Cardijn made his second visit to Australia in February 1966. In a speech for the Catholic Social Week event in Ballarat, Victoria, he addressed the theme “The workman and his family.”
The recording is available on the website of Australia’s National Library. Listen to it here in, his inimitable Flemish-accented English beginning from the 12 minute mark.
I believe the introduction is by the late Professor John Molony, at that time a priest of the Diocese of Ballarat.
In his talk Cardijn presents both a philosophy and theology of work epitomises in his famous epigram “Without work, no mass.”
We do not reflect enough on the dignity, on the value, on the honour of work and of the worker. The cleaner of the street must be respected because without cleaners there will he accidents. There will be more and more disorder. The cleaner of the street helps society and so does each worker.
Each man must be a worker. The holy Apostle St. Paul says: “Who does not work must not eat”. Work is of the essence of humanity. We live by work. People must work.
We must not separate scientific work, professional work, office work, and manual work. There is no scientific work without manual work. When we look at the history of mankind from the beginning, we see all man’s work and the development of work, and more and more we see the development of mankind. We can only know the dignity and development of man if we know of the development of work. That is the difference between an animal and a human being. By his work a human being discovers more and more the means of progress in all aspects of life. First, we have manual work for thousands and thousands of years. Only manual work — some done with wood, some with fire, some also with water. Then the tools of mankind are discovered by men to develop themselves and to do more and more creative work. Men think. They discover more human knowledge for the development of mankind and humanity.
Today, there are three thousand million people on earth. Without work, they have no possibilities. No food without work! No housing without work! No Church without work! No Mass without work! Yesterday the Melbourne YCW organised an open-air rally. The Auxiliary Bishop was there to celebrate Mass. But there was no table. And then, before thousands and thousands of young people and adult people, two carpenters came with wood and made the table; and then two girls came with the linen and covered the table with linen; and then other workers with candles; and then the printers with the Mass book; and then some farm-workers came with the wine and bread; and then some workers with ornaments for the Bishop. All workers! And without that work, no Mass!
And then the Bishop put on his vestments, and Mass began. And then during the offertory, with all the you no workers, he offered, with the bread and with the wine, the work of humanity. And that work of humanity was consecrated by Christ to become more and more the food of humanity, the spiritual food, the intellectual food, the material food. Without work, no food, no intellectual food, no university.
Today as we are flying around the world in planes, we feel there is no more distance. It is by work we hear the radio and see the television. We see the Pope speaking in the United Nations about peace. None of these things could happen without work. And therefore I say, and I repeat everywhere, in the schools, in the colleges, that the students should become more and more aware of the value of work, the dignity of work, and even of manual work, the poorest of work here on earth.
WORK UNITES MANKIND
Today all workers are associated. Nobody works for himself. He works for others. Work binds together all the peoples of the world. The work done by the workers of Australia is going to help those of Asia, those of Africa, those of other continents. The work of Australia and the fruits of Australia and all the different problems of Australia are seen in all the continents of the world. It is the same everywhere. Solidarity by work. We are one by work. We are united with each other by work.
Today, the economy and the organisation of work and the techniques of today are more and more international. That is the great problem of the poor people, the two thirds of humanity who have no work, who are unemployed, who have no techniques, who have no possibility to give help to their people. They need food. they need housing. They need schools. They need hospitals. They have needs in all aspects of life in order to live as human beings. We call them underdeveloped people. But they must be respected, they must be honoured, they must he helped. Otherwise humanity will be destroyed.
God needs the work of human beings. God will not replace one worker. Pope Pius XI said to me when I came to him for the first time in 1925: “I, the Pope, come into the Church, but I do not replace one worker in his factory, in his office, in his workshop. He is needed in the Church to spread the redemption of Christ who was a worker, who became a worker to show the divinity and the value of work. He was a carpenter until he was 30 years old. The Son of God, himself, worked to show to all humanity the value, the dignity, and the divinity of work.”
APOSTOLATE OF THE WORKER
We must reflect on our lives. Without work there can be no religion. Without work our religion becomes separated from our life and we live by the work of others. We are sometimes proud we need not work. We should be ashamed! We must work! Every human being must work, not as an animal, but as a human being. And therefore we have the social doctrine of the Church. We may not separate the social doctrine of the Church from the spiritual doctrine of the Church. We must not say: “Ah, if I go to Mass, if I go to Communion, all is right.” No! Nothing is right! Christ gave himself to you. Therefore you must he another Christ and give yourself to others by your apostolic work, by your missionary work.
And even in the factory, you must be the missionary of Christ by your work, because you know the divine dignity and the divine value of work. Many think that work is a punishment. No! Punishment is the bad result of the selfishness, of the impatience and of the ignorance of men. It is the result of sin. But, the Creator, who makes all, needs all our work to achieve the fulfilment and completion of creation, to put all created things into the service of his people.
WORKERS MUST ASSOCIATE
Tomorrow we will be six thousand million. You can understand how today workers must be more and more associated. We can no longer work alone. There are some who work for themselves, but not many. But most of humanity today and tomorrow will become an associated people, associated with all the workers, the totality of mankind. We must study this. Without that association, without that solidarity, we cannot solve the problems of today and tomorrow. That is so for all the peoples of the world.
I was in Bangkok four months ago. My trip will he finished next week. But I was in Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Ceylon. I was in many countries of Asia, always to see the problems of work. And I had more than an hour of conversation with the Patriarch of the Buddhists of Thailand who is the head of 35 million Buddhists and 250 thousand monks. He said: “We must collaborate together more and more. We must help each other more and more. I admire your international movement (YCW) which proclaims that as people we must he united.” Even if we are not Catholics, even if we are not Christians, we all must help each other because we all have a divine origin. We all have a divine destiny. We all have here on earth, a divine mission. And so we will know each other better. We will become more and more friendly with each other. We will more and more have confidence in each other. And then, and then alone, we can have peace, not by violence, not by killing each other, not by destroying the houses of each other, but by loving each other, and serving each other, by helping each other by work.
EDUCATING YOUNG WORKERS
We should speak and think for hours and hours about the value and importance of work and the importance of education for work. Today young workers must he educated not from six till fourteen years, but from fourteen till twenty-five years when they are becoming more mature workers. They must learn more and more to do better work everywhere because work is more and more becoming work for society.
I was nominated Assistant Priest in a parish of Brussels with 25,000 baptised. I came on to the street the first day I was there. I did not know anybody. I met a young boy and I said: You are a young worker?” “Yes, Father, I am a young worker, he said. “Ah, I see, you have a problem about your work. Where are you working?” “In a factory,” he said. “Where is your factory. Are you there alone?” He laughed and said: “Ah, Father, in my factory there are more than 200 boys and 200 girls.” “Not boys and girls of the parish?” I said. “No!
They come from the villages, and from the other parishes every morning — 500 boys and girls.” “Are you satisfied with things? Are there good boys and girls and others? Listen! Will you come to my parish house? I live there, near the Church. Have you a friend?” I asked. “Yes, I have a good friend.” “Then come with him. We will smoke cigarettes and then we will speak about your work and what you can do.” And so I began the International YCW which today is in more than 100 countries of the world, with this one boy that I met in the street.
We must educate them. We must speak with them. We must know and discover their problems in their daily life, in their work and environment, in the factory, in the workshop, in the office — everywhere! Millions and millions! Can we help them? Can we educate them? Yes, we can today.
How has the situation of work and workers changed over the sixty years since Cardijn presented h is talk?
Try to identify a specific action that you could take this week or month.
Cardinal Joseph Cardijn speaks at Catholic Social Week in Ballarat in 1966 in the John Molony collection