Being Christian in our time

One more reflection with Léon Ollé-Laprune, this one from a series of personal notes that he wrote for himself, some of which were published after his death by his disciple and friend, Georges Goyau.

The French title of this reflection is “Le Chrétien vis-à-vis de son temps,” which translates as “The Christian vis-à-vis his or her time.”

Here Ollé-Laprune reflects on the problem of opposition or perhaps apparent opposition between Christian teaching and the ideas of a particular era.

What attitude should one take?

In a note dated 7 November, 1890, Ollé-Laprune offered his response:

I am a Christian, and I am of my time.

Being Christian, and fully Christian, by which I mean Catholic, – living in the nineteenth century, I can see or feel that there is an opposition between Christian doctrine, to which I adhere with my whole being, and many ideas or trends of my time, from which I do not want to remain estranged and of which I am not the enemy.

I would like to examine in what this opposition consists. By studying it closely, I will better understand what Christian doctrine is and what my era is.

I shall have a more exact and profound notion of the Christian idea and of the Christian life.

I will unravel what our time has that is new, and among these novelties discern the genuine spirit of this century.

Comparing it with the true spirit of Christianity, I will seek to identify that which is in radical and definitive opposition to this spirit and that which, deviating from it only in appearance, will allow itself to be brought closer and which may even secretly aspire to be brought closer. “

In other words, the role of the Christian and Christianity is not an attitude of radical opposition to current trends.

Rather our role is to enter into dialogue with, to work with and identify the truth within those trends, while seeking to reorient them in line with Christian teaching.

This was the method that Cardijn himself would adopt. As he insisted so often, being anti-communist was “not enough to save the working class.” Rather, it was necessary to understand “the element of truth in Communism,” he wrote, because that is where “it draws its strength.”

We still have much to learn from Léon Ollé-Laprune and Joseph Cardijn!


Stefan Gigacz


Young Léon Ollé-Laprune (top left) as a student at the Ecole Normale Supérieure


Léon Ollé-Laprune, The Christian vis-à-vis his time (Léon Ollé-Laprune/Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Joseph Cardijn, The hour of the working class, Lecture 2 (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

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