1956 - Quaerite Primum

I am very happy to be here among you, the Chaplains of the Y.C.W. of England, the most important point in the English speaking world. If we can have a strong movement here, we will have a strong movement in America, in Asia, and in many other countries, and therefore, I thank you for your collaboration.

I come not to give a lesson, but to seefr with you. You know that is the great idea of my life – quaerite - quaerite et invenietis - we must search, seek. A priest is a seeker - Quaerite et invenietis, quaerite primum regnum Dei et omnia adjicientur vobis - a searcher. Do this and you will remain young; if you seek no more, you are old.

At the moment, not only in one country, but in all the races and all the countries, the problem is increasing and the need of the solution.


In one year, the population of the world increases more than in a thousand years before Christ, than in a hundred years after Christ. Every year, there are 30 million more people on the earth; in proportion, the numbers of workers, working boys and working girls increases more and more, not more in one year than in a thousand years, but more in one year than in ten thousand years, in all the different races of the world. The first problem, the greatest problem of today is the increase of the population of the world, of the working population, and of the working youth.

The second is the increase of the dangers of the influence of the world, of working life. In the most developed countries, you have robotism, working youth who no longer reflect; holidays, weekends, cars, dancing, radio - they no longer reflect; escape, amusement, in the developed lands, in the U.S.A. and elsewhere. And in other lands, misery - a sub-proletariat - one-fourth part of humanity richer and richer and three-fourths more and more poor. This is the contradiction.

There is the danger of false solutions; everywhere solutions are sought; socialists seek solutions, communists seek solutions, materialists seek solutions, but always exterior solutions, in the reform of working hours, in security, in wages, and in the possibility of having less work and more free time, and so exterior - political solutions, economic solutions and social solutions – but not interior solutions. We will see, there must always be a double transformation - an interior transformation, to bring about exterior transformation, a human transformation, a Christian transformation; a transformation of minds, transformation of the conception of life, transformation of the conception of the relation between boys and girls, marriage, and so on. Never has the task of the priest had more importance than today, and we will see our priestly responsibility in three ways - our responsibility in discovering the problem in our parish, in our country, in the world, we must first discover to be able to help others to discover. We must discover the problem; we can help young workers, adult workers, to discover the problem, to solve the problem, to seek the solution. It is always seek, seek, seek everywhere, in every parish, in every country, in all races in the world.

Secondly, we must help the young workers to discover the problem; they are not robots, to whom we say “Do this and do that,” no, they themselves must discover the problem but through us, we must help them to discover the problem.

Thirdly, we must build the movement; our priestly responsibility is to make the discovery ourselves; we must See, Judge and Act, helping the young worker to discover the problem – they must see the problem, judge the problem, and solve the problem, and be then together, the movement in our parish, in our country, and in all the countries of the world. That is our priestly responsibility; it is not alongside our priesthood, it is our priesthood. It is the essence of our priesthood - Ite et docete - it is for this that we are priests. We are priests, not only to offer Mass, not only to forgive sins, it is our mission to discover the problem of the world, to spread God's reign in the world., Christ's reign in the world and therefore, we must more and more seek the true problem, the real problem, the genuine problem; not the false problem, not the imaginary problem. Some priests may say “All means are good." No! All means are not good! You cannot paint with a hammer. Legion of Mary, Boy Scouts, yes they are all good, but not to solve the problem. We must judge, and we must seek, seek, seek the real problem, the genuine problem, the authentic problem, and then the authentic solution; and we must seek; if we cannot find, working people cannot find; if we don't believe in a solution, working people cannot believe, and working people cannot come to the Church, cannot realise the apostolate in the Church. That is the great tragedy of today, the great drama of today, the danger to the Church. We alone can solve the problem, and we - must show the working class of the world. Communists can not solve the problem; we Christians alone can solve the problem. The Communists have already today a milliard people under their regime - there is a great danger in the Far East.


We must return always to what we call the three fundamental truths. We must always seek the three fundamental truths. The truth of Faith, dogma, but not a theoretical dogma, a living dogma, the truth with reality, not only a theory, a doctrine.

Secondly, the truth of experience; the situation in every country in every parish in the world today.

And then the third truth, the solution, the method to solve the contradiction between the first two truths. There is a contradiction, that is the great drama, there is a contradiction between the truth of Faith and the truth of experience; there is a tension, a conflict between the first two truths, and we must find the solution of that conflict. It is what the Communists call the dialectic.

