever.

Leslie Martinelli–Science Department

“To Reach a Child’s Mind, a Teacher Must Capture His Heart”

The October edition of The Kappan (published by the National Education Honor Society, Phi Delta Kappa) has as its theme Exploring Classroom Management.  In the Introduction by the editor, Joan Richardson quotes well-known child psychologist and author, Haim Ginott’s Teacher and Child: “How a teacher communicates is of decisive importance….Teachers who want to improve relations with children need to unlearn their habitual language of rejection and acquire a new language of acceptance.  To reach a child’s mind, a teacher must capture his heart.  Only if a child feels right can he think right” (p. 81).

Classroom management consists of all that the teacher does to create a positive learning environment in the classroom.  This includes fostering respectful relationships among students and between students and teacher that allow for risk-taking and failing without fear of repercussions or ridicule; building lessons that motivate the learners, that engage them in problem-solving and critical thinking, that stimulate imagination and creativity, and that relate to the life experiences and interests of the learners; designing and using strategies and procedures that enhance learning by implementing structures, organizing procedures, and establishing routines that facilitate instruction and on-task behavior.  However, above all, the key to classroom management is the person of teacher:

I have come

More than 300 years ago, John Baptist de La Salle wrote about the key principles of classroom management in a book entitled The Conduct of the Christian Schools.  In it he detailed the kind of relationships that must mark the learning environment, the kind of lessons that must be created to deal with the practical reality of the students, and the kind of organization and structure needed to make learning possible.

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However, he (like Ginott) also posited that key to classroom management was the teacher.  The teacher was to be a big brother/sister to his students; the teacher was to be a “Good Shepherd” who knew the students and was able to discern how to deal with each one as an individual.  He offered 12 Virtues for teachers to adopt as their own and to develop, 12 guidelines as it were to convert their classrooms into environments that humanize rather than de-humanize students.

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In addition, De La Salle realized that touching the heart of one’s students was central to the educational process.  Touching the heart was and is the way to capture a mind and to reach a soul.  This is the key to all education and to Lasallian education, in particular.

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Brother Frederick Mueller