To Go To The Margins

(Prayer offered on the Public Address system for the entire La Salle Academy educational community on Tuesday morning, 15 May 2018–Feast of Saint John Baptist de La Salle)

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.  Happy Feast Day!

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

May 15th is a very special day throughout the Lasallian world.  It is the day on which we Lasallians celebrate our Founder, Saint John Baptist de La Salle.

On this day in 1950, the Catholic Church declared him the Patron of all Teachers, having named him a saint fifty years earlier in 1900.

This saint is pretty special to this school as well—we are named after him; his statues stand at the top of the stairwell near Room 213 and in the Campus Ministry Center; a brief pictorial biography graces the walls of Heritage Hall near Room 111; his picture is in many classrooms and offices; his name is invoked and called upon to pray for us many times during the day.

From studying about him, most of you know how he was born into a wealthy family, became a priest, lost both parents while in his late teens and became responsible for his brothers and sisters; how he helped with a school for poor boys, got more and more involved in helping to instruct the teachers how to best teach; how he founded more and more schools throughout France; how he experienced some successes and many failures; and, how he left a legacy of schools and Lasallians throughout the world.

We know that during his life he made a series of choices that led him out of his comfort-zone, that moved him beyond what he thought were his personal limits, to go to the margins, so to speak.  And that is his charism, the gift left to those who follow him.

But, we might ask—so what?  Does his charism, his spirit still live on or is he just a dead saint whom we politely remember?

Well, his charism lives on in Brother Andres Porras, a young Brother from Mexico who left his teaching position and his homeland to go to Lebanon to help found a program for refugee children from war-torn Syria and Iraq—a program that, after only a few years, services close to 500 children and their families at 2 sites in Lebanon.  He left his comfort-zone and went to the margins!

And the charism lives on in Brother Bill Firman, an older Brother, who left his native Australia and his chief administrator’s position to answer the call to start a teacher training school in South Sudan—a war-torn area in one of the poorest countries of the world.  Despite the violence, poverty and hunger the college trains native teachers.  He left his comfort-zone and went to the margins!

Closer to home, Brother Lawrence Goyette  took a similar risk 25 years ago, leaving his position as a teacher, to found the first San Miguel School here in Providence, a school to serve middle school age boys who needed an educational chance.  Hundreds of young people are now Miguel Men and Women here and across the country because Brother Lawrence allowed De La Salle’s charism to inspire him.

And even closer to home Ms. Maggie Naughton and Ms. Amanda Proulx, former Religion teachers and Campus Ministers here at La Salle, left the comforts of home—Ms. Naughton to travel across the country recruiting Lasallian Volunteers to serve in Lasallian schools that work with large numbers of poor kids and Ms. Proulx to go to Australia, Papua New Guinea, and Pakistan to work with young Lasallians.  The Charism is alive in them!

So too the charism lives in our teachers, coaches, counselors, Campus Ministers, Deans, Administrators, activity moderators, nurse, cafeteria workers—people who go to the margins, beyond the “simply required”—to advise an athlete who is struggling or to encourage a fledgling actress to try out, to provide help before or after school to a student afraid of failing or to help a Senior choose a college, to guide a student through a tough time at home or to work with a group of students to plan Spring Fest, to comfort a student grieving a loss or to cook breakfast for a Kairos Retreat!

Or maybe we look to you our students—those who leave their comfort-zones, give up a vacation, and take a chance to go on a Mission Service Trip to the Mexican border or to the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, or those who work at Breadlines or Mary House or Amos House or at Kennedy School or at Fruit Hill, or those who give up an evening to run a Christmas or Easter Party at McAuley Village, or our De La Salle Middle School students who visit Scalabrini Villa for the elderly.  How about our Seniors who leave their comfort-zone to go on Christian Service and deal with Alzheimer’s patients (among other service sites) or our Best Buddies members dealing which physically and mentally challenged young people!  How about the student who comforts an ill classmate cradling his head in his lap, or gives a hug to a classmate hurting from a broken relationship, or willingly shows a visitor where to go, or takes a chance to try out for a team or a play or to raise a hand in class—or the student who shares something about him or herself on the PA in morning prayer or risks planning an event like Intercultural Night!  Yes, there is much evidence that the charism of Saint John Baptist de La Salle lives on, that his faith and zeal continue to inspire us to take risks, to leave our comfort-zones, to go to the margins, to go beyond what we might think are our own personal borders or limitations.

And so we pray, paraphrasing the words of Father Greg Boyle, the Founder of Homeboy Industries:  Lord, help us to go to the margins—not to make a difference, because then that’s about us; but rather to go to the margins so that the folks at the margins will make us different.  Amen.

Saint John Baptist de La Salle…pray for us.

Live Jesus in our hearts…forever.

Brother Frederick Mueller, FSC