Concerning the role of the YCW in the world, Fr Joseph Cardijn stated in 1945: “Our task is to put an end to the great scandal of the nineteenth century – the loss of the masses by the Church.” Why did the Church lose “the masses”? The Industrial Revolution brought with it the introduction of the factory system. The guild system collapsed and people moved from the countryside to the cities. All the masses had to sell was their labour; they became easy victims of exploitation, which Pope Leo XIII described as “a yoke little better than that of slavery itself.” in his encyclical Rerum Novarum (1891, n.3).
The Industrial Revolution was accompanied by developments in philosophy and science, most with little acknowledgement of debt to religion, particularly Catholicism. In 1950, Fr Joseph Cardijn made the following observations in his explanation of the truth of experience:
– the powerlessness of the young worker in the face of the system which rules the economic life and even the thought of the modem world: capitalism, “liberal economics”.
– the irresistible influence of the great ideological talents which are at present moving the masses; materialism, naturalism, existentialism, nationalism, communism, etc.
Standing against the truth of experience is the truth of faith, which Cardijn had described in 1945 in the following way: “Young workers must always be faced with the great truth of the eternal destiny of the mass of young workers.” He presented the YCW with a vision of its members as apostles and missionaries who modelled their lives on Jesus. In his talk in 1950, he stated: “It gives to each young worker a vocation, a personal mission, which transforms his life into a collaboration with God, with all men, for the achievement of the divine plan in the work of creation and redemption.”
Cardijn’s theology finds a reference in the Gospel reading for today’s Mass, Monday of the Fourth Week of Lent (John 4:43-54). The Gospel story presents a man (a royal official) who is powerless to prevent his son from dying. He appeals to Jesus to come and save him. Jesus tells him his son will live and the man believes him. In teaching the leaders in the YCW about the truth of faith, Cardijn was urging them to have faith in Christ, just as the royal official in the Gospel story. Their faith in Jesus will contribute to the transformation
Mahatma Gandhi has been credited with saying that if we want to change the world, we first must change ourselves. So acknowledging the Word of God in the way St John does in the beginning of his Gospel, must start with ourselves. What are some ways of doing this, of being a disciple of Jesus who promotes the place of the Master in people’s daily lives?
The starting point has to be with ourselves. A simple action would be reading from the Gospels each day. To read the scriptures prayerfully is an act of worship. Pope Francis has stated that worship of God is the first action of every apostle and we are called to be apostles. The action that follows from this is an act of love for those who form the community to which we belong. How might social media be used to share the fruits of our worship of God? How might we place ourselves in the service of others because of our love for God?
Read more …
Pope Leo XIII (1891), Rerum Novarum.
A YCW of the masses to the scale of the world September, 1945
The YCW: its doctrinal foundation and essential characteristics – a talk given by Fr Joseph Cardijn at the JOC International Congress in 1950
Readings for Monday of the Fourth Week of Lent
What does it mean to be an apostle? Pope Francis: General Audience, St Peter’s Square, Wednesday, 15 March, 2023: