St Brother Solomon: A La Salle Brother, Teacher, Martyr
By Bro Nicholas Seet, FSC
Nicolas Leclerq was born in 1745 in the northern coast of France in Boulogne-sur-Mer Boulogne, a major port. His family was well-off and dealt in food and wines. He studied in the same school as his father which was managed by the La Salle Brothers. As a young boy, he was fascinated by the lives of “God’s heroes” which he preferred to adventure stories. He finished school at sixteen and began his work apprenticeship hoping to be in the family business. He had written “I want to be like my teachers, the Brothers, following them in their piety, their austerity and their service to young people.”
So, he joined the Brothers at the age of 21 and took the name Brother Solomon. He started teaching at the age of 23. He sometimes had classes of up to 130 pupils, to whom he taught “reading, writing and calculus” Some of his classes included difficult teenagers, sent to the school for re-education. By the age of 27, he made final vows and later became Director of Novices. At the age of 32, he was in charge of a big educational complex, with around 1,000 students, including 150 “difficult” boys committed by the courts. By then his main work was that of administration.
Later, he was sent to Melun to teach mathematics in the teacher training centre for the Brothers. His good sense, simplicity, discretion and great ability were evident to his students, who appreciated his intelligence and skill in synthesising things and admired his perfect handwriting. In 1787, he was appointed Secretary to the Superior General, Bro Agathon.
With the French Revolution, like many of the Brothers, he refused to take the oath of allegiance to the new state. Religious congregations were abolished, and the Brothers’ schools were closed. They were driven from their houses and reduced to total poverty. In his last letter, dated 15 August 1792, Brother Solomon wrote “We bear with joy and gratitude the crosses and afflictions that come our way. As for me, I do not seem to be worthy to suffer for Him, since up to now nothing bad has happened to me, while there are so many confessors of the faith who are in difficulty.” A few hours later, he was arrested and imprisoned in the Carmelite Convent in Paris. Having been interrogated during the night, he spent his final days without any food.
On 2 September, he together with others refused to take the oath to the Civil Constitution. After that, they were taken out into the garden and were met by their killers who killed them with swords and guns. He was beatified in October 1926 by Pope Pius XI and by Pope Francis on 16 October 2016.
For more, check out the Catholic News’ coverage of the celebration of Brother Solomon’s canonization in Singapore here.