Keegan will go to Rome

The Team minutes 06 01 1961

On 6 January 1961, a group of former YCW leaders, mostly from England but also the USA and Canada, who met together as “The Team,” noted that Pat Keegan, the first president of the JOC Internationale, planned to leave the USA, where he was currently on visitation, in mid-January in order to travel to Rome for “the meeting of the lay apostolate” at the beginning of February.

This visit was evidently timed to coincide with the next meeting of the Prep Com on Lay Apostolate.

SOURCE

English YCW Archives

Note 4 from Lomé, Togo

Note 4

It may be Christmas but Cardijn has not stopped working. In Lomé, Togo for a Pan-African Leaders Training session organised by the JOC Internationale, he completes Note 4 written at the specific request of the Prep Com on Lay Apostolate on the theme “Priests and lay people in the apostolate.”

It totals 3500 words. Together with Note 1, 3800 words, Note 2, 845, Note 3, 5200, it means Cardijn has written over 13,000 words for the Commission in just under two months – all the while maintaining his already punishing travel and workload – and at the age of 78.

Note 4 begins with a preamble in which Cardijn again insists on placing the apostolate of priests and lay people in the context of the situation of the world and the need to build the “Kingdom or Reign of God.”

“The apostolate is the essential mission of the Church and of all the faithful in the Church; and through the Church, the whole of humanity,” he began. “This fact demands more and more study, attention and vigilance, because of all the problems that the apostolate needs to helps solve both humanly and in a Christian manner, and the solution of which will largely determine the salvation of humanity, the restoration of the Kingdom of God and its Son of Love.”

“These problems have now reached a previously unknown depth, extent, and rate of increase.

“Demographic, scientific, technical, economic, social, cultural, political, international problems: All these issues involve multiple aspects and provoke a variety of human, moral and religious responses; all these issues underlie all the various tensions between developed peoples and underdeveloped peoples, between races, between colonising countries and colonised countries, between social classes; all these issues are subject to the pressure of opposing ideological aspirations and propaganda, in a world that is increasingly unified and inseparable.

“All of these problems have an essential human, moral and religious aspect that determines the value of their solution. Depending on whether these essential aspects are respected or not, solutions will be effective or ineffective for the authentic progress of humanity and therefore for the establishment of the Reign of God and of Christ in the world which is being built.

“All these problems of life and organisation of the world are the domain of the laity; they fall into the areas of lay institutions and responsibility. It is lay people who need to provide human and Christian solutions which alone will be able to establish the Reign of God and peace among men.

“This is why lay people who are responsible for seeking and implementing this solution need to have an apostolic and missionary conception of their life and their mission in the world. This is the primordial role of the lay apostolate, whether it is organised or carried out on an individual basis.

“As a result of this, the apostolate of the laity is becoming increasingly important. This is now impossible unless lay people receive training and animation that is adequate for this purpose. This training and animation can only result from collaboration with priests who are ordained and consecrated for this purpose: this formation and this animation needs to transform the life and mission of the laity into an apostolic life and mission, which is inseparable from the priestly apostolate. The whole of the apostolate is an indissoluble whole.

“It is this vision of the importance and the worldwide necessity of the apostolate, in particular of the lay apostolate, which inspires:

  • the following reflections on “Priests and lay people in the apostolate”;
  • the proposal of formulas to be inserted into the Acts of the Council,” Cardijn argues.

Unity and collaboration between priests and lay people

Moving on to characterise this apostolate, he insists from the outset that there is only “one single apostolate” shared between priests and lay people.

“1. There is only one apostolate, the source and purpose of which are common to all who are called to it and who exercise it. But the exercise and applications of this apostolate are diverse – albeit inseparable – depending on the roles of those who are called and consecrated with a view to the common goal.

“2. There is only one divine Apostle, sent by the Father: Christ, Jesus, God-Man, who calls and sends all the other apostles as his Father sent him:

a) to restore the Kingdom of God, on earth as in heaven, in time as in eternity;

b) to call and consecrate all his collaborators, at all times and among all peoples, for the roles and services required for the restoration of this Kingdom (the Church: mystical body of Christ).

