Introducing Joseph Cardijn

Joseph Cardijn is best known as the founder of the Jeunesse Ouvrière Chrétienne (JOC) or Young Christian Workers (YCW) movement and for the “see, judge, act” method that he and the movement developed.

However, he was also a key player at the Second Vatican Council. Indeed, British Cardinal Basil Hume would later say of Cardijn: “If today you wish to seek his monument, look no further than the Second Vatican Council, the world-wide movement of Young Christian Workers and Young Christian Students and the development of Family Social Action.”

In a similar vein, Melbourne Archbishop Frank Little once stated that his influence was so significant that, in effect, “Vatican II canonised Cardijn.”

Three formal roles

And Cardijn did in fact hold several formal roles during the Council.

In September 1960, Pope John XXIII appointed him as a member of the Preparatory Commission on Lay Apostolate that worked to draft documents for the Council.

In January 1963 following the First Session of the Council, Pope John appointed him as a peritus or expert to the corresponding conciliar commission dealing with lay apostolate issues.

Finally, Pope Paul VI made him a cardinal and archbishop in February 1965 enabling Cardijn to participate in the Fourth Session of Vatican II in 1965 as a Council Father.

Lay people into action

In addition to the above, in July 1963, Cardijn also published his first and only full-length book summarising his conception of lay apostolate.

The French title of the book was Laïcs en premières lignes (Lay people in the front lines). Over the next two years, it was translated into five more languages: Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, German as well as in English under the title “Laymen into Action.”

The “Jocist” network

Perhaps even more significant than the above, however, was Cardijn’s advocacy work over the course of the Council with lay leaders and former leaders of the YCW, including Patrick Keegan, the first lay person to address the Council, and also with the bishops and experts who were close to the YCW and the other “Specialised Catholic Action” movements.

In fact, there were over 100 conciliar bishops who had been YCW chaplains at various levels, a number of whom had been the founders of the movement in their dioceses or countries.

There were also at least 100 more who had direct experience of the JEC (YCS), JAC (Rural YCW), JIC (movement for young middle class people) and the adult counterparts of these movements such as the Christian Workers movement.

Collectively, these bishops, priests and lay people worked closely with each other and with Cardijn to promote the vision and method of lay apostolate formation that Cardijn himself had pioneered.

By the end of the Council, following the adoption of the Decree on the Lay Apostolate, Apostolicam Actuositatem, Paul VI was moved to say: “Yes, the good seed sowed half a century by several generous pioneers and particularly by a young Belgian priest has truly borne fruit one hundredfold.”

So evident was Cardijn’s contribution that the pope did not even need to name him!

Cardijn @ Vatican II

The aim of this blog then is to track the efforts of Cardijn and his colleagues over the whole seven years of the preparation and holding of Vatican II from the announcement of the Council by Pope John XXIII in January 1959 until its conclusion on 8 December 1965.

Taking inspiration from the Catholic News Service which published a similar day by day blog, Vatican II: 50 years ago today, to follow the progress of Vatican II, we plan to mark the 60th anniversary of the Council by following the work of Cardijn and the jocist network over the period 1959-1965.

We begin this blog with the election of Pope John XXIII in October 1958.