You have a Marxist dialectic, a thesis, an antithesis, and a synthesis, and we Christians must show that we have the only true dialectic that can save the world. A thesis, an antithesis that we see; we open our eyes and our ears. We are not in Heaven; we are on earth. By that synthesis, the movement, you can solve both problems, the problem of Faith and the problem of experience.

We must see that problem, that is a necessity for a priest to see that problem, that the truth of Faith is that each - each young worker of the earth, all, without exception, have an eternal destiny and a divine vocation on earth, because they are human persons; they are not instruments, they are an end in themselves. They may be white, they may be black, they may be brown, each of these hundreds and hundreds of millions of young boys and girls, each has a soul and an eternal destiny, as well as the Pope, as well as the Bishop, as well as the priest, as well as the nun each and all of them, without one exception, omnes. We priests, we must see, we must not remain satisfied “Oh, I have a group of ten or a group of twenty or more, but how many are there? 400 or 500? Each young worker, English, Moslem, Buddhist young workers, each has an eternal destiny and that is the missionary aim of the Church.

And we must see it more and more clearly still, we priests especially. Each young worker, and all the young workers have an eternal destiny and a vocation in their daily lives, not when they are in the Church, but in their daily lives; there they have their eternal destiny They come to Church to find the light, to find the power, the help of God, to bring their eternal destiny into their lives. They have their eternal destiny in their daily life, their environment, in their home, in the street, the factory, the warehouse, the mine, there! And they come to Church to find life for that life. And we must give them that; we may be satisfied that they come to Church, that they have received Communion at Easter, but after? They have an irreplaceable apostolate in the Church, in their daily lives, in the ordinary facts of their daily lives, in their relation with their parents, in their relation with their brothers and sisters, in relation with their comrades, in their relationships in workshops, on the bus, in the street and in the factory, there they have an irreplaceable mission for the Church.

They are the first and immediate apostles of their comrades.

The Pope told me many times, I cannot be in the factory and Bishops and priests cannot be in the factory, but I, and the Bishops and priests must make apostles. Every Christian worker must be an apostle in the factory; not just if he has the time, if he will accept it as an honour. No, he must, and if we do not make him an apostle, we priests are not doing our priest's task. We must educate them to the apostolate It is not a luxury it is an essential That then, is the fundamental basis of their dignity, it is the fundamental basis of their rights and of their duties, that divine mission that they received from God. Where do they exist? Where do they live? Where must they work? Will they love a girl? Where will they be married? The solution is always this, that they have a mission in marriage, they have a mission in their relation with the girl, they have a mission in their work, in their homes, in the streets, in the reality of their daily lives. They have there an irreplaceable mission, all of them, but they do not know it. And that is a necessary collaboration to accomplish the plan of God in the creation and in the redemption. Alnighty God is unmighty without the collaboration of the young workers, and working girls, and Christ might remain on His Cross till the end of the world, and it would be a failure without that collaboration. We must see the plan of the creation and the redemption - we priests - we must see that we may not separate the first truth of Faith from the second truth of experience, it is opium if you do not see the reality.


We priests must see the second truth, the abandonment of the mass of the working youth and the people. When they leave school, they have been educated till fourteen-fifteen years of age. I saw this truth, I discovered it sixty years ago. I am seventy-four. At fourteen I was due to go to the factory. I went instead to the Seminary and then I came back for my holidays, I saw that all the young pupils of my class who were more intelligent than I, more pious than I (I was not first in my class), were corrupted because they had to go to the factory. Experience, reality; working youth and working people cannot realise their eternal destiny and their divine vocation, if they are abandoned to all the difficulties, all the influences, evils, and the dangers of their daily lives in their environment, without a solution to all the problems of their daily lives. That is the reality; but we must see the contradiction between the truth of Faith and the truth of reality, of experience, for more than three-fourths of humanity; what are four-hundred million Catholics in two-thousand-four-hundred million people?


We must see that, and then we must see the solution and that there is no other solution. For 60 years, after speaking with the Pope and all the authorities of the Church, I can find no other solution than that we must organise working youth and working people, to be able to solve the problems of their daily lives - we must organise them, put them in movement, a movement that is an organisation which moves the young people and the adult people to see the problems, judge them, and solve the problems.