“3. The establishment and restoration of God needs to reach people first, each person in particular and all people together as well as all of their religious needs; these also need to reach and modify temporal structures themselves so that they are not an obstacle but on the contrary a support for the life of this Kingdom,” Cardijn explains.

Based on baptism and confirmation, the apostolate of lay people “does not remain confined within the Church.” Indeed, it extends not only to other Christians but non-Christians as well, Cardijn argues.

“It becomes increasingly missionary, extending to non-members of the Church, whether Christians or non-Christians; by collaborating with them, Christians will assist them to rediscover and realise the human and divine mission for which they were created by God and redeemed by Christ.

Nor does he accept a division of labour that would see priests as exclusively responsible for the spiritual domain while lay people retain responsiblity for the secular world.

“The apostolate of lay people is not limited to the transformation of minds and hearts,” Crdijn writes, “but tends to the transformation of secular environments and institutions which, from the local level to the international level, need to enable people, families and societies to create a social human order which which will promote the development of the human race and the universal restoration of the Reign of God: ‘Instaurare omnia in Christo’.”

Distinct but inseparable roles

While priests and lay people have distinct roles, he argues, these roles are nevertheless inseparable.

“Without the priestly apostolate there is no lay apostolate, no apostolic transformation of the life of lay people,” Cardijn says. “Without the apostolate of the laity, the apostolate is powerless for the human and Christian transformation of the world.

“Union and collaboration between priests and lay people is therefore essential to the unity of the Church and of her mission, to the development of the whole apostolate and in particular of the lay apostolate.

“This collaboration is essential, whatever the immediate objective of the lay apostolate:

a) ecclesial objective: catechesis, liturgy, sacraments – parish, diocesan or supra-diocesan life – etc.

b) temporal, secular objective: Properly lay life in all its aspects, in which they must discover and realise its divine, apostolic and missionary value (family, work, leisure, economic security, cooperation in the city, national and international relations, etc. .)

“Regarding the first objective, it can be said that lay people are collaborators in the priestly apostolate.

“Regarding the second, priests are the sacerdotal collaborators in the apostolate of lay people. They have an eminently priestly role there: not only do they represent the Hierarchy and provide official approval or mandate, but above all they form, help, support and advise the laity in taking up their own responsibility, in all aspects and dimensions of their work and apostolate.

SOURCES

Original French

Joseph Cardijn, Note 4 – Prêtres et laïcs dans l’apostolat (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

English translation

Joseph Cardijn, Note 4 – Priests and lay people in the apostolate (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library

Fiévez writes to Pavan about Cardijn’s suggested encyclical

Fiévez Pavan 1960 12 23

On 23 December 1960, Marguerite Fiévez, clearly acting on Cardijn’s instructions, wrote to Mgr Pietro Pavan, a professor of Catholic social doctrine at the Pontifical Lateran University, enclosing two documents drafted by Cardijn.

“This is a great opportunity to reconnect with you albeit by a completely different path!” wrote Fiévez, who was clearly familiar and on good terms with him, no doubt through her involvement with the COPECIAL, i.e. the Permanent Committee for Congresses of the Apostolate of the Laity..

“Before his departure for Africa a few days ago, Monsignor Cardijn asked me to send you the attached note, on ‘Priests and the social doctrine of the Church.’ Following the line of the Pontifical Commission for the Apostolate of the Laity in preparation for the coming Council, Monsignor Cardijn is concerned with many fundamental issues that you find expressed in the various notes he drafted for the Commission in question. If he had your views on it, I think he would then be in a position to judge whether after a few modifications he would be able to present the note to the Commission at one of the coming sessions.

“If you would like extra copies, I would be happy to send them to you. You will see that the note was written in particular circumstances (on the occasion of his last trip to Latin America) but we could correct a few passages to make it more generally applicable.

Encyclical for the 70th anniversary of Rerum Novarum

“Monsignor Cardijn also asked me to attach a document that he prepared for HH. John XXIII a few months ago proposing an Encyclical for the 70th anniversary of Rerum Novarum. He would like to have your views on this document,” Fiévez adds.

