De La Salle lived here for roughly 18 years on the Rue St. Marguerite from 1664-1682. The house is located a few blocks from Hotel de La Cloche where he grew up, and it is still very close to the Reims Cathedral. This building is called Hotel des Postes. It was associated with mail distribution in former times. This was his home when Pierre Dozet, a distant relative, resigned his canonry (1667) in favor of the 16 year old De La Salle, when he was ordained to the minor orders (1668), and when he was awarded his M.A. degree 1669). At the age of 19, he left for St. Sulpice Paris. He returned to this house in April 1672, after the death of both of his parents.
Confiding in Roland
When he returned from Paris to take charge of the family at Reims, he sought out Fr. Nicholas Roland, a fellow canon at the cathedral, as his spiritual adviser. Encouraged to continue in his training for the priesthood, De La Salle had to journey to Cambrai in order to be ordained to the sub-diaconate and back to Paris (1676) for the deaconate . The archbishop was often away from the diocese, and that was pretty common in those days. He was ordained a priest on April 9, 1678. Throughout all this time he devoted himself to the education of his four brothers and two sisters.
Called to the Sisters
It is here that De La Salle made his first notable contributions to the cause of the Christian schools. When his spiritual advisor, Nicholas Roland, died a couple of weeks after De La Salle’s ordination, he asked De La Salle to oversee a group of sisters that he had founded and to obtain legal recognition of these sisters, the Sisters of the Child Jesus.
Welcoming Nyel & Teachers
On March 15, 1679, he met Adrian Nyel (sent to him by his aunt Mme de Maillefer), and subsequently welcomed him into this home where the family lived. Nyel was sent with the intention of opening a school in Reims, which had been her native town. At Christmas, the first teachers recruited by Adrian Nyel were given a home by De La Salle, who installed them in the Maison Ruynart in the Rue de la Grue, a stone’s throw from his own house.
At the time, a synod referred to teachers in charity schools as:
“gamblers, drunkards, libertines, ignorant, brutal, card-players in taverns, fiddlers in haunts of pleasure and at village festivals.”
Claude-Joly, the Paris Precenter, was accused of employing:
“low pot-house keepers, second-hand clothes shop proprietors, cookhouse keepers, barbers, fiddlers, flunkeys and marionette-string pullers.”
This was not a very honorable occupation, apparently, but one that De La Salle was kindly disposed towards because of his own notions and experiences.
Brothers Move into Family Home
In 1680, on the feast of Saint John the Baptist, De La Salle welcomed them to his own table, and (on the advice of Father Nicolas Barre) he welcomed the teachers completely into his own home for board, lodging and religious practice. The first Brother to die was a Brother Christophe who died in this house on May 24, 1682, in the arms of De La Salle. It was Christophe who as a fourteen-year-old assistant, had accompanied Adrian Nyel from Rouen to start the schools in Reims.
Family Home Sold
In June 1682, the house was sold due to a lawsuit by his older sister and brother-in-law, who weren’t very keen on the idea of having a bunch of rough teachers share the family house. By this time, De La Salle’s sisters and brothers had already left the house except for Jean-Louis who remained with the pioneer teachers and the company of priests who frequented the house. We do not know how many of the original group of teachers followed De La Salle to the new rented house in the Rue Nueve, but evidently there were no more than five.
- What do you think it was like to move away from everything you knew before – social circles, friends, steady income, predictability – and start something brand new in a location not far away from your previous life?
- As you read through the description of this location and its history, what strikes you as being innovative, bold, and somewhat risky? Why?
- Could you do what De La Salle did when he moved here with the Brothers? What would a radical move like this look like in your own life? And how would you be sure that it was something God really wanted you to do?