The three truths: I think I am naive, I am simple - be also naive and simple and tell of your conviction. I tell you my conviction. Against Communism and against the victory of Communism, there is no other solution The Pope told me, last time I saw him “I also, cannot see another solution.” You have the mystery of God, but as reasonable beings we must seek a solution. And that is our responsibility as priests and, I repeat, our responsibility also is irreplaceable - nobody can replace us. We alone receive the grace to docere and to give all the graces needed to make the doctrine a reality. If the priests do not give it, people cannot do it.


I have said it is the essence of our priesthood; we may not separate, in our priesthood, our dogma and Holy Scripture and the Sacraments, and the Liturgy, and the different aspects. No! The Church is one apostolic body, to spread the reign of God in life, in humanity, it is one; and Scripture and Dogma and Sacraments and Liturgy are the means to solve the problem. We must not separate the Church, if we do we break the Church, we destroy the Church. All Liturgy, all Sacraments, all meditation, all spiritual life, yes, this is all needed, but the whole is needed, not one part, no, the whole. And also in our priestly life, we may not separate our Mass, our prayers, our Confessions, our Catechism. There must be unity in our priestly life - unity, so that everything, our prayers, our meditation, our holiness, our Mass, our breviary, all that we do, is directed to the salvation of the world. We are the collaborators of Christ to save the world, today in our parish. We may not separate the education of children, of pupils, of young workers, of adults. Some priests deal only with children, others only with adults, others only young workers. No! All together! With our Y.C.W. Movement we cannot solve the problem alone. We must have an adult Christian workers movement. The Y.C.W. is a means, therefore, a necessary means to have tomorrow a world Christian adult movement to solve the problems of daily life against Communism, against materialism, against all the pagan influences. We cannot solve the problem in another way.

In the same way, we must not separate one priest from another priest; more and more priests must work together, Parish Priest, Curate, Dean, and all the priests and have the same conception of our apostolate and of the problem. We must unite ourselves more and more; when we divide and separate ourselves, we fight against each other.

In the same way, we must not separate our parish; we may talk about our parish, but our parish is not the Church, our parish is part of the Church. We must not separate our parish or the parishes of the country. Still less today than in the past, can we accept division between the races, between parishes. I do not know the situation in England, but with us in Belgium, nine-tenths of the young boys and girls, after school, go to work far from the parish-in another parish, in a factory; and they are every day in every week, far from the parish priest in their daily lives in the factory; can you make a division and say, “No, I do not know him; I never met her?” No! they are the boys and girls of your parish and you must know what are the influences and the difficulties of your parish boys and girls every day. What are their daily problems? You, the priest, you must know that!

This is the great directive of our priestly life - Cognosco oves meas et cognoscunt me meae - we must know where the parish boys are during the week. Today, in the holidays, they do not remain in the parish, they go out more and more.


We may not separate one from another, and we may not separate formation, action and organisation - it is one. “I am going to form my boys for years and years.” No! They must act, and they must be organised; with formation alone you cannot solve the problem, you cannot save the boys and girls. And then we must seek our priest's task, the role of the priest in the Y.C.W. We must not only give lessons, not only preach, not only give a commentary on the Gospel. We must be the priestly movers of the whole; we must help the boys and girls to discover the problem, and to discover and realise the solution, through the three truths and the building of the movement, enabling them to solve the problems of their daily lives.

With my experience, I say we are the movers of the movement, - Quidquid movetur ab alio movetur and in the Y.C.W. Quidquid movetur a sacerdote movetur. In the Y.C.W. he is the first mover, but with him he must have and form lay movers. He has a priestly task, but he alone cannot move the movement. He must form leaders for action, for organisation, for influence in daily life, as the elite, as the leaven in the lump.

The constant aim of our movement is not the elite, not the leaders, but the masses. The leader is not a leader for himself, the leader is to conquer the masses, to influence the masses, to affiliate the masses, to have an influence in the different environments where the Church must enter.


