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


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.


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? 


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?

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. 


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

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? 


Pat Branson


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

Australia’s young Catholics

Young Australians.

Today, the Church celebrates the Feast of Saints Timothy and Titus. Timothy and Titus were converted to Christianity by St. Paul and became his friend and helpers. Timothy took care of Christians in Ephesus and Titus of Christians in Crete. 

Yesterday, Pat reflected on the relationship between the mission of the Church and that of the young people in the Church. The day before, on making the love of God visible in Catholic schools.

How do we form Australia’s young Catholics? 

In general, we could say that they are formed through their family life, school life, Church life, and life in the broader community. 


How strong is the influence of Catholics and Catholic institutions on young Australian Catholics? 

Twenty per cent of Australians are Catholics. In other words, one in five Australians is Catholic. 

1,755 Catholic schools are educating more than 785,000 students in Australia. In other words, one in five Australian students go to a Catholic school. 

There are 1388 Catholic Churches in Australia, including 93 Eastern Catholic Churches. 


In the first reading today, Paul reminds Timothy to “fan into a flame, the gift that God gave you….”

Returning, to Cardijn’s keynote address to the World Congress for the Lay Apostolate, in 1951, he demanded that, 

“Each Christian, each Catholic, by his or her baptism, must be an apostle and a missionary – he has an apostolic and missionary vocation. Each one is called by God to Existence, to life, and to a collaboration in His creative and redemptive work. The earthly vocation is an apostolic and missionary vocation.”


As Catholic parents, are we forming our children to be apostles and missionaries as a way of living their lives? 

As Catholic educators, are we forming our students to be apostles and missionaries as a way of living their lives?

As Catholic adults, do we fulfil our apostolic and missionary duties in our daily lives? 

What could we, as lay apostles, do today to form our young to be apostles and missionaries as a way of living their lives?

Rowing against the wind without Jesus? That’s impossible!

In his reflection for 7 January, Greg Lopez asked the question, “Who is a saint?” As I read Greg’s reflection, I was reminded of something written by Fr Bob Wilkinson in New Visions of Priesting (ATF Press, 2022): “… the saints of the twenty-first century include vast numbers committed to saving the planet without a belief in God or divine destiny.” My intention is not to add to Greg’s reflection, although it might do just that, but to highlight the mission of the laity in the world, which is to give leadership in the workplace. One of the experiences I treasure from my time as a teacher in a Catholic secondary school was working with students and staff on environmental projects in the local community. The volunteers who led the projects modelled care for the environment and shared their knowledge and skills with us and treated us with respect and patience. 

According to Fr Joseph Cardijn, leaders are “people who bring about a revolution by their testimony. Every leader must be such a witness – a sincere, true witness to love, justice, charity and respect for the young worker.” In the second of his Godinne lectures on The Young Worker Faces Life, delivered in 1949, he stressed the importance of “patience and perseverance” in the task of forming leaders in faith. In saying so, Cardijn acknowledged the power of accompaniment long before Pope Francis reflected on it as an essential element of missionary activity in the world. 

We are most surely human when we actively and lovingly care for our common home (Genesis 1:27-30). How to do this well requires an acknowledgement of country that has existed from the beginning. Our home belongs to God and we, created in God’s likeness, have been given responsibility for creation as co-creators with God. 

When Mark shared the Good News with the gentile Christians in Rome, he described Jesus as a wonder-worker. The Gospel reading for today’s Mass follows on from the story of the feeding of the five thousand. We see the disciples on the lake in their boat in the early hours of the morning, growing tired from rowing against the wind. Jesus comes to them, walking on the lake and they are terrified. He urges them to have courage and climbs aboard the boat. The wind dies and the struggle is eased because of his presence (Mark 6:45-52). 

Jesus knows that evil is conquered by good because of God’s presence in the world. Faith in him ought to motivate his followers to have confidence in those who work to secure our planet from the ravages of ignorance and greed. Working alongside the saints who don’t believe in God, his followers recognise the presence of Jesus with them, who encourages his followers to share the burden with his saints and so the load is lightened for them. The good that is done by so many saints who are non-believers is testimony to the presence and power of the invisible grace in the world (Gaudium et Spes, 22).

The movement towards a better world for all is happening around us and we are called by God to contribute to it. This is essential to our vocation as human persons. There is so much to be done to restore God’s original justice and there are so many actions that can be carried out, even in the life of just one person, no matter their age or circumstance. I have decided to follow the UN Climate Change secretariat on Twitter (@UNFCCC) and visit their website to stay informed of progress in the fight against global warming and climate change and to encourage others through Twitter to do the same. To recognise the presence of God’s invisible grace in the good that is being done by so many is something to be treasured, which I will recall as I work to understand what makes good soil in which to plant crops and grow flowers.


Pat Branson


Joseph Cardijn, The Young Worker Faces Life (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)