Let go and let God …

Yesterday’s reflection focused on the parish and the young worker, indeed a timely reflection for me. I have been reading some of the stories told through the government report on the underpayment of workers in Australia and it has left me distressed. The committee behind the report gathered evidence from around Australia, including evidence of the underpayment of young workers. One regional organisation reported that 65% of the young workers being assisted by them reported wage theft issues impacting their lives. 

A young worker’s life is about more than just the wage they are paid. In yesterday’s reflection, a quote from a talk given by Fr Joseph Cardijn highlighted “the dangers to which they [young workers] are exposed” and he named areas of their lives where they are tempted to be less than themselves. Cardijn said on another occasion, “Left to themselves, young workers cannot possibly recognise their own dignity and fulfil their mission. They are incapable of understanding it with no one to help them, form them and uphold them.”

When I think about the young workers I see at Mass every Sunday evening, I wonder, “What does my parish do to help them, form them and uphold them? Our parish priest has invited them to form a young adults group. Some have responded to the invitation. And some have undertaken to be leaders in the youth group that meets after the evening Mass every other Sunday. This is an action that has flowed from the group that has been formed by him.

Cardijn committed his life to accompanying young workers and training young leaders as apostles to the workers. His faith in Jesus motivated him and he sought to communicate with young people about the centrality of Jesus in their vocation as workers. He said of them in the first lecture of the 1949 Godinne series of lectures, that “they are not criminals sentenced to a life of servitude, but the sons and daughters of God who have a magnificent, sacred, divine mission in their life and work.” I hope this is the message the young in our parish hear from our priest. 

The Gospel reading for today’s Mass (Mark 7:24-30) presents us with a story about the power of faith in Jesus. A Syrophoenician woman appeals to Jesus to save her daughter. The story seems to focus on the verbal jousting that goes on between Jesus and the woman. I think Mark was inspired to write about “faith without borders.” God is passionate about everyone and he invites each into a relationship that is both human and divine. The distressed woman was responding to that invitation from the depths of her despair. She knew that she had to “let go and let God” be creator, redeemer and saviour. Jesus recognised this in the woman’s appeal and he told her to go home to her daughter who had been healed. 

God is present in our world and is engaged in the work of overcoming the power of evil. The temporal destiny of all workers is a life lived in the presence of God, a life marked by productivity and the joy of contributing to the wellbeing of others. This cannot be achieved without God. To act without God is to slow the progress of the triumph of good over evil. God intends us to act in ways that, upon reflection in the spirit of the Creator, we can say, “And it was good.” 

When I continue with my reading of the report into the underpayment of workers in Australia, I will look for signs of the presence of God and be thankful for the work being done to overcome evil. Being thankful in prayer; expressing appreciation for the work of those who participate in God’s work of completing creation through acts of restorative justice; and responding as God’s instruments of salvation to the needs of people around us: these are actions that we can all undertake each day as we work in God’s presence.

Author 

Pat Branson

Read more 

The Senate Economics References Committee – Unlawful underpayment of employees’ remuneration

The young worker faces life – The 1949 Godinne series of lectures

The parish and young workers

We saw in an earlier post the significance Cardijn placed to the parish as a platform for social action.

In today’s post, we see how importantly he regarded the role of the parish as a means of reaching out to young workers.

He wrote:

At the age of 14 – and before the war, at the age of 11 – 12, a large number of our young parishioners leave school to begin their life as paid workers. This new life, ordinarily takes place outside of and often far from the family and the parish. It has a decisive influence on the mentality, on the conduct, and on the spiritual and temporal future of the adolescent boy and girl. There are half a million such youngsters in Belgium, aged 14 to 21 – the entire working class of tomorrow.

Oh, who knows about their life, conversations, acts, habits; the dangers to which they are exposed; the abuses of which they are often the victims; the temptations, the scandals, the promiscuities which surround them in their work, in the transport they use to go to work; at the office, in the workshop, in the factories, the mines … during their rest periods, during the leisure and recreation?

The life of young parishioners

But what attitude should the parish adopt? Cardijn asked:

The parish – is it interested in the life of these young parishioners? How many are there in each parish? How are they prepared for this life at work? Has one brought them together on the eve of their entry into the factory or office – to show them the interest that we take in that new stage … so important in their life? Does one celebrate a mass for their intention? Does one try to interest other parishioners in such a ceremony? Does one give to these newcomers to the world of work – older companions – true guardian angels – who would watch over their first steps in the apprenticeship of this life of liberty? And then, who forms their professional conscience? Who assists them, counsels them … helps them in the numerous cases when it is impossible for them to manage alone … in teaching them about their professional tasks, in their apprenticeship, in their morality, in their safety and hygiene at work, in relation to all the accidents and conditions of their work which have a preponderant influence on their health, their future, their religious and parish life? … And when they return from work in the evening, or on Sunday, who offers them normal occasions to continue their education, their recreation? Who helps them save, have insurance, who helps them prepare for a healthy … integral … true family life?

