New Relationship Between Priest And People
The Apostolate Of The Future
TFIE feast of Christ the King which is kept next Sunday affords a good opportunity for making better known the ideals and work of the Young Christian Workers' movement, whose end is the establishment of the Kingdom of Christ in the factories and workshops of the modern world. Two meetings of the London clergy last week under the chairmanship of bishops, as well as the publication of a pamphlet, The Priest and the Y.C.W.. by Fr. Vincent Rochford, informally introduce this great work to the parish clergy as the modem movement for the apostolate of the youth of the working classes, a step which, one may hope. will lead not only to its widespread adoption throughout the country, but the establishment of kindred movements for the apostolate of other sections of the laity of our contemporary society.
TWO DEPARTURES THOUGH Fr. Rochford's pamphlet is intended to be a practical manual for the help of chaplains of the different Sections, it will serve better than a general history and exposition of the Movement to bring home the truly novel features of this form of Catholic Action. The pamphlet begins with the following paragraph " The priest anxious to start a Section needs to get hold of two or three fellows to start with. He must resist the temptation to look among thc altar-servers, who usually have a mentality of their own, and often do not mix much with the mobs of lads in the parish. Another pitfall consists in choosing intelligent lads of secondary education who are much pleasanter to talk to, but with whom rough young lads would feel uncomfortable." Here at once are two departures which can almost be said to make a sharp break with established clerical tradition. The Y.C.W. is not looking for what Fr. Rochford cleverly calls the " sacristified,those pious and sheltered youths who have been trained to escape from the rough and tumble of the world to find safety and oonsolation in what can only be called the values of the cloister. (We feel sure that no sort of slur either on this sort of training, still less on those who have profited by it, is intended. The point is rather that this method of seeking personal holiness and salvation is not likely to produce the kind of mentality and character suited to the hard, dangerous and adventurous pioneering of the Y.C.W., though in many a case it may of course do so.) Perhaps more important and novel is the second departure. The Y.C.W. is a workers' movement. and it insists on resisting the strong temptation on the part of the academically trained and bourgeois clergy to impose their strange and—to the workers—unreal way of seeing things. " Even the priest," writes Fr. Rochford, " who was once a worker himself, or came of working parents. possesses no advantage, perhaps less, for he will not realise the change the seminary has made in him."
INDEPENDENCE THESE departures govern the whole training of the Young -6Christian Workers. The point is that they should form an autonomous. independent and responsible unit within the Mystical Body, and their attachment to the priests is a living. spiritual articulation, not a hanging-on, nor an imposed dependence. The pricst, as Canon Cardijn has emphasised. is all and nothing: that is, the relationship between him and others is the kind of living relationship that obtains within a true organism. The priest is all because of his spiritual function and powers and also because he must start and form and maintain on its right lines the Section of which he is the chaplain; the priest is nothing because this is truly the apostolate of the laity working out, so to say, its own natural anti spontaneous method of finding Christ there and in those conditions where the workers are gathered together in His name. The spiritual formation itself is from within the movement. " It is not we (the priests) who are going to save the working youth, granted; but Jesus Christ is going to do it through us." Hence throughout it is a process of eliciting. bringing out, from the Section as a social unit and from the person, in terms of his own ideas, language, values, the full meaning of Christianity. the importance—if we may so put it—of Jesus Christ. " Their enquiry into the Gospel must be made by themselves. It is needless to repeat how our mind and our language differ from theirs. . . . They will come to see Christ—probably for the first time—as a Man like themselves, and come to understand and love his teaching, and try to carry it out in their lives."
