De La Salle (1651-1719) was from a wealthy French family, orphaned in the midst of attending seminary. As the eldest, De La Salle was made executor of his father's estate and guardian of his younger brothers and sisters. The movie opens with him and his family in their lavish home and a layman asking him to help set up a school for the poor in Rhiems. As De La Salle commits more and more of his own personal resources to helping educate the poor (as well as teaching teachers to be teachers), he begins to move from being a Courtier Churchman to being a helper of all, educating the poor and rich alike. Once he starts on this path, he never looks back!
The movie is not glitzy, glamorous or even very high tech. Done probably in the 1960s (although I couldn't find an actual date), this movie does its best to tell the story of this man who put others first ... this man who discerned God's will for himself and did it ... this man who ignored the criticism of family and friends to help all people learn! This is a cozy, "Sunday-afternoon family movie" type of movie. It tells a great story (some bit of truth-stretching for story-telling's sake) of a great man.
Mel Ferrer becomes this humble priest, with loving eyes and actions throughout. The viewer has a sense the Ferrer truly understood De La Salle's theology and philosophy -- not playing the role too high-brow or insipid. Fernando Rey starts the movie as a young, tough, street kid and ends up as one of De La Salle's most active brothers. The rest of the cast -- all European actors -- add wonderful support to the movie.
One thing you can always count on with Ignatius Press videos is the booklet that they package with the DVD. The booklet included in this movie includes a detailed biography, information about De La Salle's teaching philosophies (or "pedagogy") , and an overview of the Christian Brothers today (with website links for further information).
Thanks, Ignatius Press for republishing this wonderful look at a man many teachers, especially Catholic school teachers, should try to emulate!
You can purchase this DVD here.
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