Young workers abandoned

Cardijn was unsparing in his criticism of parishes and the Church in general for its failure to respond to these issues:

Let’s admit it humbly, for all those problems, particular to the working youth and which are essential for the development of their moral and religious life – that is to say their parish life – the majority of young workers are abandoned to themselves.

All this part of their life, by far the most important; takes place far from the influence of parish life and clergy. All these difficult and complicated problems are solved … without the knowledge and often without any contact with parish clergy and parish life. In the young worker’s life, how often are the parish, the clergy, the church, the ceremonies … criticised, and ridiculed? And little by little, often very quickly, the young worker is no longer interested in the parish life or clergy. He becomes indifferent; he distances himself … since all that has become foreign: absent from his daily life so humble, difficult … which he lives far from that one hour of time (if at all) he might spend on Sunday in the parish church.

The YCW response

Cardijn continued on to explain the YCW’s response to these problems:

Now there is the problem which is presented in urgent fashion: How to maintain… I would say, how to re-establish the contact between parish life and the habitual life of the young workers in the parish? How to achieve … that the parish, its life and organisation, its clergy have a preponderant and decisive influence on the life of the young workers – not only to assist them, to prepare and protect them from temptations … and the initiations and the scandals of abuse? Beyond that, and above all how to influence their life at work, en route to work, with their companions? Were the parish to show such interest, youngsters would be proud to be faithful parishioners, practising Christians and audacious … apostles of parish life. Then it would appear clearly to them as Christian life, lived socially and organically, in community, in strong union with other Christians. They would also be proud to imprint their daily life with the principles of the Divine Master, who continues to act and teach through the church, the parish and its clergy.

This is how we believe the problem can be faced efficaciously and practically … There is but one means: that of a specific group of young workers in a parish section of YCW as soon as they leave school. There, among themselves, by themselves and for themselves, with the assistance of the parish clergy – they face all the problems of their life as young workers; they form themselves to seek practical solutions; they learn to think, to speak, to discuss and to act as Christians; they organise all kinds of services; they offer mutual aid in a concrete and living manner in order to live a Christian life … linking their life at work with their parish life; inspiring their life at work with parish ideals. They learn to sanctify their life at work through a communion of thought; feelings, acts, prayers and sufferings … uniting their daily life to the sacrificial gesture of the parish clergy … at the altar where the Divine Victim who alone can give the strength and courage necessary to reach and save their fellow workers.

This parish union of the young workers puts Christian doctrine at the base of their life as young workers. It is as young Christians, young parishioners that they learn to practically and concretely solve the problems of their life as young workers. What is the significance of their work? What kind of conduct/attitude should one have at work? What are the legitimate and necessary demands necessary to their parish life? What are the institutions for saving, for insurance, for further education and recreation which are favourable for the development of their professional, physical, moral and religious life?

The parish doctrine, which is Christian doctrine applied to the organisation of Christian society – could furnish all the answers. When the young workers understand that; when they have sensed and touched that …because it was explained simply and concretely – oh how proud they are to be parishioners, to live as parishioners everywhere: at home as with their fellow workers! How proud they are to reply to insults against the clergy, the sacraments and the church and religion. The parish section of the YCW unites them freely, and voluntarily of their own choice … without violence … inculcates in them an esprit de corps, a spirit of association, of mutual aid, of mutual caring, of Christian loyalty which is the best cement for parish life.

Such was Cardijn’s vision for the Catholic parish!

Can we recreate it today?

Stefan Gigacz

POSTS

POSTED ONEDIT”THE PARISH AND YOUNG WORKERS”

The parish and young workers

We saw in an earlier post the significance Cardijn placed to the parish as a platform for social action.

In today’s post, we see how importantly he regarded the role of the parish as a means of reaching out to young workers.

He wrote:

At the age of 14 – and before the war, at the age of 11 – 12, a large number of our young parishioners leave school to begin their life as paid workers. This new life, ordinarily takes place outside of and often far from the family and the parish. It has a decisive influence on the mentality, on the conduct, and on the spiritual and temporal future of the adolescent boy and girl. There are half a million such youngsters in Belgium, aged 14 to 21 – the entire working class of tomorrow.

Oh, who knows about their life, conversations, acts, habits; the dangers to which they are exposed; the abuses of which they are often the victims; the temptations, the scandals, the promiscuities which surround them in their work, in the transport they use to go to work; at the office, in the workshop, in the factories, the mines … during their rest periods, during the leisure and recreation?

The life of young parishioners

But what attitude should the parish adopt? Cardijn asked:

The parish – is it interested in the life of these young parishioners? How many are there in each parish? How are they prepared for this life at work? Has one brought them together on the eve of their entry into the factory or office – to show them the interest that we take in that new stage … so important in their life? Does one celebrate a mass for their intention? Does one try to interest other parishioners in such a ceremony? Does one give to these newcomers to the world of work – older companions – true guardian angels – who would watch over their first steps in the apprenticeship of this life of liberty? And then, who forms their professional conscience? Who assists them, counsels them … helps them in the numerous cases when it is impossible for them to manage alone … in teaching them about their professional tasks, in their apprenticeship, in their morality, in their safety and hygiene at work, in relation to all the accidents and conditions of their work which have a preponderant influence on their health, their future, their religious and parish life? … And when they return from work in the evening, or on Sunday, who offers them normal occasions to continue their education, their recreation? Who helps them save, have insurance, who helps them prepare for a healthy … integral … true family life?