Every Chaplain must always have this attitude and aim. I must bring about a double transformation, I must transform my boys and my girls so that they see the problems, judge and act, and become apostles, but also I must help them to transform the environment wherever they are. There is the double transformation, an interior transformation of boys, and an exterior transformation, of the bus, of the workshops and the factories, and the mines; and we must discover and help the boys and girls to discover that. That is the task of the Chaplain, not only to give lessons on the Gospel, on Dogma, on the encyclicals, on the doctrine of the Church; no! we must help the boys and girls to be conscious of their own dignity, of their own vocation. “Where are you working? Ah! There! Are you satisfied?” We must talk about it, and interest ourselves in their daily life and environment, with all the different questions and the problems of their daily life, and also with all the surroundings of our parish and of the surroundings of the boys of our parish and of other parishes, where the boys are working in their factories. How many boys? We will see, we will do an enquiry. How many girls are there in that warehouse ? We will do an enquiry. We will see, where do they come from? Are they from our parish? We will seek to know them, always making enquiries about the different environments, about the number of boys, about their life, their professional life, their life in preparation for the future.


And then we must think what we can do. What can you do ? Can you speak with them? Do you know them? Is he a stranger to you? Can you not know him? Can you not greet him? Can you not speak to him? Can you not give him the paper of our movement? Contact him? The means for the priest is that he must have priestly contact with the boys - in a priestly way - have an interest in their lives, in their trade, for their future, for their work and environment. Ask them, what do you do there? What do you talk about there? can you help the others there? what is the morality there? And so, by our enquiries, we transform them so that they discover their own apostolate. They must be apostles of the parish. We parish priests cannot go to the factory, but the parish boys and girls will go in the factory and there will spread the doctrine of the parish, the grace of the parish, the mission of the parish, so that all the parish, through our boys and girls and, later, through adults, becomes an apostolic community, not only in the church, not only during the Mass, nor only in our meetings when we are together, but in the street, in the environment of daily life. When I seek the role of the Chaplain, I think of that, I cannot find any other way than by his priestly contact.

When I was a curate, 44 years ago, that was my only idea, I must contact all the boys, I spoke with them, greeted them on the street, in their houses, when they were together. I did not speak about the Mass, I did nor speak about religion, I spoke about their daily lives. Where do you work? What are you doing so that they got to know me and I was able to know them. Where are you living? What is your address? And your Father and Mother? Have contact, living contact with the boys and girls. And then seek out one boy and one girl - I began with a girl and asked her to contact other girls, visit them, to give service to the sick, to the abandoned girls. In time we had two, three, four, five, six, and when we were six, our team set off to conquer the world. We must get more and more contacts, more and more services, not only in meetings, yes, we must meet with our group of leaders and, in our group of leaders, we must not only give there the explanation of the Gospel or of a lesson, no, we must make the enquiry with our leaders, seek where they are working, what they are doing, what they can do for the sick, for the young people leaving school or for those in this or that factory, or in that school; and what they can do in preparation for marriage and so on. In that way we can build up all the different services, for the sick, for preparation for marriage.


No only locally is all this needed; the local Chaplain must also remember that he must collaborate with all the other: local sections and the other local Chaplains and all the other local leaders, so that they may be a movement together. Local sections alone, separated, divided, cannot solve the problems of working youth; it is impossible. They must be united, collaborate with each other, visit each other, come together with each other - because their boys and girls work every day together in that factory or warehouse environment. The parishes, together, must have influence; not the Communists having influence, nor the corrupted having influence, but all the parish boys and girls, and adults - but united in a movement, in an organisation; divided, yes, into sections, but united and making together a national and an international movement.

Our local leaders and members and the parents and the mass of working youth must know there is a national and an international Y.C.W. movement. We must spread our papers, we must hold meetings, we must go to the masses; they must know all that there is today against Communism; that there is an, international Christian movement for the salvation of the boys, for the help of the boys, for the relief of the boys, and the salvation of all the working class in the world. Who is always the promoter of this ?

The Chaplain! Because he is the Church, he is the Hierarchy of the place, the Christ of the place. He must promote his leaders and encourage them and show them that they can do it and form them, therefore, because the workers are not beasts, not machines, not slaves, but human persons saved by Christ. They must become more and more conscious of their dignity and of their mission, to be able to accomplish their apostolate on earth. Then they will be happy and do good and there will be new families and a new working class.

You know, it is so simple, I cannot understand why men say there are difficulties. We must accept the difficulties. Perhaps you are on the street and there is a boy - you can pass him by, but you can greet him “Good-day, how are you?” The first time he will be astonished, but the second time he will not be so astonished, nor at the third or fourth time. Afterwards you will talk together; but you can turn away and not see him or greet him. Others make propaganda by contact. We must have human contacts which will become priestly contacts - but human through human life, human necessities; they are not angels, they have bodies, and they have needs, and we must take them as they are. We must call and speak to them, have contact with them, and then we will speak about it with our team of leaders, “I was in that street and I met a boy, do you know him? It was so and so. We will seek him, he must not remain a stranger for us, he must become known to us, must become a friend; we will pray for him, we must try to find him - oves perditas – quae - no more - sunt ex hoc ovile - illas oportet me adducerc. We must seek them, must contact them, we must not be indifferent to them, those whom we do not know - we must seek them, we must find the way to get to know them and save them.

