Following Greg Lopez’s post yesterday about the decline in mass attendance in Australia, we turn today to reflection the way Cardijn understood and appreciated the Eucharist..
As we see below in this sermon delivered at the 1937 Eucharistic Congress in Lisieux, France, he saw the Mass and Eucharist has have transformative power, transforming people and enabling them to transform their own environments and milieux.
SERMON BY CANON CARDIJN
In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. So be it.
“According to his word, we look forward to a new heaven and a new earth where justice reigns.
“Words of the Second Letter of St. Peter, the first Pope.
(II Petri, 13)
The Eucharist makes man’s work the providential place that God has given him in the economy of the world in the economy of salvation.
The Eucharist first transforms the person and the work of man into the very work of Christ, so that each worker can repeat the word of Saint Paul: “It is not me who works, it is Christ who works in me.“
Next, the Eucharist helps workers to transform their workplaces into temples and sanctuaries, so that the work will not continue to be a cause of depravity among the working class, but will once again become an instrument of the sanctification and apostolate that Christ, through the apostles of the workplace, continues in the midst of the working class.
Finally, the Eucharist prepares and consecrates Christian work practices, whereby Eucharistic communion, by involving the working masses more fully within the spiritual community, facilitates the collaboration of the entire economic community in order to establish the kingship of Christ at work.
In this way, the Eucharist erases the imprint of the curse that sin, atheism and materialism have brought to the world of work and once again imprints on it the sacred character and the divine seal of a vocation that makes each worker the collaborator, the personal collaborator, the irreplaceable collaborator of God in the work of creation and in the work of Redemption.
May the little Saint of Lisieux, whom Pope Pius XI himself designated as a special protector of the apostles of Catholic Action in the workplace, may Saint Thérèse of Lisieux obtain that this National Congress, this Eucharistic Congress, facilitates a Eucharistic renewal among all workers in France and among all workers in the world for their own happiness and for universal peace; that the Eucharistic Congress of Lisieux will send to the working class of France and of the whole world, a message that will be the echo of the pontifical words and which will assist the working class to avoid the new paganism and the new slavery into which our century threatens to plunge it once again (Applause).
Secularism separates work from religion; secularism, under the sign of liberalism, wanted to remove work from law inspired by religion, and then it delivered it helplessly to the oppressive yoke of competition and passion. And it did not take long for materialism and selfishness to make the working class understand that labour had become a slave. And so, new prophets arose, and on the pretext of freeing up work, they wanted to turn labour into a god. A god which would have been an idol of stone, gold or silver, but an idol nonetheless, which, according to the new prophets, would act as the sovereign arbiter of the fate of the working class, the sovereign judge of good and evil, law and duty; and it did not take long either for this fake god to become a monster god who, after having seduced his worshipers for a certain period, is now in the process of dissipating and crushing the working class.
Only the plan of God himself will be able to restore the working class from this degradation to its dignity, greatness and freedom. (Applause).
This is God’s plan: From all eternity, God intended each worker for an eternity of happiness which he was to achieve by means of his personal temporal destiny. Created in the image and the likeness of the divine person, each worker has received from God inalienable rights that no master on earth and no earthly regime can ignore, and which every economic regime must respect and help flourish. God desired to make each worker his most intimate collaborator in order to to help him to extend over time the magnificent work of his creation as well as the even more magnificent work of his Redemption.
Man’s work should not only serve to accumulate material wealth; the work of the poorest worker is called by God to become a producer of spiritual and eternal wealth.
Each worker is the son of God, each worker is the collaborator of God, each worker is the heir of God.