Young workers abandoned

Cardijn was unsparing in his criticism of parishes and the Church in general for its failure to respond to these issues:

Let’s admit it humbly, for all those problems, particular to the working youth and which are essential for the development of their moral and religious life – that is to say their parish life – the majority of young workers are abandoned to themselves.

All this part of their life, by far the most important; takes place far from the influence of parish life and clergy. All these difficult and complicated problems are solved … without the knowledge and often without any contact with parish clergy and parish life. In the young worker’s life, how often are the parish, the clergy, the church, the ceremonies … criticised, and ridiculed? And little by little, often very quickly, the young worker is no longer interested in the parish life or clergy. He becomes indifferent; he distances himself … since all that has become foreign: absent from his daily life so humble, difficult … which he lives far from that one hour of time (if at all) he might spend on Sunday in the parish church.

The YCW response

Cardijn continued on to explain the YCW’s response to these problems:

Now there is the problem which is presented in urgent fashion: How to maintain… I would say, how to re-establish the contact between parish life and the habitual life of the young workers in the parish? How to achieve … that the parish, its life and organisation, its clergy have a preponderant and decisive influence on the life of the young workers – not only to assist them, to prepare and protect them from temptations … and the initiations and the scandals of abuse? Beyond that, and above all how to influence their life at work, en route to work, with their companions? Were the parish to show such interest, youngsters would be proud to be faithful parishioners, practising Christians and audacious … apostles of parish life. Then it would appear clearly to them as Christian life, lived socially and organically, in community, in strong union with other Christians. They would also be proud to imprint their daily life with the principles of the Divine Master, who continues to act and teach through the church, the parish and its clergy.

This is how we believe the problem can be faced efficaciously and practically … There is but one means: that of a specific group of young workers in a parish section of YCW as soon as they leave school. There, among themselves, by themselves and for themselves, with the assistance of the parish clergy – they face all the problems of their life as young workers; they form themselves to seek practical solutions; they learn to think, to speak, to discuss and to act as Christians; they organise all kinds of services; they offer mutual aid in a concrete and living manner in order to live a Christian life … linking their life at work with their parish life; inspiring their life at work with parish ideals. They learn to sanctify their life at work through a communion of thought; feelings, acts, prayers and sufferings … uniting their daily life to the sacrificial gesture of the parish clergy … at the altar where the Divine Victim who alone can give the strength and courage necessary to reach and save their fellow workers.

This parish union of the young workers puts Christian doctrine at the base of their life as young workers. It is as young Christians, young parishioners that they learn to practically and concretely solve the problems of their life as young workers. What is the significance of their work? What kind of conduct/attitude should one have at work? What are the legitimate and necessary demands necessary to their parish life? What are the institutions for saving, for insurance, for further education and recreation which are favourable for the development of their professional, physical, moral and religious life? The parish doctrine, which is Christian doctrine applied to the organisation of Christian society – could furnish all the answers. When the young workers understand that; when they have sensed and touched that …because it was explained simply and concretely – oh how proud they are to be parishioners, to live as parishioners everywhere: at home as with their fellow workers! How proud they are to reply to insults against the clergy, the sacraments and the church and religion. The parish section of the YCW unites them freely, and voluntarily of their own choice … without violence … inculcates in them an esprit de corps, a spirit of association, of mutual aid, of mutual caring, of Christian loyalty which is the best cement for parish life.

POSTED ONEDIT”LET US MAKE MAN IN OUR IMAGE”

Let us make man in our image

In today’s first reading (Genesis 1: 20 – 2:4), we find the passage: 

…God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in the likeness of ourselves, and let them be masters of the fish of the sea, the birds of heaven, the cattle, all the wild beasts and all the reptiles that crawl upon the earth.’ 

…God created man in the image of himself, in the image of God, he created him, male and female, he created them. 

Cardinal Cardijn made this clear to young workers.  

“Young workers must always be faced with the great truth of the eternal destiny of the mass of young workers. How often have I cried out at mass meetings: You are not machines, beasts of burden, slaves; you are human beings, with an eternal destiny, a divine origin, a divine purpose. You are sons of God, partners with God, you are heirs of God; this is true, not only for a select few but for the masses and the whole of the working class, without exception.” 

Cardijn (1945) A YCW of the masses to the scale of the world

SEE

The world today is better than it was in the past. Despite the systemic environmental degradation, the quality of life of billions is improving. Yet, billions are also suffering. 

The abundance of God’s creation is insufficient for the wants of many. This imbalance between the desires of a significant population against the needs of others desecrates and violates the truth that all humans are created in the image and likeness of God. 

Pat’s reflection on 4 February 2023 captures this imbalance in rich and abundant Australia.

JUDGE

Do I/we believe in today’s first reading — that we are all created in the image and likeness of God, and therefore we are all equal no matter what our station in life is? 

Do I/we believe in Cardijn’s exhortation that we are not machines, beasts of burden, slaves … to employers, to consumerism, to materialism, to an ideology…

Do I/we believe that i/we are children of God, partners with God, and heirs of God? 

ACT

If I/we believe in today’s first reading and in Cardijn’s exhortation:

  • What could I/we do not to become a slave to an employer, to an ideology, to consumerism, or to materialism? 
  • What could I/we do to help those suffering from injustices that deprive them of their humanity?

POSTED ONEDIT”ALL THAT HE CREATED WAS GOOD, AND ALL THOSE WHO TOUCHED HIM WERE CURED”

All that He created was good, and all those who touched Him were cured

In yesterday’s reflection, Stefan explained how Cardinal Cardijn saw the role of the Young Christian Workers (YCW) and the parish. The foundation of the YCW was the parish, and the social action that the YCW undertook was part of parish life. 

Pope Francis, in 2022, would develop further what Cardinal Cardijn said in 1925 when speaking to the French social organisation, “Village de Francois (Village of Francis).” 

“Jesus Christ alone fills our thirsty hearts,” Pope Francis stressed to members of the Village of Francis.

The Village of Francis develops and runs innovative shared living spaces, i.e. the Village. It brings together vulnerable people and those who care for them, focusing on three areas: living together, economic activity and integral ecology. 

The Village of Francis, the Pope said, “is an ecclesial place that goes out of the usual framework to propose something else.” 

“It is the Church as a ‘field hospital,’ concerned more with those who suffer than defending its interests, taking the risk of novelty to be more faithful to the Gospel.”

“I hope that the Village of Francis will contribute to rediscovering what a true village is: a fabric of concrete human relations, in mutual support, in attention to those in need, in the coexistence of generations and the concern to respect the Creation that surrounds us.”  

After reading Cardinal Cardijn’s and Pope Francis’s views on the role of the Church (parishes and parishioners), can we conceive parish life as reduced to only going to mass and receiving sacraments? 

SEE

Why do I go to Church? 

Why do the people I know go to Church? 

Is my parish actively involved in the life of the community where my parish is located? 

Is my parish “a fabric of concrete human relations, in mutual support, in attention to those in need – within and outside the parish?”

JUDGE

God saw that it was good. The first reading (Genesis 1:1-19) is the creation story. What God created was good, and more importantly, He created the universe, the world, and everything in it in abundance and for everyone. 

All those who touched Him were cured. Today’s Gospel (Mark 6:53-56) shows a broken world filled with suffering, and Jesus is the healer. Those who touched Him were cured. 

ACT

How can my parish – followers of Jesus Christ – help restore God’s creation? 

How can my parish – followers of Jesus Christ – be an instrument of His healing?

Author

Greg Lopez

POSTED ONEDIT”SOCIAL ACTION AS A MEANS OF REVIVING PARISH LIFE”

Social action as a means of reviving parish life

Although the YCW was not officially and formally founded until 1925, Cardijn always insisted that its real foundation was in the parish of Our Lady at Laeken, not far from the centre of Brussels, to which he was posted at Easter 1912.

Placed in charge of women’s projects in the parish, within a year, he had organised over 1000 women in various groups, including several embryonic study circles for teenage female workers.

It was an amazing demonstration of what a Catholic parish could be!

Nevertheless, he – and the emerging YCW – often faced criticism. And in a famous 1925 speech entitled “The YCW and the parish,” Cardijn sought to respond to these criticisms.

This talk, he said, “offers me a unique occasion to show by the concrete example of the YCW, how the social organisations in general must – and if they are well structured and well directed – can become one of the most appropriate means of our time to revive PARISH LIFE; to reconstitute the parish community in its integral nature of doing good.”

“Unfortunately, in many industrial regions, the parish is no longer significant except among the clergy,” Cardijn lamented in words that could easily apply today.

He continued:

Ask the people, and those who still understand the name will respond: “The parish, the parish priest… that’s where people go for baptisms, for children’s first conmunion, for marriage and funerals.”

“The bonds which exist among the parishioners, between them and the parish clergy… their rights and reciprocal duties… the family and the parish union… all that no longer lives for the masses. That kernel of the militant Church, united in the struggle for the Christian organisation of earthly society and the conquest of blessed eternity… scarcely appears any more to most people.

And yet, the esprit de corps, the conscious and strong union among all the parishioners which manifests itself to the public by a united front in the defense as in the attack – is more indispensable than ever in order to restore Christian life… to re-infuse the sense of catholic/universal … not only in the working class, but in all of society. And we think that the parish social works are an easy means to bring back the masses to that community of life, to that esprit de corps, to the understanding of the parish spirit.