Reading between the lines, it is clear that Fiévez – and of course Cardijn – know full well that Mgr Pavan is already working on John XXIII’s draft encyclical, even though this is not public information.

“I hope I will see you again in February, following the meeting of the Pontifical Commission, on the occasion of the meeting of the Governing Council of the Standing Committee,” Fiévez concludes, referring to a forthcoming meeting of the COPECIAL. “I will be very happy to be able to exchange some impressions with you once again.”

SOURCES

French original

Marguerite Fiévez à Pietro Pavan 1960 12 23 (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

English translation

Marguerite Fiévéz to Pietro Pavan 1960 12 23 (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

French original

Joseph Cardijn, L’Eglise face au monde du travail (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

English translation

Joseph Cardijn, The Church and the world of labour (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

French original

Joseph Cardijn, Les prêtres et la doctrine sociale de l’Eglise (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

English translation

Joseph Cardijn, Priests and the social doctrine of the Church (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Pietro Pavan (Wikipedia.it)

Pietro Cardinal Pavan (Catholic Hierarchy)

A letter to Cardinal Cento “clarifying ideas”

Cardijn Cento 18 12 1960

Prior to leaving for Africa, Cardijn had also drafted a letter to the president of the Preparatory Commission, Cardinal Cento. This too was sent by Marguerite Fiévez on 18 December along with Note 2 and Note 3 that he had completing writing before his departure.

In the letter he explained that he was leaving to attend a JOC training session in Lomé, Togo, after which he would continue his punishing travel schedule to other countries.

“After the meeting, I will continue to Dahomey, Cameroon, Brazzaville, Leopoldville, Rwanda and Urundi, thus completing the African tour that I had to interrupt in July following the painful events in Congo,” Cardijn wrote.

“I am sending your Eminence two notes which attempt to clarify the one I sent to Him on October 31,” he added.

“The first contains reflections and suggestions about the work program of the Commission, proposed by Monsignor Glorieux; the second seeks to set out the two essential and parallel aspects of all lay apostolate. I apologise in advance for the repetitions they include; but it is often by repeating and confronting that we end up clarifying ideas!

“I am sending two copies to Monsignor Glorieux, hoping that they will arrive before December 22. Other copies are available to Your Eminence and the Commission, if there is a need to communicate these texts to other Members.

“I will be in Rome for the next Session of our Commission from January 30 to February 4. I can extend my stay there after that date if that would be useful for the work of the Commission.

“I also take the opportunity with this letter to offer to Your Eminence my most fervent wishes for a Holy Feast of Christmas and a Happy New Year! And may He deign to accept my deepest homage and respect,” Cardijn concluded.

SOURCE

Cardijn à Cardinal Cento 1960 12 18 (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

English translation

Cardijn to Cardinal Cento 1960 12 18 (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

More copies available

Cardijn Glorieux 20 12 1960

Cardijn was obviously keen to ensure that the notes that he had drafted would be circulated as widely as possible.

On 20 December 1960 , he therefore also wrote to Mgr Glorieux informing him that more copies were available in Brussels.

He also took the opportunity that he was prepared to stay longer in Rome for the next meeting if required.

SOURCE

Original French

Cardijn à Mgr Glorieux 1960 12 20 (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

English translation

Cardijn to Mgr Glorieux 1960 12 20 (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Even more documents in Latin!

Latin

Apart from his packed schedule, Cardijn faced yet another challenge in responding to the requests of the Preparatory Commission: the documents he received were all in Latin.

Although Cardijn had evidently learned Latin at school and in the seminary, Marguerite Fiévez was undoubtedly much less familiar with the language.

Thus, with Cardijn already in Africa, when she received another document from the PCLA dated 19 December, she arranged for a “quick translation” into French by an unnamed person, probably a JOC chaplain.

As well as enclosing a series of reports, the note explained that the Second Sub-Commission, which was dealing with the issue of formation of lay people would also look into the formation needs of priests.

“It also seemed necessary,” the note explained, “to consider what is required to prepare priests in light of the modern form of the apostolate. Rev. P. Jarlot and Mgr Geraud have prepared a note on this issue, based on the wishes of the bishops as well as their own experience.”

