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Edmund Rice and His Christian Brothers

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 1 2

Christian Brothers school days

Irish education

Children of Ireland who benefitted from the teachings of the Christian Brothers

Edmund Rice founded the Christian Brothers in the old school days and they wreaked havoc on the children of Ireland for many years (too many years).  Doubt that it was his intention for his fellow men to be so cruel, yet cruel is the word that sits best with them. Many a child could not sit for days after an encounter with the leather strap of a Christian Brother.

Edmund Ignatius Rice was his full title and he was an Irishman who was born in 1762 and died in 1844. Edmund spent a great portion of his life dedicated to the Roman Catholic faith and to devising teaching programs for young children. His doctrine is still followed today by Christian Brothers or Presentation Brothers throughout the world. 

There was a couple of times when Edmund was nominated for sainthood (it’s a bit like the Oscars) but the Pope is unlikely to make him a saint, with the Christian Brothers getting so much bad press around the globe. The first attempt for him to become saint Edmund was as far back as 1911 and another attempt was made in 1993. In 1993, Pope John Paul II named Edmund as Blessed Edmund Ignatius Rice (a sort of stepping stone to sainthood). He will not get too many votes from ex Christian Brother pupils in Ireland.

My Ode to Edmund

It is entirely possible that Edmund was a good man and lived a good life caring for young children but the disciplinarian methods used by his followers leave a bad taste in the mouth. This is an Irish poem which I have written about his crew and it just about sums up the Christian Brother movement. 

Edmund Ignatius Rice

Was not so very nice

Neither were the others

His so-called Christian Brothers

Twas always they who bate

The children of our state

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Christian Brothers motto

Rice devoted his life to charitable work and to training teachers, who themselves, would dedicate their own lives to educating children, albeit using corporal punishment. Edmund's ideas on educational training became popular and many schools sprang up bearing his hallmark. The Christian Brothers were thus founded in Ireland and a unique fact is that a layman, Edmund Rice, founded the order. The Christian Brothers motto, taken from the Bible (Job 1: 21) (King James Version)[1] is as follows: -

'And said, Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD’ 

Christian Brother and the Nuns schooling

Ireland's Industrial Schools

Christian teaching in Ireland

Not at all sure how (Job 1: 21) fits with Christian teaching and slapping young boys with a leather strap but who knows. I never heard these words when I attended the Christian Brothers, although the ‘Lord’s prayer’ was drummed into me. One of the strangest things, I have found about the Christian Brothers is that they take a vow of celibacy. I disagree with celibacy in any religion, but Edmund Rice himself was married and had a daughter. It seems that they have rules for one and not for the other (or order). It is a great pity that the Christian Brothers have all been tarred with the one brush, as I am sure that some good people do exist within the order, such as Brother Yun shown below. 

Chinese Christian



Oct 14, 2011 1:57pm
A great review Tom. Enjoyed the history.
Oct 14, 2011 5:25pm
Thank you for the comment and visit. I am glad that you enjoyed the Brothers history. Those who lived through their teaching are unlikely to forget them too easily.
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  1. Bible Job 1: 21. Unknown: Unknown, 1900.

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