We must truly dare to admit, among ourselves, that apropos of the social organisations, there are regrettable misunderstandings which prevent many generosities. “The social organisations, according to some people, exist and work at the margin of the parish”… “The social sphere, the social framework (cadre), according to certain people, is in opposition to the … parish framework”. To the directors of social works, some say “You come and divide the parishioners, with your organisations which take into account their interests, their conditions and their requirements-bringing sometimes hostile divisions”. Haven’t you already heard the remark: “pretty soon different parishes will need to be created for the workers, for the farmers and for the employers”.

These misunderstandings come from a superficial concept. In a society truly Christian, the social organisations would be indissolubly united to the parish, as the body of this earthly life is united to the soul … and as the members are united to the body. When, in view of eternal happiness, the parish interests itself in all the needs of the parishioner, when the parish finds a favorable solution, an assistance for all the problems which arise in concrete daily life, humble and often difficult; … when the Church and the parish clergy are no longer strangers to the vital questions posed by the conditions of modern life – which, moreover have a fatal repercussion on religious life.., then our modern society – in all its manifestations: social, economic, artistic and recreational – will again be as it was during the Middle Ages: guided, clarified and protected by the parish spirit which is the true Christian social spirit.

Here we find Cardijn’s integral conception of the role of Church of assisting parishioners to address the problems of daily life and of modern society. This, he argued, was the true Christian social spirit.

And in a later reflection, we will look at how the YCW became Cardijn’s model of this vision.

Author

Stefan Gigacz

Source

Joseph Cardijn, The YCW and the parish (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Photo

1500 Belgian jocists on pilgrimage to Rome where they were presented to the popê in the work clothes. The miners’ group. Photo: Keystone

Let us make man in our image

In today’s first reading (Genesis 1: 20 – 2:4), we find the passage: 

…God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in the likeness of ourselves, and let them be masters of the fish of the sea, the birds of heaven, the cattle, all the wild beasts and all the reptiles that crawl upon the earth.’ 

…God created man in the image of himself, in the image of God, he created him, male and female, he created them. 

Cardinal Cardijn made this clear to young workers.  

“Young workers must always be faced with the great truth of the eternal destiny of the mass of young workers. How often have I cried out at mass meetings: You are not machines, beasts of burden, slaves; you are human beings, with an eternal destiny, a divine origin, a divine purpose. You are sons of God, partners with God, you are heirs of God; this is true, not only for a select few but for the masses and the whole of the working class, without exception.” 

Cardijn (1945) A YCW of the masses to the scale of the world

SEE

The world today is better than it was in the past. Despite the systemic environmental degradation, the quality of life of billions is improving. Yet, billions are also suffering. 

The abundance of God’s creation is insufficient for the wants of many. This imbalance between the desires of a significant population against the needs of others desecrates and violates the truth that all humans are created in the image and likeness of God. 

Pat’s reflection on 4 February 2023 captures this imbalance in rich and abundant Australia.

JUDGE

Do I/we believe in today’s first reading — that we are all created in the image and likeness of God, and therefore we are all equal no matter what our station in life is? 

Do I/we believe in Cardijn’s exhortation that we are not machines, beasts of burden, slaves … to employers, to consumerism, to materialism, to an ideology…

Do I/we believe that i/we are children of God, partners with God, and heirs of God? 

ACT

If I/we believe in today’s first reading and in Cardijn’s exhortation:

  • What could I/we do not to become a slave to an employer, to an ideology, to consumerism, or to materialism? 
  • What could I/we do to help those suffering from injustices that deprive them of their humanity?

All that He created was good, and all those who touched Him were cured

In yesterday’s reflection, Stefan explained how Cardinal Cardijn saw the role of the Young Christian Workers (YCW) and the parish. The foundation of the YCW was the parish, and the social action that the YCW undertook was part of parish life. 

Pope Francis, in 2022, would develop further what Cardinal Cardijn said in 1925 when speaking to the French social organisation, “Village de Francois (Village of Francis).” 

“Jesus Christ alone fills our thirsty hearts,” Pope Francis stressed to members of the Village of Francis.

The Village of Francis develops and runs innovative shared living spaces, i.e. the Village. It brings together vulnerable people and those who care for them, focusing on three areas: living together, economic activity and integral ecology. 

The Village of Francis, the Pope said, “is an ecclesial place that goes out of the usual framework to propose something else.” 

“It is the Church as a ‘field hospital,’ concerned more with those who suffer than defending its interests, taking the risk of novelty to be more faithful to the Gospel.”

“I hope that the Village of Francis will contribute to rediscovering what a true village is: a fabric of concrete human relations, in mutual support, in attention to those in need, in the coexistence of generations and the concern to respect the Creation that surrounds us.”  

After reading Cardinal Cardijn’s and Pope Francis’s views on the role of the Church (parishes and parishioners), can we conceive parish life as reduced to only going to mass and receiving sacraments? 

SEE

Why do I go to Church? 

Why do the people I know go to Church? 

Is my parish actively involved in the life of the community where my parish is located? 

Is my parish “a fabric of concrete human relations, in mutual support, in attention to those in need – within and outside the parish?”

