All you need and all God wants of you is that you remain in his presence.

  St. John Baptist de La Salle – [1]


The quotation above is from one of the few letters that we have from the thousands that De La Salle wrote.  While it is only one sentence out of a long letter – and the letter’s tone is definitely 17th century French spirituality – it represents an invitation to dwell in the presence of God that pervades all aspects of Lasallian life. This is an ongoing, recurring theme in De La Salle’s writings and a deep current of his personal spiritual life. His enduring desire was to deepen the spiritual lives of his followers and of the students who attended his schools, so that they might come to realize God’s intimate involvement in their lives, as the one who “guides all things with wisdom and serenity . . . in an imperceptible way and over a long period of time.”[2]

Remembering the presence of God was one of the “interior supports of the Institute,” showing up throughout his writings: “Are you attentive to the holy presence of God?” (List of Topics for Self-Examination)[3], “What is meant by keeping our attention fixed on God? It is to think of the presence of God.” (Explanation of the Spirit of Our Institute)[4], “When you recite the Divine Office … apply yourself as much as you can to the meaning of the words … or simply to the presence of God.” (The Divine Office)[5], “They will be inspired to enter the classroom with profound respect, out of consideration for the presence of God.” (The Conduct of Schools)[6], “At each hour of the day, some short prayers will be said. These will help the teachers to recollect themselves and recall the presence of God; it will serve to accustom the students to think of God from time to time …” (The Conduct of Schools)[7], “When they [parents and teachers] wish to train children in practices pertaining to bodily care and simple modesty, they should carefully lead them to be motivated by the presence of God.  …  Children should do these things out of respect for God in whose presence they are.” (Rules of Christian Decorum and Civility).[8]

Okay. So how might we go about this “presence of God” business intentionally? One answer De La Salle gives is interior prayer. In his book Explanation of the Method of Interior Prayer, he “defines exactly what he means by ‘interior’–the whole person in the depths of our being, the ‘heart’ in the biblical sense, where vital decisions are made and where there is real dialogue with God.”[9] It is that place of quiet depth and attention where room is made for the small still voice to be heard. It is where serenity and consciousness converge in silence. It is a mindfulness that is focused on the Spirit of Faith, “which should lead … [us] to look upon nothing except with the eyes of faith, to do nothing except in view of God, and to attribute all to God.”[10]

And why should this be something worthy of our attention today? One of the best answers came from Gery Short, a lay Lasallian partner for over thirty years and head of the SF/SFNO office of education for over twenty years – so his experience has been long, wide, and deep. When he accepted the John Johnston Award at the 2018 Huether Conference, he said:

“We must commit ourselves to firmly establish the spirit of faith as a foundational and effective reality in each and every one of our works. We must ask, how do we make prayer and spirituality, the spirit of faith, the core of who we are and what we are about? How do we make prayer and spirituality real for ourselves as educators and our students in an authentic, understandable, and deeply significant way?”

This squarely hits the mark. How do we, can we, should we remain in God’s presence today? God’s presence shines out from countless undiscovered places in our lives and in the lives of others. We don’t have to put him there. We just have to figure out how to roll the stone away.

 PDF of this reflection is HERE.
[1] De La Salle, John Baptist, The Letters, Translation, introduction, and commentary by Colman Molloy, FSC. Edited with additional commentary by Augustine Loes, FSC, (Landover, MD: Christian Brothers Conference, 1988), 233 (Letter 111).
[2] Blain, Jean-Baptiste. The Life of John Baptist de La Salle, Founder of the Brothers of the Christian Schools. Translated by Richard Arnandez, FSC. (Romeoville, IL: Christian Brothers Conference, 1983). Vol. 1, Bk. 1, 60–­­61.
[3] De La Salle, John Baptist. Collection of Various Short Treatises. Translated by W.J. Battersby, FSC. Edited by Daniel Burke, FSC. (Romeoville, IL: Christian Brothers Conference, 1993), 16.
[4] Ibid., 34.
[5] Ibid., 56.
[6] De La Salle, John Baptist. Conduct of Christian Schools. Translated by F. de La Fontainerie and Richard Arnandez, FSC. Edited by William Mann, FSC. (Landover, MD: Lasallian Publications, 1996). 49.
[7] Ibid. 92.
[8] De La Salle, John Baptist. The Rules of Christian Decorum and Civility. Translated by Richard Arnandez, FSC.  Edited by Gregory Wright, FSC. (Romeoville, IL: Lasallian Publications, 1990), 3–4.
[9] See the article by Maurice-August Hermans, FSC, and Michael Sauvage, FSC, in Spirituality in the Time of John Baptist de La Salle, edited by Robert Berger, FSC. (Landover, MD: Lasallian Publications, 1999), 207.
[10] De La Salle, John Baptist. The Rule of 1705: An English Translation. Translated by O’Gara, Eugene. (Moraga, CA: Buttimer Institute, 1989), 1.