This Thursday, 7th April, is the Memorial – in Lent, a commemoration – of St. John Baptist de la Salle (1651 – 1710), a French priest who became famous as a teacher of underprivileged boys. Born of a noble family, he was ordained a priest at 27 and was assigned to Rheims, where he soon became aware of the needs of poor children, especially for education. He felt himself called to respond and so leaving Rheims, he gave away his share of the family fortune in order to train a group of young men as teachers, thus beginning the order known today as the Christian Brothers. John successfully introduced new educational methods, such as teaching in the local language rather than in Latin, and he established colleges for training teachers. His success in educating delinquent and underprivileged boys provoked bitter opposition from secular schoolmasters, who resented his emphasis on Christian values. Ignoring the criticism, John urged his teachers to treat their students with love and compassion, making time for them and being concerned for their spiritual well-being. In his later years, he suffered acutely from asthma and rheumatism, and died on Good Friday in 1719.