The Life & Work Of Cardijn: ‘Revolution By Revelation’



Patrick Keegan greeets Cardijn at Picton Hall, Liverpool, September 1946

By A Staff Reporter


Canon Cardijn, who had been listening to the words of his proteges with deep attention, came on to the platform to thunderous applause and roof-lifting cheers. Smiling and waving both hands to acknowledge his young followers’ welcome, he began by apologising for his English. ” A short time ago, when I was in Brooklyn, during the first of my engagements in America, the chairman said to me, ” Canon, you must speak in English.” “No, no,” I said, ” I cannot.” “Canon, you must! ” he said, ” Okay! ” I said, and from that moment I speak English —a cocktail.


He described the great progress of the Y.C.W. in the New World where all the members promised him they would make it the biggest and strongest workers’ movement in the world.


“Oh, dear Y.C.W.! “, he went on. ” I’m happy to greet you, to congratulate you, to thank you If your movement is strong in England, then all the countries in the English-speaking world will be conquered. You have a great responsibility. For, to-day, the problem of the working class is no longer the problem of one country. It is a. problem of the whole world… We do not preach revolution by destruction, by violence, but revolution by revelation—we must reveal to the working class their divine dignity and so raise them up. ” There is nothing without work, no society, no family, no Church, no religion. We have no wealth to consecrate, we have nothing but the dignity of work. “I am the son of a poor working family. My father couid not read or write because he had to work instead of going to school. My mother was a servant. I want the poorest man and the poorest woman to be respected, ” Twenty million boys and girls leave school every year and go to work in factories and mines. Alone, they cannot fight against the evils. They must be helped. They must be represented on an international scale in all the international bodies, U.N.E.S.C.O., the International Labour Office and all other organisations, so that we can present our programme and our doctrine for the salvation of working youth. ” The movement must therefore become stronger and stronger and our leaders better and better. We must have militants everywhere to represent thc Y.C.W.


” When I go back to Belgium, I shall say, ‘ I have seen great leaders in Eng land and heard great speeches.’ I thank you. But we must have more dignity, more security, more plenty for the workers. We must raise up out of the tomb of slavery the working class of the world. And this is the moment to do it, not by violence or materialism, but with new ideals about Love, Work and Family. Therefore, rouse up, Young Christian Workers! And to-morrow we will go forward to the conquest of the worhit” The young workers, deeply moved, cheered the Canon with three of the loudest cheers I have ever heard. There was nothing false about the spontaneous emotion displayed at this remarkable meeting. Christ in the factory, not ” pie in the sky’,” was its theme. The hearts of these Young Christian Workers are lifted up hut their feet are firmly on the ground-as the mines and factories, to which they returned on Monday morning, are beginning to discover.


SOURCE: Joseph Cardijn, Revolution by revelation, in Catholic Herald, 13 September 1946

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