“However, since this subject does not fall directly within the competence of our Commission, we will only include their conclusions which contain several concrete proposals.

“Pending what the Commission on Seminaries prepares, we would be grateful if you would send us your observations as soon as possible,” the note requested.

Fathers Georges Jarlot SJ was a French expert on Catholic Social Teaching then working at the Gregorian University while Mgr Joseph Geraud was a French Sulpician priest stationed at the Procure Saint Sulpice. Both were well known to Cardijn.

Finally, the note added that Archbishop Pericle Felici, the secretary-general of the Council, had published a booklet including the lists of the various people making up the various conciliar preparatory commissions.

The conciliar workload was mounting quickly and the need to work in Latin only added to the growing burden!

SOURCE

Traduction Rapide (Archives Cardijn 1584)

Two essential, primordial and inseparable aspects

Note 2

Having responded to the proposed plan of work of the Preparatory Commission on Lay Apostolate in Note 3 “Reflections and suggestions”, Cardijn now drafts another document, Note 2, entitled “The apostolate of lay people.” Freed from his shackles, he summarises in a single elegant page his own vision not only for the Commission but for the Council as a whole.

He begins:

“The apostolate of lay people has two essential, primordial and inseparable aspects:

1. Its relationship with God, Christ and the Church; with the plan of God in the work of Creation and Redemption.

2. Its relationship with the fundamental problems of man and the world, with their influences and their depth, in their total dimension.”

“In the texts of the Ecumenical Council on the apostolate of lay people,” Cardijn asks, can one not bring out these two aspects: the divine, Christian, ecclesial, and at the same time the fundamental link with the problems of the world and their solution.”

Simply put, Cardijn is proposing that the Council organising its work around two poles: God, Christ and the Church on one hand and humankind and the world on the other.

He goes on to detail these two poles and the indissoluble link between them in terms that can scarcely be summarised or improved upon:

I. RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD, CHRIST AND THE CHURCH

God, Creator and end of the world and of humanity, has given to each person and to the whole of humanity a terrestrial and eternal mission and intervenes in history to ensure the realisation of this mission (citations from Genesis and other texts of the Old Testament).

Christ, Eternal Son of the Father, became incarnate to repair original sin; it is a matter of man and humanity to raise them up and assist them to accomplish their terrestrial mission and achieve their eternal destiny (citations from the Old and New Testaments).

The Church, founded by Christ is animated with his Spirit; it is extension of him and his Mystical Body, visibly and invisibly helps, guides and assists bought back humanity in view of the achievement of its divine and human mission until the end of time (Old and New Testament, Tradition and History of the Church).

II. RELATIONSHIP WITH PROBLEMS OF MAN AND THE WORLD

At this moment of history that is witnessing the transformation of the world in view of its humanisation, the apostolate of lay people is more important, necessary, irreplaceable and urgent than ever for the Christian solution of worldly problems.

  • Demographic problems, international solidarity and mutual aid in every field (material and spiritual, economic and social, cultural, human and religious;
  • problems of work and its organisation, technology, advertising and leisure that must serve to raise humanity and not to enslave it;
  • problem of education in general and above adult education: for families, social, national and international life; world institutions, ideologies and religions.

III. INDISSOLUBLE LINK BETWEEN THE TWO ASPECTS

One cannot insist enough on the indissoluble link that makes these complementary aspects of the apostolate of lay people an inseparable reality.

The link, the unity between the two aspects and the following consequences:

a) On one hand:

  • the necessity and the importance of the apostolate of lay people for the accomplishment of the divine plan and for the positive and human solution of the most decisive problems of the present time;
  • the respect, dignity, responsibility that flow from it, for the most humble as well as for the greatest of men, of whatever race and whatever colour they may be;
  • the necessity of a consciousness of all the indispensable conditions for this apostolate, conditions that must be adequately safeguarded (linkage to God, Christ and the Church, recourse to sacramental sources, etc.)

b) On the other hand:

  • the necessity of formation for the apostolate with competence from a double point of view (a) knowledge of God and his plan (b) knowledge of man and the world today.

