Today is Good Friday. And so it seems appropriate to reflect on the way that the early Belgian YCW leaders commemorated Christ’s death in their workplaces, factories and offices.
In this extract from a homily delivered at St Therese’s Basilica at Lisieux in France in July 1937, Cardijn tells the story of how those young workers worked to transform their workplaces in order that God’s kingdom might come to those workplaces.
The Eucharist in the Factory
And so, quite naturally, the young workers who understood the Eucharist wanted to transform their working environment, so that Christ could again become their King there and ensure that justice and charity would reign there.
Ah! the workplace! Do we think often enough of Pope Pius XI’s bitter complaint in Quadragesimo Anno? “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 concludes this passage of 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 in the process of removing this stigma. Today there are martyrs in the workplace, because there are Communists in the workplace. Here are young workers, who, despite the suffering of which we have no idea, are transforming this milieu. Today, this pagan environment is being transformed into a sanctuary and a temple. And at the same time they are transforming public opinion in their country.
Back home, in my little country, it is young workers and young workers who have launched these impressive public opinion campaigns against immorality in the workplace, so that this obstacle no longer prevents the working class from returning to Our Lord Jesus Christ.
They have also carried out admirable campaigns which we call Easter campaigns. Ah! it is no longer from the top of the pulpit that the working class is invited to come and celebrate Easter. No. The Church now sends her missionaries and apostles to every workplace.
This year, three million Easter newspapers were distributed at the gates of factories, workshops and offices. Tens of thousands of workers have been invited to return to the communion bench, and thousands of them have answered the call of their brothers and sisters at work.
And to illustrate the effectiveness of the Eucharist in the workplace, what can be said of this extraordinary ceremony of the minute of silence, on Good Friday, at three o’clock?
This year, in more than 3,000 workplaces in Belgium, on Good Friday at three o’clock in the afternoon, the workers, sometimes alone, sometimes in groups, sometimes with all the staff of the workshop or factory, commemorated the death of Christ at Golgotha with a minute of silence and meditation; machines stopped in workplaces, sirens sounded in industrial centres, the machines stopped, all the personnel took their hats off while in the halls of the factories, Jocists sang: “Lord Jesus, you died on the Cross at this moment and so we offer you our work. May your kingdom also come in our factories.”
Joseph Cardijn, Sermon à la Basilique de Lisieux (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)
Dall E / Stefan Gigacz