And nobody is satisfied, no! Every day more and more we go and begin, and we begin again, and persevere. We say it is difficult. I did it for 44 years and still I am always beginning again. What, in the Church, is a life of 50 years in the priesthood? It depends on what we intend to do and on our seeing the necessity, for it. You must not say, I will enjoy my rest. Requiescat in pace! That comes afterwards. More and more, by our contacts, we will discover the problem in our parish – the problem of so many boys, and so many girls; we will get to know our boys and girls.

I saw the first results of your Chaplains' part in the international enquiry, in preparation for our Pilgrimage, and I must congratulate you. It is the first time in the history of the Church that it is possible, in 75 countries of the world, to make an enquiry about the religious situation of working youth, in Africa, Asia, America, Australia Europe. We must discuss our findings with our parish priest, with our curates; we must not say we have no time. When I told the Pope that many priests say they have no time, Pius XI replied “No time to save the Church! I also have no time, but I make time! I make time to receive you, I have other things to do, but I speak an hour with you because the problem of the salvation of the Church is there.” So we have no time! We must seek, search! So we discover that that is the task of the Chaplains not only to give an explanation of the Gospel, not only to give a lesson. No ! We discover the situation of the working youth of our parish, of the working youth of our country and of the world! And we help our leaders, our boys and girls, to discover the problem, and we save them and encourage them, and with all their difficulties and abandonment, we will win the masses and we will gain all the souls to Christ, all the young workers.

I am sure when I die that it is only a beginning. We begin always. If one says it is impossible, then we are finished, then the Church is destroyed. And today in every parish we must have that missionary mind, because that is the problem, to give to youth a missionary mind. One is not a Christian because one goes to Church every day. If we do only that we are spiritual capitalists. Yes, we go there for ourselves. One may not save oneself without saving the others; that is not Christian, that is Pharisaism. When they came to me to Confession, I said, have you been there, and there, and there? I did not speak only of the Mass and Communion and purity. One would think there were no other sins but not coming to Mass, to Communion, and being impure, three sins. The great sin today is the abandonment of the young workers; if they are fallen in impurity, well, we will help them.

How? When they are with others, helping to save them, they have no time for impurity; they have other ideas and pre-occupations. We must give to working youth the preoccupation of others.


I think the personal formation of boys and girls must preoccupy us more and more. In all countries we must seek to deepen our formation, not to give the same formation to all, but increasingly to adapt formation and give greater possibilities in spiritual, moral and social life, to have not only generosity and a sense of responsibility, but also knowledge-doctrine. In our study days, study sessions, and in the personal influence of the Chaplain, there is there a great question to be solved. Perhaps in the future, we will have leaders' sessions for a month, to deepen their social formation. We all see the necessity of having yearly Retreats for our leaders because, with a natural way of life, we cannot make apostles; we must be more and more preoccupied to give a spiritual life, a moral life and also intellectual formation, so that they have the doctrine they need. Because today and for the world of tomorrow, the greatest problems will be doctrinal problems. Is the man a person? With Marxism and materialism in many Universities in the world, we must be able to give a deeper doctrinal formation, so that we can answer the intellectual Marxist and the Communist, not only by joking, no, but by going deep into the question. We must seek the means, therefore, and see that our study weeks are more and more open for our leaders. When a leader comes from a section, I know there is a good Chaplain. The leaders who are present at our study weeks are always those where there is a good Chaplain, and I think we Chaplains must take the responsibility of seeing that our local and regional leaders come to the study weeks; they must not say they have no time.

The same is true for regional meetings and events. When I used to start new sections, the first question I asked the priest was: You want a section? Yes? Then you must promise that your local leaders will always be present at regional meetings, because it is not a local section if they do not collaborate with the region; it may be a parish group, but it is not a section of our movement. A section of our movement must pay their subscriptions and send leaders to the regional meetings; and all that is for the benefit of the parish. Regional meetings and regional sessions are not for ourselves. No, they are for the parish. The parish needs the region to have that missionary mind, to have the possibility of forming the leaders to be apostles; the parish needs it, and we parish priests must form the mind of our local leaders in this sense; then our movement will be a true movement in our local sections.