All the other consequences of action, adaptation, specialisation and organisation of the apostolate of lay people flow from this double aspect and from the global dimension of the problems. Among others are the following:

1. the character simultaneously social, cultural and representative of apostolic organisations from the local to the international level

2. the indissoluble link between formation, action and organisation in view of the apostolate;

3. the specialisation and coordination necessary for the effectiveness both of their action and their representation;

4. the participation of Christians in the battle against the great human scourges: hunger, sickness, social insecurity, illiteracy.

The diverse consequences, far from being the result of an arbitrary will, are increasingly demanded by the complexity of the present world and the apostolic task that each Christian must fulfil.”

A proposed program for the Council

This is in effect Cardijn’s proposed plan of work not just for the Prep Com on Lay Apostolate but for the whole Council itself.

“The whole world expects much of the Ecumenical Council in every field and for every problem.

“It would be a bitter disappointment if these various fields and problems were not clearly mentioned and targeted by the Council, particularly those that concern the apostolate of lay people.

“On the other hand it could be an opportunity to provoke a truly salutary shock to world opinion if these problems were mentioned. A call for an effective solution, launched by the most representative assembly of the Universal Church, would trigger an awakening of influence with incalculable repercussions.

“Today, young people in general – and young workers in particular as well the vast throng of workers; the under-developed continents as well as the most sprawling cities; the most advanced peoples as well as the most dynamic groups representing science and ideologies, are on alert for and looking out for a sincere and profound solution.

“May the Ecumenical Council bring its Light and Hope to those who have such a great need for it!

Jos. CARDIJN

16 December 1960.”

SOURCES

Original French

Joseph Cardijn, L’apostolat des laïcs (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

English translation

Joseph Cardijn, The apostolate of lay people (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Two initial realities: Church and life

Réflexions et suggestions

In his third note (Note 3) dated 15 December 1960, Cardijn offers his “Reflections and Suggestions” in response to the proposed plan of work of the Preparatory Commission on Lay Apostolate as outlined by its secretary, Mgr Achille Glorieux, during the first plenary meeting of the commission in November.

A theoretical framework

Framed very abstractly, the program read as follows:

1. Notions and definition of the lay apostolate

2. Forms and methods

3. Formation for the lay apostolate

4. Submission to the hierarchy

5. Priests and laity

6. Catholic Action

7. Relationship between the various forms of the lay apostolate

8. Charitable action

9. Drafting of texts to be presented to the Central Commission.

Many comments could be made about this framework, beginning with the fact that it appears to assume the objectives of the lay apostolate are clear and well understood.

Notable also is the fact that the issue of “submission to the hierarchy” features prior to discussion of the roles of priests and laity, a completely top down conception of the Church to say the least.

Strangely, while “Charitable action” and “Social action” are listed, there no mention of “Evangelisation”, which was the subject to be studied by the first sub-commission to which Cardijn had been appointed.

Two initial realities: Church and life

Despite the politeness of his response, it is evident immediately that Cardijn is not happy with this framework. He therefore suggested:

“In order to clarify the concept and definition of the apostolate of the laity, we can began with two initial realities :

“1. The Church, its mission, its composition: the Hierarchy and its collaborators consecrated by means of a sacrament or a vow (priests and religious), their own mission; all the other faithful, members of the People of God who are the Church and who may be called laity in the ecclesial sense – hence the apostolate of the laity in the Church.

“2. The life, the needs of all people, created by God and who have a mission and a vocation received from God : a mission, vocation and apostolate that they fulfill in their own life, with all other people and in all human institutions, to use the whole of creation for their divine destiny. The apostolate of the laity in the ecclesial sense is necessary with respect to all other people and in all human institutions in order to enable people to discover and realise the mission of humankind and the world.”

As usual, Cardijn thus refuses to focus on the Church on its own or by itself. Instead, he seeks to confront the twin “realities” of

a) the Church and its mission with

b) the life and mission of the people “created by God” and the world they live in.

The contrast with the approach proposed by the PCLA could barely be greater.

