Life Part III

Introduction                                             Part I                                                Part II                                                  Part III

The young worker faces life

Part III 

The mystery of vocation is so profound and important a truth, that we cannot understand it with our unaided reason. We have to meditate on it. The Holy Ghost must enlighten us as to its meaning, which is eternal, divine, and decisive for the world. 

A vocation is not enthusiasm or sentiment, any more than it is a need to give and dedicate oneself. It does not mean that the unhappy plight of the workers prompts one to help and relieve them any more than it means demanding respect for working girls and boys, and all that they need for life. It is not simply love of the young leaders. 

All that may be characteristic of a vocation, the rich result or the external signs of a vocation; but the essential nature of a vocation is that it comes from God. It is a call from God addressed to a soul, giving it to understand what God expects. The word "vocation" is the Latin for "call," and by a vocation God calls someone. The fulfilment of a vocation is man's answer to this call from God. 

God calls everyone without exception. Each human person of all the races of the earth, however poor or humble be may be, is called by God. Because the greater part of mankind does not hear this call, God has sent His only Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, to make them listen. For that reason He was willing to die for them. Unceasingly He goes on calling all men. 

But Our Lord addresses a special call to certain souls to continue His mission in the world. He calls some to be priests, religious, missionaries, bishops, and popes. This special call of theirs is to make all men realise that they are all called by God. 

This call of God is for a life. Our Lord asks our life of us. He asks us to give it by transforming it into His. " Yet I am alive; or rather, not I ; it is Christ that lives in me," says St. Paul. It is not I who baptise, but Christ; it is not I who forgive sin, but Christ it is not I who consecrate hosts and hange them into the Body of Christ, but Christ. It is Christ in me ; it is Christ Who lives in me. Thus a vocation transforms and consecrates the whole life of those who are called and who answer the call by allowing the life, of Christ to grow in them. 

This call demands also that we should be witnesses to Christ. We must bear witness to Christ, not by words only, not by some deeds only, but by the whole of our life. by our generosity and charity in all the acts of our life. As was said above, all the acts of our daily life are completely changed, once they have become apostolic acts. We bear witness to Christ in all the actions of the day, witness to His charity and generosity, to His desire to save men. 

These days people do not believe any longer in words, but only in deeds. They have been too often deceived by words * Now they believe only in deeds, in the testimony of devotedness, generosity, and self-sacrifice. Witnesses to Christ are needed today in the whole of life, in all the aspects of life, in all the problems of life. 

The purpose of a vocation is eternal as well as divine. A teacher, for instance, is called to teach, but not only to teach reading, history, geography or some trade. His vocation is also to love and serve his pupils and by his teaching to lead them on towards God and eternal life and to make them understand their own divine vocation. Again, a nurse must tend to the sick, but her vocation is not restricted to that. She nurses the sick back to health that they may be eternally saved. The temporal purpose is only a means, necessary as it is, to the eternal end. Thus a worker must defend, help, protect the workers; but the purpose of his life is not to give them more money or more free time. He is not labouring to obtain them a few years of material well being on earth, but an eternity of happiness in heaven. If he is an apostle, such is the revolution he desires. 

There is something particular about the vocation of the Y. C. W. leader. The Pope says that he has a working class vocation to save the young worker and the working class. God calls us to give ourselves to a specific mission, perhaps the most important of our time, to save the working class and working class youth. 

Today, at this turning point in history when the working class is faced with responsibility for deciding the future of the world, the Church needs working-class apostles and missionaries. The apostles of the workers will be workers. Working-class vocations will be in working-class life. But the working class vocation is a real vocation. We are taking action, not merely against the Communist menace, not just because we love the working class ; but because we have heard the call of Christ, because we believe that He is God, the one Saviour of the working class, that He is calling us, that He asks us to work with Him by our apostolate. 

Hence our working-class apostolate is not an apostolate which is individual, isolated, dispersed. That could never solve the problem. Our apostolate is a participation in a movement which is apostolic. Just as the Church is willed by God to unite the members of Christ, so the Y.C.W. is an apostolic movement, strong enough to foster and unite apostles, and to save working youth and the working class of the world. The highest and most beautiful aspect of this vocation is that, for the first time in the history of the Church, this apostolate is recognised and authorised by the Pope and the bishops. It is an apostolate with the mandate of the Hierarchy. 

If the Movement is to be apostolic, then the leaders are in duty bound to make all members understand better that they themselves, whoever they are, share in an apostolate and must act as apostles in working-class life. This life of apostolate will make its demands on them. 

The first demand is consciousness of responsibility as apostles. The foremost of the great human qualities is a sense of responsibility. The world is gradually losing it, and there perhaps is the biggest danger that lies in wait for humanity of tomorrow. God and our neighbour ought to be able to rely on our word; but at home and at work the sense of responsibility is disappearing. We must have a consciousness of our responsibility as apostles, a sense of duty. 