We have a big headquarters in Brussels, but if we have not good local sections, our big headquarters is a caricature, a tomb of the movement. Leaders must go to the regional sessions; then we will have a strong movement in all parishes and you and the leaders will take more responsibility upon yourselves to build the movement. Tell them: we priests must help you, sustain you, encourage you, but we cannot replace you are before Christ and the working class, you are today responsible for the saving of working youth in every country of the world, and we together, we priests and leaders, we will build our International movement.


The first branch or age group of our movement is for the school-leavers, that which you call the Pre-Y.C.W. To see the importance of this, we must make enquiries about the school-leavers first day in the environment of work, how the boy is received, how he thinks, what he sees, what contacts he makes. This is one of the most important events in the life of the boys, and they can be lost for ever from the first day. They may well meet one who will say: You are not in school now you must go with girls, and I do this, and I do that. He is alone, he cannot defend himself. The girls, the same; You are no longer in school with the sisters here; that's alright for children etc. We cannot attach enough importance to the preparation of the boys and girls. I have spoken many times to managers and employers; I tell them of their responsibility when they receive perhaps ten boys and girls every year. Suppose it was your children, your girl, your boy. You are the father of these girls and boys. The parish priest must go to the school and talk to the teacher about this preparation. How many boys and girls are leaving this term to start work? They must be prepared. We must also meet their parents and discuss it. There must be more attention then to school-leavers, and they are one of the branches of the Y.C.W.

Then you have the ordinary boys and girls from fifteen to seventeen or eighteen - Under Twenties, as they are called - with them we talk of the ordinary problems of their daily lives, their daily surroundings and all the different needs of their age. We must already make leaders among them, give them responsibilities.

You must learn by experience, different means for different countries, but I prefer to have leaders for the Pre-Y.C.W. from the over-twenties, because they have more responsibility, and because it is not easy to lead young boys from the age of fourteen years. And therefore there is an ordinary transformation of the girls and boys from fourteen to twenty, making them responsible in their environment, in the street, for the sick, at meetings, and already you must have leaders under twenty, because then we can prepare them to remain leaders when they are over twenty.


We try to make our Chaplains see that we need a greater stability in the leaders. I do not know the situation here but we like leaders to remain leaders for a period of years, not having different leaders every year. You cannot have any deep responsibility or influence without this, and we must try therefore, and make them promise to remain leaders and get them to consecrate themselves to the movement for a number of years; without this you cannot have a movement with prestige and influence with the national bodies, with the Bishop, and with public opinion. More and more, therefore, we must pay attention to the over-twenties and insist on their remaining in the movement until marriage. That must be the standard to be set.

Then those who have been in the Forces and the girls must be prepared more for their future. There is the question of marriage and its preparations, children, their relations in their engagement. These questions must be solved and cannot be solved unless they are solved in an apostolic way by young workers remaining still more as Y.C.W. leaders when they are engaged than before, instead of giving up their Y.C.W. 'work. That is one of the greatest influences of the movement of the over-twenties; they must remain leaders and during their engagement they have an apostolate of engagement. They must be an example not only by words, but by their lives, and be apostles for marriage and for new families. And in that group we must, when possible, have leaders of the Pre-Y.C.W. and also other leaders of the section. You must begin as you can and work towards the whole age range. We Chaplains must try and attract young workers over twenty. The movement must not appear or be looked on as a youngsters' movement. We are a young man's movement - a young adult movement, dealing with all the problems of young adults who are engaged and getting married, and with their political and social responsibilities of the future.

We must seek the solution to the question of trades unionism. Trades unions of the different professions and industry may not remain in non-Christian hands. In countries like the U.S.A., Switzerland, England and Germany you have a single trades union structure, not two. We have two, Marxist and Christian, and most of our members become leaders of the Christian trades unions; with us that is the normal thing. But here, where you have only one set of trades unions, the Y.C.W. must take care to prepare the leaders for those trades unions, so that there are trades union leaders and shop stewards in every factory and workshop who are Christians. We must ask the boys in the factory how they can become members of the trades union, have influence in the trades union, and become more and more representative of the trades union and leaders of the trades union. That is of great importance for the Church, and we must take great care to prepare the over-twenties and, indeed, under-twenties also, in the social and economic needs of their unions, the co-operatives and societies here for sickness and also for political life.