Apostolic formation based on the see-judge-act

Cardijn further develops these ideas in his comments on the subsequent paragraphs of the draft plan.

The forms and methods of lay apostolate must be “appropriate to the life, milieux as well as to the problems and institutions of life, they will give birth to the specialised lay apostolate, which by its effectiveness and competence acquires a power of penetration and representation not only within a limited local field but also at national and international levels,” he argues.

Formation “is essentially apostolic,” he continues. “There can be no deep religious formation without formation for the apostolate. Humankind has received a divine mission from God; It is by recognising it and fulfilling it that it truly gives glory to God, collaborating in the establishment of his Kingdom, “on earth as in heaven.” Prayer, sacraments, liturgy, worship and interior life cannot be separated from apostolic life, just as the latter cannot be separated from the sources and expressions of religion.”

The jocist method educates the individual to see, judge and act “as a person, and as a Christian and apostle,” he insists.

“Could the Council insist on the urgency of integrating the apostolic formation of the laity at the heart of all religious formation, especially during the age of vocation (14 to 25 years)?” Cardijn proposes.

Regarding “submission to the hierarchy,” he recognises the primacy of the clergy in doctrinal and sacramental matters but insists on limiting this in other areas.

“Temporal, professional, social and cultural matters, submission to the Hierarchy will be expressed by virtue of and to the extent of the competency of the latter,” he argues.

“This submission must never be or appear to be a form of tutelage, an impediment to the initiative and responsibility of the laity,” Cardijn warns. “On the contrary, it must be and must ppear to be a guarantee of authenticity, an encouragement and support for all initiatives, all efforts and often all the sacrifices that are necessary for the extension of the Reign of God and for the salvation of people.”

Collaboration across the board

Concerning the relations between priests and laity, he emphasises the need to determine “the proper role and the complementary link between the priestly apostolate and the lay apostolate in the mission of the Church, both for the formation of the laity in their apostolate as well as in the permanent collaboration between priests and laity in the exercise of this apostolate.”

He calls for clarification of the notion of Catholic Action and insists on the need to find ways for Catholics to cooperate “with all the various non-Catholic and non-Christian lay organisations and institutions, whether private or public, governmental or non-governmental, local, national and international.”

He insists on the need for collaboration between the various forms of lay apostolate as well as emphasing the importance of both charitable and social action.

A declaration by the Council

Finally, in relation to the drafting of conciliar documents, Cardijn proposes “a kind of solemn declaration by the Council insisting on the current importance of the apostolate of the laity, its growing necessity before the current problems of the world to which the Church must and desires to provide a response.”

“This declaration would also be addressed to non-Catholics and non-Christians, recalling the divine mission of the whole of creation and the whole of humanity, expressing how much the Church desires to collaborate with all people and all human institutions against the terrible scourges that threaten the world and in favour of the complete progress of the human race,” he explains.

“This union of all people in a common effort to overcome obstacles to human freedom and to promote genuine progress responds closely to the desire of the Creator and the Redeemer,” Cardijn explains.

“The Church desires to be the leaven of this union in peace for the respect, raising up and happiness of all,” he concludes, offering his vision of a Church acting from within society rather than from on high.

“The Church’s call to the faithful, members of the Church is also addressed to all people who are all created by the same God and saved by the same Christ in order that together they may be united at this decisive hour for the peace of the world and the salvation of the human race,” he notes in a final appeal for the Council to look beyond the confines of the Church itself.

SOURCES

French Original

Joseph Cardijn, Réflexions et suggestions (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

English translation

Joseph Cardijn, Reflections and suggestions (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Allies in the Diocese of Tournai: Mgr Joos and Bishop Himmer

Bishop Charles-Marie Himmer

Cardijn had only been back a month from the first plenary meeting of the Preparatory Commission on Lay Apostolate (PCLA) in Rome but he was already on the move again, this time to Africa for an important leaders training session of the International YCW.

Before leaving, he hurried to complete two more notes for the Commission numbered as Note 2 and Note 3. Note 3, entitled “Quelques réflexions et suggestions (A few reflections and suggestions) and dated 15 December 1960, offered a detailed response to the PCLA’s proposed plan of work.

