(St) Joseph Cardijn spent his working life teaching by word and example about the eternal and temporal destiny of each person and of the moral responsibility that each worker has to lead the workers of the world to achieve their divine destiny. In one of his writings from 1945, he said, “The body of the young worker and of the young working girl is a living temple of God; the home they will found is inseparably linked up with all these necessary convictions, it is a spiritual ideal incarnate in time, lived in time. This spiritual training, this spiritual conception of life imply a morality, which is not a burden, but a responsibility.” In saying this, Cardijn attempts to describe a spiritual anthropology.
The Australian Cistercian monk, Michael Casey offers a reflection on spiritual anthropology in his book Grace: on the journey to God (2018). He proposes as a starting point the belief that all people are created in the image and likeness of God. In Genesis 1, it is revealed that we are created in the image of God: “Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness… (1:26). I have always regarded “image and likeness” as a “double-barrel” expression, done to emphasise the first word, in this case, “image.” Casey has a different view: the word “image” refers to God’s act of creating us. We have no say in the matter. It is God’s grace at work. It is God’s intention that we be seen as images of God. But the moment we say, “Well, this is what God is like”, pointing to another individual or to ourselves, then we are working with the word “likeness.” We have the potential to be like God. It is up to us to desire to be like God and to seek to be like God.
The desire and the action are acknowledgements of the eternal destiny of each person. And at the same time, they are the temporal destiny of each person. In the Gospel reading for Mass for Friday of the Fourth Week of Lent (John 7:1-2, 10, 25-30), the evangelist recounts a story from the life and ministry of Jesus. He contrasts Jesus’ faithfulness to the Father with the lack of faith of those who were quick to judge him as being unworthy of God’s grace, or who were uncertain about God’s presence in their lives. Ever aware of his eternal destiny, which is for all people, to give glory to God for all eternity, and which is fitting for all created in the image of God, Jesus called out those who chose to be not like God.
In every situation in his life, Cardijn tried to ask himself what Jesus would do if he was in that situation. He taught his young leaders to do the same. Reflecting on the source of their faith, that is, the Tradition of the Church, involved participation in the life of the Church. He encouraged them to immerse themselves in the Church and in the world. Is there an action within this framework that is possible to carry out and to invite others to be involved also? It seems to me that self-transformation and the transformation of the world need a spiritual anthropology like that described by Cardijn in 1945. The challenge for us in the twenty-first century is to work out what it will look like now, almost eighty years after Cardijn wrote his reflection.
Read more …
A YCW of the masses to the scale of the world – a reflection written by Fr Joseph Cardijn
Casey, Michael (2018). Grace: On the Journey to God. Brewster, Massachusetts: Paraclete Press, Inc., Chapter 3: The Grace of Humanity.
Readings for Friday of the Fourth Week of Lent