Hunger and the Council

In an article entitled “La faim et le Concile,” French former JOC chaplain and founder of the French relief agency, Secours catholique, Mgr Jean Rodhain, reflects on the problem of hunger in light of the Council.

“What linkage between hunger and the Council?” he asks.

He responds:

The historian would reply that all the Councils (2) of the Middle Ages by condemning usury took the defense of the poor and the hungry. Above all, he would explain to him how the definitions and legislation resulting from the Councils built this Christian civilization which, after all, is the most revolutionary of all.

And, citing Cardijn, he shares his experience of the Preparatory Commission on Lay Apostolate:

As for the social and economic consequences of the future Council, only a prophet could speak about it…

Being neither a prophet nor a historian, of this next Council I know only one thing: I am returning from Rome where, as a member appointed by the Supreme Pontiff to a Preparatory Commission, I participated in the initial stages of this Vatican Council II.

This is merely preparatory work, since only the assembled bishops will decide.

It is just one Commission and there are nine others as well.

Moreover, we have taken an oath to keep the work secret.

All the same several things have already been published on the subject by Rome itself:

First the Commission in which I am working is entitled: “Apostolate of the laity”. The list of its members is printed in broad daylight and we see that there several experts in social or charitable issue who were not chosen by accident. My work neighbor is Mgr Cardijn, the founder of the YCW. Without being a prophet we can be sure that one day or another this pioneer who, visited the miserable masses of the whole world from Peru to India, will intervene with all his passion to link the problem of hunger in the world with the program of the Council.

Without being a prophet or indiscreet, how can we imagine that the bishops from regions of extreme poverty, that all the bishops of the world haunted by the misery of their sheep, gathered around the common Father, will not be obsessed with the same spectacle and the same concern as the Apostles and their Lord before the multitude gathered around the single basket with the five barley buns? “I have pity on these people, because they have no food”.

And he concludes, offering his own vision for the Council:

L’Osservatore Romano revealed that, in order to work, the members of the Commissions were given the enormous volumes hastily printed and containing the inquiries made in all the dioceses of the whole world in view of the Council.

I have to admit that, gripped by the varied documents, I read them all in two days and two night. Although I cannot say anything about the content of these volumes, I must admit that I remain dazzled in the face of this “slice of life of this Church always rejuvenated by the Charity of Christ”.

If some do not yet see the connection between a Council and Hunger in the World, let us dare to look attentively at the time which is coming: I seem to see the primitive Church reviving the first Council in Jerusalem (Act. Apost. XV 4-35) ) but working at the same time to collect and deliver relief for the hunger of this same Jerusalem (Act. Apost. XI 28-30). The history of the Councils in fact already began with hunger and a sharing by Christians.

The bread we share in this time of the Council is Charity.


Jean Rodhain, La faim et le Concile, Messages du Secours Catholique, décembre 1960 (Archives Cardijn 1529/Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Jean Rodhain (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)