Note 2, again entitled simply “L’apostolat des laïcs” (The apostolate of lay people) and dated 16 December 1960, explained what Cardijn characterised as the “two essential, primordial and inseparable aspects” of the lay apostolate, namely “its relationship with God, Christ and the Church; with the plan of God in the work of Creation and Redemption,” and on the other hand “its relationship with the fundamental problems of man and the world, with their influences and their depth, in their total dimension.”

Seeking theological counsel – but not in Brussels or Louvain

Before sending these notes to the PCLA, Cardijn therefore sought to get feedback from a trusted confidant and theologian, namely Mgr Désiré Joos, the vicar-general of the Diocese of Tournai in the industrial south of Belgium. Why Mgr Joos rather than say Mgr Gerard Philips, a recognised expert on the theology of the laity at the University of Louvain whom Cardijn had previously consulted?

Cardijn does not explain of course. Nevertheless, he had previously come into (theological) conflict with Philips during the preparation and holding of the Second International Congress on Lay Apostolate in Rome in October 1957 where the latter was a keynote speaker. Moreover, Philips appeared to have allied himself with the Malines-Brussels auxiliary, Bishop Léon-Joseph Suenens, who had also criticised Cardijn’s approach.

Indeed, Suenens had published a major 1958 article in the Belgian Jesuit journal, Nouvelle Revue Théologique, entitled “L’unité multiforme de l’Action catholique” (The multiform unity of Catholic Action) in which, without mentioning Cardijn, he accused the Specialised Catholic Action movements of seeking a “monopoly” of Catholic Action.

Mgr Désiré Joos and Bishop Charles-Marie Himmer of Tournai

Cardijn’s choice of Mgr Désiré Joos from Tournai was therefore highly significant. Just 20km from the northern French city of Lille, Tournai lies in the middle of the coal mining belt that extends across Belgium and into France.

Its bishop was Charles-Marie Himmer (photo above), originally from the neighbouring Diocese of Namur, who had been a JOC and Specialised Catholic Action chaplain from the 1930s. As a bishop, he had already made himself known for his closeness to the working class.

In 1952, he had organised a Social Week that began with an enquiry carried out in every parish of the diocese into the “economic and social problems” in each parish. Addressing JOC chaplains at the conclusion of this enquiry, he took as his subject “Le problème ouvrier” (The worker problem), emphasising the importance of the work of the JOC in educating young workers to enable them to face up to the issues that had emerged.

“J’ai pratiqué à plein la méthode de Cardijn : voir, juger, agir,” Bishop Himmer also said on another occasion. “I fully practised the method of Cardijn: see, judge, act.”

“J’y suis resté fidèle, et j’y crois toujours,” he continued. “I have stayed faithful to it and I still believe in it.”

So it’s little surprise that he would also choose a vicar-general cut from the same jocist cloth. Thus, Mgr Joos, who served as Himmer’s vicar-general from 1954 to 1977, was also responsible for the Specialised Catholic Action movements in the diocese.

Cardijn’s letter

Mgr Joos was therefore clearly a man in whom Cardijn had great confidence and who shared his vision of the lay apostolate, particularly among workers.

Cardijn wrote:

“You are aware that I am a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Apostolate of the Laity in preparation for the next Ecumenical Council. I had to take an oath to maintain secrecy concerning all the documents I receive – and I believe this also applies to the meetings,” Cardijn wrote, clearly vexed by these restrictions.

“However, I need to consult with people more competent than myself or seek the assistance of collaborators in relation to many issues,” he continued.

“I am not able to type and I don’t understand Italian!” he lamented. “Moreover, other collaborators are also bound to the same secrecy as I am!”

“Given these circumstances, could I ask you to read and evaluate the next two notes that I would like to send to the Commission soon,” Cardijn requested. “I also enclose the first note which I sent earlier prior to the meeting that took place last November.

Cardijn’s twin concerns: Church and world

Apologising for several repetitions in the notes, Cardijn now moved to the crux of his concerns, namely “the relationship of the lay apostolate with God, with Christ, the Church and the Hierarchy in the Church; and on the other hand, the relationship with the problems to be solved by the laity and the apostolate of the laity in our modern world.