And to restore this dignity of the working class and of each worker, Christ, the only begotten Son of the Eternal Father, during his earthly life desired simply to become a carpenter and to pass for the son of a carpenter. Even more, Christ desired to identify himself with the most humble and the poorest of workers to the end of time in order to be able to say to the government, to be able to say to the regime, to be able to say to the superior, to be able say to the rulers: “Whatever you do to the least of workers, you do to me.“ The salary that you pay him, the working conditions that you impose on him, the unemployment benefits that you grant him, the old age pension that you will one day provide for him, you do it to me; I am this worker, I am this unemployed person, I am this old man, I am this worker in whom I continue the work of the Redemption of men.
And, brothers, work thus became a collaboration with God in Christ; the work of a worker becomes the work of Our Lord Jesus Christ himself; work becomes a divine vocation; work becomes a divine apostolate; work becomes a sacrifice united with the prayer and sacrifice of Our Lord Jesus Christ himself. And when, next Saturday, in Paris, 80,000 young workers from all over France gather at the Parc des Princes, they will be able to tell their fellow workers and the whole of France, that, through their work , they are continuing the work of Our Lord Jesus Christ himself. My brothers, have we thought about this enough? Without work, there is no host, no bread, no sacrifice; no altar, no basilica, and even if a man’s mouth becomes powerless to sing praise to the glory of work, will not the stones of this basilica themselves sing praise to the glory of Christian work across the centuries? (Applause).
But it is not only outside help, it is not only material support that work gives to religion and the Eucharist. No, religion and the Eucharist transform the work of man himself into the work of Christ; the sacrifice of the Eucharist allows each worker to come and place the host of his work on the stage. The Eucharist-sacrifice transforms each worker into a lay priest who can make his workshop, his bench, his table or his lathe into an altar; united with the priests at the altars of their Church, united with the Eternal Priest, he can, with Christ, make his work the sacrifice of the mystical Christ for the Redemption of the human race, the Eucharist- sacrament will allow Christ, no longer only by faith, but to Christ in person to come and dwell in the heart of each worker, so that each worker can carry Christ to his fellow workers.
And once, my brothers, once young workers understand this, ah! what a revolution this will be in their lives. Ah! I know dozens today, thousands of them for whom their Sunday masses have become communion masses. I know thousands and thousands who would never fail to come to mass before going to work in the morning, who take Christ with them, into this temple and sanctuary into which they wish to transform their own factory
And if, six years ago already, in Quadragesimo Anno, the Pope was able “ “to greet, to the great joy of his soul these tight knuckles of young Christian workers who have answered the call of grace and nourish the noble ambition to reconquer the souls of their brothers in Christ,“ it is because the Jocist movement is above all a Eucharistic Crusade among young workers.
And thus, quite naturally, young workers who understood the Eucharist wished to transform their working environment in order that Christ could once again become their King there and ensure that justice and charity reign there.
Ah! the workplace! Do we remember enough the bitter complaint of Pope Pius XI in Quadragesimo Anno ? “Ah! Truly the mind shudders at the thought of the grave dangers to which the morals of workers (particularly younger workers) and the modesty of girls and women are exposed in modern factories.“ And the Pope ends this passage from his Encyclical with this cry of anguish: “Dead matter comes forth from the factory ennobled, while men there are corrupted and degraded.“
Today, the Eucharistic Crusade in the workplace is doing away with this stigma. Today, there are martyrs in the workplace, because there are communists in the workplace. These are young workers, who, despite suffering of which we have no idea, are changing this environment. Today, this pagan environment is being transformed into a sanctuary and a temple. And at the same time they are changing public opinion in their country. Here in my own little country, it is young workers who launched these impressive public opinion campaigns against immorality in the workplace, so that this obstacle no longer prevents the working class to come back to Our Lord Jesus Christ. They also carried out admirable campaigns that we call Easter campaigns. Ah! it is no longer from the pulpit that the working class is invited to come and have its Easter. No. The Church now sends her missionaries and apostles to each workplace. This year, three million Easter newspapers were distributed at the doors of factories, workshops and offices. It was by the tens of thousands that the workers were invited to return to the communion bench, and it was in their thousands that they answered the call of their working brothers and sisters. And to demonstrate the effectiveness of the Eucharist in the workplace, what can we say about this extraordinary ceremony of the minute of silence, Good Friday, at three o’clock? This year, in more than 3,000 workplaces in Belgium, on Good Friday at three in the afternoon, workers, sometimes alone, sometimes in groups, sometimes with all the staff of the workshop or factory, memorialised the death of Christ at Golgotha with a minute of silence and meditation; in workplaces and industrial centers, sirens whistled, machines stopped, all the personnel gathered in the hall of the factories as jocists sang: “Lord Jesus, you died in this moment on the Cross, we offer you our work. Let your Kingdom come in our factory.“ (Applause).