When the Church is in a country like the U.S.A. and. here, where there is not a Christian party or Catholic party, I think we must have the possibility of forming leaders for the different parties, leaders who have been prepared by a movement of Catholic Action and for workers by the Y.C.W.


The over-twenties must more and more prepare leaders for the adult continuation of the Y.C.W. In my own country the adult movement is the movement of married people, as well as unmarried. people, who also have a great apostolate as leaders. I think in countries as England and the U.S.A., an adult movement as a continuation of the Y.C.W. is more needed than in countries where there are Christian trades unions, Christian co-operatives and so on, because, through an adult movement as the continuation of the Y.C.W., you can have a great influence on political life and on all the trades unions, and for the education of married people in the apostolate for married couples. In their street, in the buildings where they live, their houses and neighbourhood, they can do more than a priest. Wives can speak with the neighbours about children, education and morality. If they are organised in every parish, they can be of great help for the influence of the Y.C.W. itself because they are married and have children and, as married people, they have a greater influence on other married people. They can promote the Y.C.W., telling boys and girls how they have been in the Y.C.W. and all that they have gained. They can, further, have a great influence with officials in the borough and neighbourhood; it is natural that adult people will have more influence than young people. It is easier to build an adult section than a Y.C.W. section; they arc married and, therefore, more stable; they have their homes, their children; they do not change like young people who have yet to find their partners and homes and who are in the difficult age of fourteen to twenty-five.

With a section of adult workers and families in your parish, you will have the leaders, members and people responsible for different streets and buildings; where you have blocks of flats, you can have one family who will take care of the other families and have great influence. I think, therefore, it is important for the Church, for Y.C.W., for the parish and all different aspects of social life, that we be more and more prepared to continue the Y.C.W. The methods are the same, methods of enquiry, methods of service, contacts, responsibilities. We must have a movement that will take care of all the aspects of working life. We must not make trades unions but must more and more form leaders for trades unions, through adult sections of Catholic Action and education, which can have an influence on trades unions and co-operatives, politics, morality, and provide also the different services which are needed. Married life becomes more and more difficult. If people are to have a Christian married life, and have children, and overcome the growing difficulties, we need an adult movement to help families to become more and more conscious of their responsibilities, so that they can have a great influence on public and social bodies, and work towards better social laws and life and institutions.

I think that here, in England, it should not be difficult to build a family workers' movement with husbands and wives meeting together and with from time to time district meetings for men and for women. I have no wish to interfere in other countries, but I think there is a danger in having a family movement of rich families, of all the families, managers' families, doctors' families and all working families together. Personally, I think that is not efficacious. You cannot discuss all the biggest problems with so mixed a family movement. You have there managers, doctors, and ordinary workers who dare not speak of their difficulties. I, personally, say that I am afraid of so large a family movement and we must see what it is possible to do in the different countries.


This is my preoccupation as a priest of today, that our work must be on an international plane - in our parish! Where is the international Y.C.W.? In the parish sections! Not in the international Secretariat, not in the international Headquarters, not in our representation in the I.L.O. Through the international bodies, we have today great success and great influence in U.N.E.S.C.O., in the I.L.O. in Geneva, Paris, New York, in the U.N.O. Why? because we have local sections. Our International is built in and through our local sections; if they are nothing, our International is nothing, and never will be anything. We build our international movement, our international power, our international influence, through our local sections and therefore, our local leaders must receive an international formation and transformation.