JUDGE

God saw that it was good. The first reading (Genesis 1:1-19) is the creation story. What God created was good, and more importantly, He created the universe, the world, and everything in it in abundance and for everyone. 

All those who touched Him were cured. Today’s Gospel (Mark 6:53-56) shows a broken world filled with suffering, and Jesus is the healer. Those who touched Him were cured. 

ACT

How can my parish – followers of Jesus Christ – help restore God’s creation? 

How can my parish – followers of Jesus Christ – be an instrument of His healing?

Author

Greg Lopez

Social action as a means of reviving parish life

Although the YCW was not officially and formally founded until 1925, Cardijn always insisted that its real foundation was in the parish of Our Lady at Laeken, not far from the centre of Brussels, to which he was posted at Easter 1912.

Placed in charge of women’s projects in the parish, within a year, he had organised over 1000 women in various groups, including several embryonic study circles for teenage female workers.

It was an amazing demonstration of what a Catholic parish could be!

Nevertheless, he – and the emerging YCW – often faced criticism. And in a famous 1925 speech entitled “The YCW and the parish,” Cardijn sought to respond to these criticisms.

This talk, he said, “offers me a unique occasion to show by the concrete example of the YCW, how the social organisations in general must – and if they are well structured and well directed – can become one of the most appropriate means of our time to revive PARISH LIFE; to reconstitute the parish community in its integral nature of doing good.”

“Unfortunately, in many industrial regions, the parish is no longer significant except among the clergy,” Cardijn lamented in words that could easily apply today.

He continued:

Ask the people, and those who still understand the name will respond: “The parish, the parish priest… that’s where people go for baptisms, for children’s first conmunion, for marriage and funerals.”

“The bonds which exist among the parishioners, between them and the parish clergy… their rights and reciprocal duties… the family and the parish union… all that no longer lives for the masses. That kernel of the militant Church, united in the struggle for the Christian organisation of earthly society and the conquest of blessed eternity… scarcely appears any more to most people.

And yet, the esprit de corps, the conscious and strong union among all the parishioners which manifests itself to the public by a united front in the defense as in the attack – is more indispensable than ever in order to restore Christian life… to re-infuse the sense of catholic/universal … not only in the working class, but in all of society. And we think that the parish social works are an easy means to bring back the masses to that community of life, to that esprit de corps, to the understanding of the parish spirit.

We must truly dare to admit, among ourselves, that apropos of the social organisations, there are regrettable misunderstandings which prevent many generosities. “The social organisations, according to some people, exist and work at the margin of the parish”… “The social sphere, the social framework (cadre), according to certain people, is in opposition to the … parish framework”. To the directors of social works, some say “You come and divide the parishioners, with your organisations which take into account their interests, their conditions and their requirements-bringing sometimes hostile divisions”. Haven’t you already heard the remark: “pretty soon different parishes will need to be created for the workers, for the farmers and for the employers”.

These misunderstandings come from a superficial concept. In a society truly Christian, the social organisations would be indissolubly united to the parish, as the body of this earthly life is united to the soul … and as the members are united to the body. When, in view of eternal happiness, the parish interests itself in all the needs of the parishioner, when the parish finds a favorable solution, an assistance for all the problems which arise in concrete daily life, humble and often difficult; … when the Church and the parish clergy are no longer strangers to the vital questions posed by the conditions of modern life – which, moreover have a fatal repercussion on religious life.., then our modern society – in all its manifestations: social, economic, artistic and recreational – will again be as it was during the Middle Ages: guided, clarified and protected by the parish spirit which is the true Christian social spirit.

Here we find Cardijn’s integral conception of the role of Church of assisting parishioners to address the problems of daily life and of modern society. This, he argued, was the true Christian social spirit.

And in a later reflection, we will look at how the YCW became Cardijn’s model of this vision.

Author

Stefan Gigacz

Source

Joseph Cardijn, The YCW and the parish (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Photo

Laeken women’s groups 1920s

Systemic, sustained and shameful: the exploitation of workers

He sat across from me at a table in the cafe and as I I listened, I recognised his concern for his friends from overseas, who had come to Australia to study and had to work excessively long hours to pay for the privilege of studying here. He was looking for funding to provide food for his friends so that they would not have to work so long each week. 

Is it possible that these young workers are being exploited? In March, 2022, the Senate Economic References Committee examining unlawful underpayment of employees, tabled a report into the unlawful underpayment of migrant workers in Australia. They described the problem as “systemic, sustained and shameful”. The report highlights weaknesses in the laws intended to protect workers from exploitation by employers. While the government fails to act, migrants (including asylum seekers and refugees) can become enslaved in our country. 

The problem has existed for as long as society has existed. Cardijn identified it as a product of liberalism. In 1949, he presented the Godinne series of lectures titled The Young Worker Faces Life. In the third lecture on the “mystery of vocation,” he made reference to the working class being in “the tomb of error, exploitation, and slavery in which liberalism buried it for centuries.” The release from that tomb is a struggle. 

This is not what God intends for people. The Exodus story reveals God’s plan for people to live freely and to ensure that the goods of the world are there for all people to use and for all generations to come. The attitude that we must bring to ensuring that all people are treated with dignity is revealed to us in the Gospel reading for Saturday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time, Year 1 (Mark 6:30-34). Mark shows us the compassion of Jesus, who places the needs of others, in this instance, the needs of his apostles and the needs of those who wanted to learn from him, before his own needs. 

All this suggests that we need to have a radical change of mind and heart. We are not put on this earth to acquire as much as we possible can. We have a responsibility to ourselves, to others and to God, to use only what we need and always with an eye on the needs of others who will come after us and the intention to provide for the future. So what action can we take and encourage others to join in doing to ensure the end of exploitation and slavery of workers in our country and in the world? 

I suggest the following as a course of action: Read the report prepared by the Senate Economic References Committee and use social media to encourage others to read it also. Then choose one aspect of the report and the recommendation(s) flowing from it as tabled in the report. Write to your local member to urge them to argue on your behalf for action to happen now, not later. There are probably other and better actions to be carried out to bring about the change that is needed in peoples’ minds and hearts. If you are certain of this, then consider writing a reflection to be posted to this page on the Joseph Cardijn Digital Library website. 

Read more … 

Laurie Berg and Bassina Farenblum: Australia is bringing migrant workers back – but exploitation is still rampant 

The Senate Economics References Committee – Unlawful underpayment of employees’ remuneration

The Young Worker Faces Life – Joseph Cardijn Digital Library

A witness for justice

The twelve Apostles, St Paul, St John the Baptist (the Gospel today is of his beheading), and St Maximilian Kolbe are examples of individuals who gave up their lives to witness their faith. 

The Young Christian Worker (YCW) movement has also produced its fair share of martyrs. The brothers Andre and Roger Vallee and Daniel Antero are among them. The Joseph Cardijn Digital Library lists individuals from the YCW or related to YCW who have died in witnessing their faith. 

There are martyrs, and there are those who live faithful lives every day without the need to be a martyr. We are all called to be a witness. And courage and bravery – witnessing for justice – can occur in ordinary life.

We witness the faith when:

  • We stand up for a family member, friend, colleague or community member who is being bullied or hurt.
  • We call out inappropriate behaviour by family, friends, colleagues, or community members. 
  • We hold ourselves and our leaders accountable.  

See

Injustice is a feature of human nature, primarily due to power imbalance. Powerful people often disregard the rights of those weaker than themselves.  

How do we respond to injustice? How do we strive for justice? How do we witness our faith?

Judge 

Today’s Gospel passage is about injustice. We read how St John the Baptist – who Jesus Himself said was a great man – was beheaded by King Herod because of an oath Herod had made to the daughter of Herodias, who hated John the Baptist because he was pointing out her and Herod’s wrongdoing.

This is St John the Baptist, who we read, baptising Jesus some days ago. St John the Baptist accepted this without a complaint. He had prepared himself for this time.  

The YCW members who were martyrs did not use violence. They were prepared.

Act 

Will I be prepared to peacefully stand up for what I believe in, like the Valle brothers? 

Will I be prepared to peacefully stand up for what I believe in, like Daniel Antero?

Workers called to be apostles


In a Christian context, an apostle is someone who is sent to deliver God’s good news to people so that they can find in God the source of light and life they need. I spent more than twenty years being educated in a school named after St Maximilian Kolbe (1894-1941) who was referred to as the “Apostle of Our Difficult Age” by one of his biographers. He dedicated his life to providing spiritual sustenance to people in Poland and Japan. Well, the difficult age is still with us and so are the apostles. 

Fr Joseph Cardijn (1882-1967), a contemporary of Fr Maximilian Kolbe, referred to young workers, whom he formed in faith, as apostles. They spread the good news by word and example and he considered them to be indispensable in the Church’s mission to evangelise the world. Cardijn gave a series of lectures in 1948, which he titled The Young Worker Faces Life. In the first lecture, he established the place of apostles in the life of the young worker and in the Church: 

“In everyday life and its environment, the Church and Our Lord need what the Pope calls the principal and immediate apostles of the workers. There is a chain of apostles: the immediate neighbour, close at hand; the foreman and adult workers; then parents, priests, bishops, and the Pope. The chain is the means by which the divine influence is exercised on each young worker. Break the chain, and almighty God becomes, as it were, powerless.”

Regrettably, the chain has been broken. Was it ever unbroken? Clearly, for Cardijn, there were experiences of the apostolic action of the young workers he formed in faith. The coming of the Holy Spirit empowers people to embrace an apostolic life. Witness the chain in its Gospel incarnation, celebrated in the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord (Luke 2:22-40). The prophet Simeon gives the response of one who has been visited by the apostles we know as Mary and Joseph. In their presence, he acknowledges gratefully the generosity of God made visible in the infant Jesus. “My eyes have seen the salvation which you have prepared for all the nations to see.” They had come to the Temple to offer their son Jesus to God. Luke’s summary of the life of Jesus in Nazareth is the fruit of all apostolic activity: “… the child grew to maturity, and he was filled with wisdom, and God’s favour was with him”.

