Have you read Challenge to Action: Forming Leaders for Transformation? It is a collection of talks or lectures by Fr Joseph Cardijn, the founder of the Young Christian Workers. The original English edition was edited by Fr Eugene Langdale who was a pioneer of Catholic social work in England and a close friend of Cardijn.. Ordained in 1934, Fr Langdale was instrumental with others in bringing the YCW Movement to England. You can obtain a copy of the ebook from the Joseph Cardijn Digital Library.
The focus of Cardijn’s work was young workers, specifically the formation of leaders, who would be apostles to the masses of young workers in the world. The genesis of his mission was his experience of the negative impact of factory work on his peers. When he entered the junior seminary, they went out to work. He reported much later: “They were intelligent, decent, God-fearing. When I came back for my holidays they were coarse, corrupted and lapsed from the Church—whilst I was becoming a priest. I started to make enquiries, it became the obsession of my life. How did it come about that young lads brought up by Christian parents in Christian schools should be lost in a few months?”
The young priest Joseph Cardijn worked to empower young Christian leaders to transform the world of all workers. His mission is every Christian’s mission. It is the mission Jesus gave to his followers after his Resurrection and before he ascended to heaven. As with all good that is done in the world, evil is always present and more often than not, in the form of the status quo, the patterns of our lives that we protect from disruptive influences … and Cardijn was certainly a disruptive element in the Church and in the world.
We hear this story being told in the Gospel for Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Lent (John 5:1-16). In the Jewish society of the time of Jesus and the birth of the Church, work on the sabbath was forbidden. A man, who had been ill for 38 years, was lying on his mat in one of the five entrances to the pool of Siloam in the Temple precincts. It was the sabbath and the man was too slow to reach the pool when one of God’s angels stirred the water so that he could be cured. Jesus listened to the man’s story and healed him. When he picked up his mat, he was stopped by people who were scandalised by his sinful action – Jews are forbidden from working on the sabbath and carrying one’s mat constituted work, just as Jesus broke the law because he healed the man on the sabbath. Blind obedience to the letter of the law constituted the evil present in the Temple.
Our world is full of “good news” stories, which are told to teach people about the good in our society and to encourage them to be doers of good also. Rarely are stories told about “loving God.” It is as though faith is a very private thing and we should never give voice to the part that God plays in our good works. It would be politically incorrect to do so in our society.
Surely, therefore, there is a strong need, indeed, a demand for disruptive behaviour in the form of public proclamation of the good news of God’s presence and power at work in people’s lives. Let’s acknowledge in simple ways, the presence of God and openly praise and thank God. Let’s share our God-stories with our families and friends. Let’s be apostles to our neighbours.
Read more …
Challenge to Action: Forming Leaders for Transformation, by Joseph Cardijn
Short Biography of Cardijn, by Father Eugene Langdale