And this is how the Eucharist is preparing the advent of a working regime which is no longer based on antagonism of interests, class struggle, the imperialism of races or nations, but on the divine, universal and eternal law, of justice and charity. Do you not therefore feel that when all the working classes are united at the communion bench with all the leaders of industry and professions, do you not feel that, united on the Eucharistic level and associated with their brothers on the communion bench around the God’s family table, it is inevitable that on the economic level, that on the political level, this fraternity, this community also spring up there? And this is what the Pope pointed out: “The Christian order of work must imitate as much as possible, must achieve as much as possible the unity of the divine plan; yes, one in Christ, one therefore, with the same divine origin and the divine destined mother; for this, collaborating with each other in justice, in charity. Then the rich and the leaders will understand their duty of charity towards their collaborators, the workers; and they will have to give tangible proof of this by the just improvements demanded by the working class; but then also the working class will no longer know this feeling of hatred and this feeling of envy, because it will feel to what degree of divine greatness has elevated religion and the Eucharist.
“But for that, my brothers, I beg you, there must be no watertight bulkhead between religious life and working life. No watertight bulkhead between the worship environment and the workplace. It must disappear, this deplorable duplication of consciousness of which the Holy Father is a part. We must end this unfortunate contradiction between the man who practices religious practices and the man who must live these religious practices in his everyday life. Then the working class will have found the Father’s real house; then the working class will have found the true family table of its Father who is in heaven; and then yes, communion will multiply the apostles, the witnesses of Christ among the working class in the workplace.
This is the message that the Eucharistic Congress of Lisieux must send to the working class of France and the world; a message of life, message of peace, message of salvation. Ah! may little Sainte de Lisieux make this message heard by the mass of the working class of France.
Eight years ago, my dear brothers, receiving the first pilgrimage to Rome of 1,500 Jocistes, the Pope deigned to tell them: “Jocistes, you are missionaries from the inside. There are internal missions and there are external missions; I say that these are as important and sometimes more difficult than these. You Jocistes, you are the missionaries from the inside. Saint Theresa is the special protector of missionaries; I give her to you as special protector and I ask her to bless you in your mission and to give you a fruitful apostolate.
“My brothers Sunday tomorrow at eight, 100,000 young workers from France, Belgium, Switzerland and twenty countries of the world will come to the center of your country, the heart of Paris, giving the solemn response to the call of the Pope and the message of your Congress. In the afternoon, before the cardinals, before the archbishops, before the bishops, to conclude their Congress, they will make this promise: “Working class of France, working class of the world, regain courage and keep confidence; thanks to the YCW, your salvation is on the march, because driven by the Eucharistic Christ, no human power can stop us; for new times by a new working youth! Forward!
These new times announced by the YCW will be Eucharistic times! This new youth will be steeped in the cult of the Eucharist! And when Christ has become the King of the world of work, when he has brought justice and charity to reign; when he has united in his Eucharistic Heart individuals, families, peoples and nations, well, then peace will reign on earth; nations will once again embrace each other like sisters in Christ, the salvation of the masses will be effected by means of the Bread of Life, for the Glory of God.
Basilica of Lisieux
July 10, 1937
Joseph Cardijn, Sermon at the Lisieux Eucharistic Congress (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)