We are called to be apostles of our age, in quiet ways, giving silent witness to the presence of God in our world and with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. And like the saints I have tried to honour here, our first and constant action that God encourages in us is prayer: God invites us into a prayerful relationship with the Holy Trinity, the model family. How, then, do we include others in actions flowing from prayer? And what actions can we undertake to draw people into considering a relationship with God? 

Author 

Pat Branson

Read more … 

The Young Worker Faces Life – the Godinne 1948 series of lectures by Fr Joseph Cardijn 

Daniel Esquivel Antero, a lay jocist martyr

Daniel Esquivel Antero was born on 3 January, 1945 in Quyquyó (Republic of Paraguay).

As a teenager, he became a member of the YCW. In February 1970 he emigrated to Buenos Aires in search of steady work, settling in the area of ​​Villa Fiorito, where he worked as a construction worker, a painter, and as an electrician.

Along with other young compatriots, he founded a YCW for Paraguayan Immigrants. Soon after at Easter 1970, he encouraged and promoted the foundation of the Paraguayan Ministry Team in Argentina (PPA).

A biographer wrote of him:

His humble and dignified poverty did not prevent him from sharing what he had and bringing a message of hope to those who needed it. Many times he experienced the pain and embarrassment of destitution or even being assaulted many times, sometimes violently. But nothing dented his daily dedication to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, in his devotion to the Virgin of Miracles Caacupé, patron saint of Paraguay, nor in serving the poor and needy.

Daniel lived the last years of his life in the diocese of Lomas de Zamora.

On 1 February, 1977 he was snatched from his home during the violence that engulfed Argentina during that period.

A few days later, the then Bishop, Monsignor Desiderio Collino Elso publicly denounced Daniel’s disappearance in his Lenten pastoral letter read in all parishes and churches in the Diocese of Lomas de Zamora,

We remember Daniel and his dedication to young workers.

Reflection author

Stefan Gigacz

Source

Daniel Esquivel Antero (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Brothers André and Roger Vallée died in Nazi concentration camps

Today we remember the sacrifice of two French jocist leaders, who both died in Nazi concentrations during World War.

Here is their story:

André Vallée was a JOC leader from the Orne region in France, who volunteered to replace another man who was being sent to Germany for forced labour. Arrested for his working organising Catholic Action study circles, he was sent to Flossenburg Concentration Camp. He died while being transferred to another camp.

André Vallée was born at Mortagne au Perche in the Orne region on 9 November 1919. After completing his studies he became a machine operator at the Oeuvre de La Chapelle-Montligeon in 1934. Simultaneously, he joined the JOC, becoming a federal (regional) leader in the Orne region from 1941.

In June 1940 he was mobilised for military service then made a prisoner of war at Poitiers. Freed later, he was sent to a youth camp in Auvergne. In November 1942, he took the place of a family man who had been called for compulstory labour and was sent to Gotha in Thuringia.

Immediately after his arrival, he identified three other Catholic Action leaders with whom he launched an initial reflection group. The JOC groups that he launched with his brother, Roger, a seminarian, grew to 60 members. Group members shared out the solidarity work among them with André taking on the task of visiting the sick in hospital.

He also became particularly involved in the library that they founded despite the fact that the sending of books from France was prohibited. He also organised singing practice, masses of support for the French with contacts every two months among JOC leadersin other regions, all of which was done clandestinely since all religious groups were prohibited.

Roger Vallée, André’s brother, was born in Mortagne on 13 December 1920. Following his primary school studies, he joined the minor seminary in 1933 and entered the major seminary in 1940, taking minor orders in June 1943.

Called up for compulsory labour service in August 1943, he joined his brother at Gotha to assist him in his apostolate. He became involved in developing weekly study circles, local recollections to support jocist leaders and also took part in regional meetings.

On 22 December 1943, police ordered them to no longer celebrate mass for foreigners.

They were arrested at Gotha on 1 April 1944, interrogated by experts in religious matters before being imprisoned at Gotha along with ten other companions arrested for the same reason.

The reason for conviction was the same in each case: “A danger to the state and the German people by his Catholic Action among his French comrades during his Compulsory Labour Service.”

André arrived at the Flossenbürg concentration camp on 12 October 1944 where he was given the number 28910. He was transferred to the Leitmeritz commando, dying en route on 31 January 1945 according to eye witnesses. His death was registered at the Flossenburg camp on 15 February 1945.

Roger arrived at Flossenburg on 12 October 1945, was given the number 28909 then transferred to Mauthausen, given number 108,811 where he died on 29 October 1944.

We remember their sacrifice and that of so many more jocist martyrs, who died during World War II, including Fernand Tonnet and Paul Garcet, both members of the “founder trio” in Belgium.

Source

André Vallée (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Reflection author

Stefan Gigacz

Read more

Fernand Tonnet (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Paul Garcet (Paul Garcet (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library