(iii) TRUSTING THE LAITY A ND what is true of spiritual formation is no less true of action. How much the Church has lost by failing to trust the laity! How many generous sentiments, how much promise of work, what budding enthusiasm have been killed by the clergy taking over everything they can of importance, interest and responsibility, by a habit of spoon-feeding and mothering. by allowing the growth of an artificial division between what they themselves can effectively manage (and this is called Catholic life) and what they cannot (and this is the " world " that is an object of reprobation)! " We are not trying," says Fr. Rochford, " to build up a life of piety outside of, or alongside, his (the worker's) real life, but to capture every moment of that life itself." An impossible and self-contradictory task if one aims at " sacristifying " the whole of life; a wonderful and truly Christian task if throughout clergy and laity are spiritually articulated, each with his respective autonomous function within the one all-embracing Mystical Body. " We must have confidence enough to send them out of our sight. We must trust them . . . They are not our agents and errand-boys. It is not a case of the priest thinking and ordering, the lads following and obeying. They must decide what action needs to be taken, they must decide the means, they must carry out their own decisions. We must not stifle them by substituting ourselves for them . . . We have a real authority. but a spiritual authority. We have to develop, guide and lead each one to play his own wry active part and to accept responsibility in the movement."
"THE PARISH AT WORK" THE reader will, we hope, feel that these characteristics of the Y.C.W. suggest truly revolutionary changes in the whole method of apostolate. For the first time perhaps some of them will feel that they have at last got hold of the real secret of Catholic Action. For the Y.C.W. is not meant to be an exceptional movement for the benefit of those in factories and workshops. It is an example — albeit the most important example in an industrialised country like ours — of what can be done for the whole of the Catholic people and, through these, for the whole country. Catholic Action is " the Parish at work." " The Parish is to the Church what the R.A.S.C. is to the Army—ensuring those supplies without which neither organism can function. Could we feel confidence in our Army once we knew its revictualling was assured? Would we not want to know that its military training was also complete? . . . In any given parish there are streets and flats of different social strata; factories and offices; secondary schools and hospitals; anti its members are drawn from all the varied professions, occupations, trades necessary in the human city; and composed of both sexes and ages. The Parish, dealing with them chiefly en masse, can give them the principles of the Christian life only in general terms. The priest, himself ' set apart,' cannot understand the actual details of problems of each milieu . . . It is only in the Y.C.W.—and kindred organisations for other milieux—that real lives are discussed in the utmost simplicity, real problems related to eternal destiny . . . Hence only when the Parish groups her children according to their condition in life. studies with them this problem of inserting the whole of Christianity into the whole of their life. forms and sustains them, can it rest content that its duty is done."
THE PROBLEM OF PERSONS AVE have not here dealt with the most important problem raised by this new development, but it haunts the pages of Fr. Rochford's statement. It is the problem of persons. Even Canon Cardijn, who founded and inspired the movement, cannot do more than show the way and provide the right stepping stones. Just as it is from God alone that the grace which will spiritually vitalise the movement can come, so it is only from the right sort of person that the human leadership and the human guidance that will carry the movement along can come. The finest institutions in the world are worthless unless they are run by good and wise persons, while saints can conquer through the worst institutions man can conceive. Fr. Rochford constantly notes the qualities required for the work in both priests and lay readers. it is more fitting for him as a priest to speak of the first. We can note the difficulties of securing the right lay co-operation. " You don't find leaders—you form them," wrote Canon Cardijn, but he also wrote: " I am convinced that this first leader can be found in every parish in the world." Both statements are doubtless true of the workers where generosity, spirit, an aptitude for organisation are readily available and trainable, if one sets about it in the right way. The vision. however, of many a parish composed of a medley of self-satisfied individuals of all classes and occupations, of either sex, without any natural social bond, trained for generations to divide life into a religious and a secular water-tight compartment, bored, bourgeois, uprooted, is much less promising. What genius will be required—for it can scarcely be given a lesser name-of priests and lay-leaders to convert such an amalgam into a " parish at the Front," to use Canon Cardijn's phrase? Yet it must be done. The days of individualism and self-sufficiency are over and done with in every department of life, and not least in the spiritual order. To stand still is to be swept back by the waves of self-sufficiency and secularism. In every parish the right sort of lay leaders must be found and formed, men of character and understanding, men who can inspire their fellows to service, so that there can be built up slowly but surely the army that can conquer in the Name of Christ the King.