“This second relationship is often overlooked, if not ignored, particularly in the statements and definitions. Is there a way to overcome this?” Cardijn asked. “This problem really haunts me.”

Behind his polite language, Cardijn was in effect accusing the PCLA was ignoring the world and focusing only on the Church! What kind of conception of the apostolate of the laity could there be that ignored this issue?

“The Council is a unique opportunity which will not come again for a long time,” Cardijn warned. “And by then, the problems will have been solved either by us or despite us.”

Although he does not name Bishop Himmer, we can surmise that Cardijn also wanted Mgr Joos to relay these concerns to his bishop to the extent that this was possible without compromising Cardijn’s oath of secrecy.

“By the time you receive this letter,” Cardijn concluded, “I will have left for Africa where I will remain until 24 or 25 January. On 30 January, I need to be in Rome for the second session of the Commission. However, the note needs to reach the secretariat without delay (by December 22, it seems!). Could you entrust your precise remarks to Mademoiselle Fiévez who will take care of the sending the documents once the typing is finished?

“But after my return from Africa, perhaps I could see you for a moment just before my departure for Rome and discuss all this with you again.

Please excuse me for bothering you in this way. But you will me doing me a great service. And if in your view my request seems to contradict the oath that I have taken, please feel free to reject it,” Cardijn wrote.

SOURCES

Cardijn to Mgr Désiré Joos, vicar-general of the Diocese of Tournai (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Cardijn à Mgr Désiré Joos, vicaire-général du Diocèse de Tournai (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Tournai : décès de Mgr Désiré Joos (Agence de Presse Internationale Catholique)

Charles-Marie Himmer (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Bishop Charles-Marie Himmer (Catholic Hierarchy)

Mgr Charles-Marie Himmer, Le problème ouvrier (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

Léon-Joseph Suenens, L’unité multiforme de l’Action catholique (Nouvelle Revue Théologique)

A request to Cardijn

Glorieux Cardijn 13 12 1960

On 13 December 1960, Mgr Glorieux wrote to Cardijn again with a request to draft a paper for the PCLA on the theme “Priests and lay people in the apostolate.”

“During the 4th meeting of the Roman Members of the 1st Sub-Commission, a precise program of work was established,” Mgr Glorieux reported to Cardijn.

“HE Mons. Castellano, president of the Sub-Commission, then requested me to ask you to prepare over the next few weeks a special presentation for the Sub-Commission on the theme ‘Priests and lay people in the apostolate’ (also bearing in mind the Brothers and Religious Sisters who ‘assist’ certain groups),” he explained.

“I have also requested other Members and Consultors to prepare papers on other topics and I gave them the following guidelines. We would like to receive by return mail confirmation that you accept to prepare this paper. The paper would need to be sent to us by the Feast of the Epiphany or at the latest 9 January, the date of one of our meetings for the Members (of the Commission) residing in Rome. It should be presented as follows:

“1) A document briefly summarising the issue; 2) proposals of phrases to be inserted eventually in the Acts of the Council, including a preamble first, then the “declaration” (see for example Document Ri7 by Fr Papali). Point 1 may be drafted in French but for Point 2 you could translate it into Latin.

“We would like to have confirmation by return of mail that you agree to prepare this presentation. It should be sent to us for the feast of Epiphany, or at the latest by January 9, the date of one of our meetings for Members residing in Rome. present in the following way:

“Evidently, you will continue to be kept informed of all our work in order that you can offer your suggestions on each subject dealt with, either by correspondence or during our meeting at the end of January,” Mgr Glorieux concluded.

No doubt Cardijn was pleased to receive this invitation but by the time it arrived, he had already left for Africa.

As a result Marguerite Fiévez retyped Mgr Glorieux’s letter on JOC letterhead in order to forward it to Cardijn at Lomé in Togo.

SOURCES

French original

Mgr Glorieux à Cardijn, 13/12/1960 (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)

English translation

Mgr Glorieux to Cardijn, 13/12/1960 (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)