For that the leader must develop in himself the sense of faith. He must believe in his vocation in such a way that he can never doubt it, whatever anyone else thinks or says. He must have a firm and steadfast faith in the divinity of Our Lord and in His call and His support. When He calls, there is nothing more to fear. As long as the Apostles doubted, they kept falling but as soon as they believed, they went to prison, torture, and death. They had the strength of Christ through faith in Christ. 

This faith must be continually renewed in our minds by an apostolic spiritual life which is not that of a priest or religious, but working class and adapted to working-class life. This presupposes a life of prayer, which is a life of union with Our Lord. Visits to the Church, daily Mass and Holy Communion may be out of the question because of work, however much a leader might wish to go. That is all the more reason why he must develop in himself a life of prayer by a certain amount of spiritual exercise: the offering of the day, the survey and examination of the day, the exercise of the presence of God, making his work a prayer. 

For the worker the tools of his trade are what the chalice and paten are for the priest. Just as the priest offers the Body and Blood of Our Lord on the paten and in the chalice, so the worker apostle must learn to offer to Our Lord, in and by the tools of his trade, Our Lord's own sufferings and hard work. He is united to them, since he is part of Our Lord's Mystical Body. He must know how to pray in and by his work, making of it a prayer of praise to God. 

He cannot handle his rosary or his missal while he is in the factory; he has tools in his hands and work to do. By means of the spiritual life on which he is formed, he must change his work into a prayer, a prolonged Mass, united to the priest at the altar. Thus all the small hosts, which are the thousands and millions of workers in the factories, offices, and workshops of the world, are placed on the paten at the side of the big host which is Christ. All will be united to Christ. The priest will present them to the heavenly Father as a prayer of praise, so that all work may render glory to God and continue the work of Creation and Redemption. 

Religion and morality are inseparable, and must be incarnate in the life of a leader. It means sacrifice and effort, beginning again with each new day. The duty of an apostle is difficult. He must be on the Cross with Our Lord; and in the modern world his path is strewn with daily sacrifices. In fact, the whole of his life is a real way of the Cross. He must climb it with love, because it is the only way, which leads to the resurrection. 

This is the manner in which the life of a leader will be transformed into the all-important life of a witness to Christ. He will be a witness to Him everywhere and will have a sense of this witness to Him and a responsibility for it. Thanks to it, Christ will be everywhere, in the factory, the office, in the family, in the district. He will be among the working class by means of these apostles who have a continual sense of being bearers of Christ. 

This exacts a continual moral transformation. That is why we have days of recollection and retreats, spiritual direction, examination of conscience, a life of prayer, a Eucharistic life. ,All that is the means by which we bear witness around us, much more by the life we live than by what we say. It is not necessary to be able to speak well and make grand discourses. Your testimony, however humble and hidden, if it is the testimony of your own life, is most eloquent. That is why it is necessary to start each day with the same faith, enthusiasm, and perseverance. 

This is the reason for a rule of life. It must be a living, activating programme, an instrument of life, a divine rule. It must be read and examined again and again ; it could be made even the subject of your meditation-the words of your promise, the rule of life for prayer, Mass, Holy Communion, examination of conscience. It is not enough that each should do it for himself All must do it to ether. We are a movement only because we form a team. Now and again, we should take it up as a team and read it over with the chaplain or the president. It could be the subject for a day of recollection. 

We must have a plan of action. We do not advance in the wake of events or impressions. At each Study Week we should have an apostolic plan which we shall make together as a team for the establishment of new sections, for recruiting, for the Services, for the districts, for all aspects of our responsibility as Y.C.W.s. This plan of action is essentially a plan of apostolate, and not merely a plan of work and propaganda. 

There can be no question of separating our life of work from our life as apostles. We do not lead two lives, but one only. We are apostles, not merely during a day of recollection or a meeting, but also in our life of work. We have not got two plans-one of work and one of apostolate. We have only one plan, which is essentially an apostolic plan. 

To fulfil this plan, the important thing is our union with Christ, the one Apostle. We must bring Him into our life and into our Movement of apostolate. We must put it also under the protection of the first apostle, Mary, the Mother and the model of apostles-she who was the primordial condition of all apostolate. We must put it all under the protection of her Immaculate and apostolic Heart. 

We are the movers, the animators of this apostolate, the apostolate of Christ by, in, and with, the working class united to the whole Church. It will put an end to the scandal of the nineteenth century. The world of work will no longer be against the Church; it will no longer live outside the Church; but it will form part of the Church, the pride of the whole Church conscious, as it will be, of the apostolic mission of the working class. Then, indeed, will come to pass the resurrection of the working class, which will emerge, from the tomb of error, exploitation, and slavery in which liberalism buried it for centuries. The working class will rise again, because it has apostles who, with and by Christ, by their sufferings and prayers, and even by their death on the Cross, merit with Christ this resurrection of working-class youth and of the working class of the world.

Joseph Cardijn 1949

Introduction                                             Part I                                                Part II                                                  Part III