In Holland last week, ten ordinary working boys, masons, bricklayers, carpenters, and so or, left to go in the service of the missions in Tanganyika, and to form the Y.C.W. there; not national leaders. No! Just ordinary boys but inspired, sought out by a local priest, by a local Chaplain. And so, if we can build more and more solidarity, then we can fight International Communism, then we can help the under-developed. countries. One of the greatest questions of today is the question of the under-developed people. More than one billion, six hundred millions who have no food, who are sick, and have no help in their sickness, who have a longevity of only thirty years. They know this and they ask “What do the Christians care about this?” and so the Communists come, and all the people in Calcutta and India, say “Ah! They will save us.” They ask what the Christians do about it? Do they think about us? I was there and saw in the streets the slums and the poverty. And we must discuss this with our young people, and create a solidarity of charity - they are our neighbours today, these hundreds and hundreds of millions of people. And that is our International movement today, there is no other means of saving the Church. I speak many times with the workers, and I tell them, If you think only of more holidays, less work, more pay for the white race alone, then your children tomorrow will be the victims of your egoism. This is often the first time white workers think they have a duty towards the black workers, yellow workers and brown workers. Social justice is not only for us. Is the world for white people only? White people do not want children any more, and they go to the coloured people and they teach them how they, too, can avoid having more children. Do you know what the coloured people said to me? Yes, we know why they do it, they fear us; they are afraid we shall become more and more numerous. That is the situation today, and we Chaplains must discover that problem more and more, then we will have a missionary mind, then we will have more priests, more missionaries and lay missionaries for all the countries of the world, and then the Church will be a missionary Church to the measure of the needs of the world today.

Our International Pilgrimage, asked for by Rome is today an International manifestation, to show to working youth and working people of all races in all the continents and countries. “You must not go to Moscow, you must come to Rome!” But, at the same time, we must build our movement, then all the television of the world, all the radio of the world, and all the pictures of the world, will show to the black people, and to the yellow people, and to all the races of the world, that manifestation of young people. With black, with yellow, with delegates from all the countries of the world, the thing that the Church can show to all the peoples of the world in the situation of today, with the technique of today, is that we are an International movement which can save, which can transform, which can help. No more proletariat, no more black proletariat, no more yellow proletariat, no more brown proletariat, but all children of God, brothers united, with respect for each other, with aid for each other, with solidarity for each other, with charity for each other. We cannot exaggerate the importance of our International Pilgrimage, therefore, we must do all we can. We must think of the influence we can have over the millions of workers, and we must give them not only words, but deeds, we must do something. We must do more than the Communists, that is the only way to convince them; we must not just refute them and say Communist is atheistic, Communism is Dictatorship. The black people say they were slaves right through the centuries, when the English, the French, the Germans were there, and today they say they are all slaves, and now they will be free.

This is the great question today in all the races of the world. And we must show them and tell them we will build a new world with justice, respect, with a mission for every black, yellow, brown or white young person who has his apostolate to realise in the Church and in the world. That is the significance, the meaning of our religious enquiry. This enquiry must be the soul, the dynamic of our preparation, and for the Pope, the authorities, the Bishop and all the priests, it is necessary to do that enquiry - and also for the boys and girls. Therefore, we should like, through every country and nationality must do what they can, to have three enquiries in every country, an enquiry by leaders among individual workers, with that worker, for example, who does not go to Mass, or the Sacraments any more, showing the influence on his conception of life and how, through our movement, he has been transformed into a Christian apostle.

The second enquiry should be by the local sections, the leaders and Committee making an enquiry about the parish and about the different environments where the boys of the parish work; in a sanatorium, a mine, a factory, a bus, in the street. Every day you catch that train and in that train there are so many - about four hundred or five hundred young boys going to work and we seek to know their situation. And so we build up an appreciation of the situation by our movement locally, nationally and internationally.

And thirdly, there is an enquiry made by the priest of the Chaplains in all the countries of the world, so that Rome can receive the results. You can imagine the possibilities of influence on that great International occasion of the Pilgrimage. They must receive an enquiry about the situation. There must be frankness, nothing artificial, we must show needs just as they are.

I ask you to tell your leaders that we must do all we can to prepare our Pilgrimage to Rome; enquiries, publicity, raising of funds and so on. And we must not prepare only ourselves; we must help the under-developed people to send representatives. In Belgium we are only a small country, but we will send with our money at least twenty or 30 delegates of the Belgian Congo our regions also have taken on the responsibility of finding money to send one working boy from the Philippines, Ceylon, Japan and India. To build up more and more solidarity in the factories, all boys and girls will ask their comrades to give an hour work to help, perhaps, a black boy, a yellow boy, to take part.

That is the message I should like to give to your leaders that all together during this year, the great year of the Pilgrimage, we should pray and work together and help each other to prepare that pilgrimage for the working class of the world, as a great moment when they see where, in the future, is the salvation of all working people of all races and of all continents.

Joseph Cardijn

Given to Annual National Conference of YCW, Chaplains, London, April 3, 1956.

Originally published in New Life, Review of the Social Apostolate, Vol. 12, May-June 1956.