First African meeting may offer model

First African meeting may offer model for other parts of World
By Rosemary Goldie

From Entebbe, political capital of the Protectorate of Uganda, where Government buildings, attractive dwellings and the White Fathers’ church and mission are dotted over wide parklands, the red clay road leads up between Indian shops, African mud-huts and banana plantations towards Cisubi. Just before the village, a new road has been opened up to the Minor Seminary, a fine modern building, newly completed, which looks out from its eminence over the broad expanse of Lake Victoria.

It was here, a few miles from the Equator, that some 60 delegates from 15 territories of Africa, with experts from 14 Catholic International Organisations came to gather between December 8 to 13, 1953, for the first leaders’ meeting for the Apostolate of the Laity in Africa.

The meeting was organised in collaboration with the Uganda National Council of Catholic Action, by the Permanent Committee for International Congresses of the Lay Apostolate created in Rome by the Holy Father in January, 1952; it was the General secretary of this committee, Mr. Vittorino Veronese, who – as president of Italian Catholic Action -brought to Rome in October, 1951, for the first world congress of the Lay Apostolate, the militant Catholic laymen and laywomen of 74 countries and 38 Catholic international organisations.

The meeting in Uganda was in a sense the sequel to those unforgettable days in Rome, for it was clearly evident at the first world congress that regional meetings would be necessary to give more adequate study to the problems facing lay Catholics in the different parts of the world.

The tasks of the apostolate in Latin America and in Asia are one in their spiritual essence, but the external conditions of their fulfilment are widely differing.

Why Africa

That Africa should have been chosen for the first of such regional meetings was due in part to the express desire of African Catholics, but also to the dramatic acuity of the problems raised in Africa to-day by the rapidity of present social transformations, and to the obvious urgency of preparing Catholic lay people to bring to this evolving society to the guilding light of Christian principles.

This significance of the meeting was stressed in a magnificent letter addressed to His Grace Archbishop Cabana, of Rubaga (Uganda), by His Excellency Monsignor Montini calling upon the African laity – in the Holy Father’s name – to respond to “their God-given vocation with a fidelity springing from genuine spiritual life, with the clear-sightedness necessary for taking their full responsibilities in all spheres of social and civic activity and with that same resolution which has made glorious the martyrs of Uganda.”

It was stressed also, in dramatic fashion, when, a few days before the meeting, Uganda came into the limelight of the world press through the events which led to the banishment by the British authorities of the Buganda King, the Kabaka Mutesa II. Despite the announcement of a ‘state of emergency’ in Kampala, preparations proceeded normally; and, while the whole Catholic world was preparing for the opening of the Marian Year, delegates from all parts of Africa, and beyond it, were making their way – by bicycle, car, train and Comet – to Kisubi.

From Mozambique came His Eminence Cardinal de Gouveia, Archbishop of Lorenzo Marques; the new Apostolic Delegate, His Excellency Monsignor James Knox – first Australian to assume such functions in any part of the world – made Kisubi his initial goal in his jurisdiction of East and West Africa; no less than 18 Archbishops, Bishops, Vicars and Prefects Apostolic personally responded to the invitation extended to their territories; with them came missionaries – priests, brothers and nuns – but also, lay leaders, those who had answered the call of the Encyclical, Evangelii Praecones: “It is absolutely essential that in the missions there should be many lay people to enter into the ranks of Catholic Action…”

Experts Attend

Even in the fullest sense this was an international meeting: ‘Experts’ were sent from Europe by the Catholic international organisations – by the International Y.C.W., Pax Romana, the women’s and girls’ organisations, etc.; Monsignor Ligutti, director of the National Catholic Rural Life Conference of the United States was there; Mr. Douglas Hyde, former communist leader and now active apostle of the writ ten and spoken word for the cause of Christ; the Prince zu Lowenstoin, president of the Central Committee of German Catholics; Dr. Aujoulat, president of the International Secretariate for Lay Missionary Activity; and lay missionaries at present working in Africa, from the Grail and from the International Feminine Auxiliaries (among them Miss Frances Scott, former Grail president in Australia).

This was, however, an international meeting of an unprecedented kind. From the outset, the organisers, whether in Rome or in Uganda, had no illusions as to the complexity of the problems to be treated and the difficulties which could arise in a continent of such social and political fermentation and of such diversity in the state of development of its various regions.

The lectures were consciously adapted to meet this situation, and did not slur over the real problems of the African scene. It was no mere theoretical interest which held African listeners strained in attention while His Excellency Bishop Lanctôt, Bukoba, Tanganyiku, spoke of ‘Africa To-day and the Mission of the Laity,’ or while His Grace Archbishop Maranta, of Dar Es Salaam, outlined with masterly touch the Church’s teaching on nation and State and its implications for Catholic lay people. And, for the Kikuyu students from Kenya who formed part of the fine delegation from Makerere University College the Church’s attitude to racism could hardly have appeared a purely academic question.

Nature Of Apostolate

The nature of the Apostolate of the Laity was treated by Monsignor Cleire, Vicar Apostolic of Kosongo; its basis in the doctrine of the Mystical Body of Christ; its various forms; individual and organised; organised in official Catholic Action for tasks specifically relating to the work of the Church; organised in an action of Christian inspiration, emanating directly from the lay people, for the ‘temporal’ tasks of the social and civic order.
It was a layman, Mr. Paul Ssemakula, of Uganda, who dealt from his experience as a leader in Catholic Action, with the formation that is indispensable for the apostolate: formation of intellect and will; spiritual, dogmatic, moral and liturgical formation; technical formation, enriched by experience and adapted to the milieux where the layman is called upon to exercise his activity. Two other African laymen prepared the paper on concrete social problems in Africa to-day: Mr. A. Lawrence, from French Guinea, member of the French Economic Council, and Dr. Conombo, member of the French National Assembly.

Frank discussion was the order of the day, as African delegates, missionaries and experts succeeded one another at the microphone to comment on various themes. And the same frankness – tempered by the same spirit of fraternal charity – reigned in the ‘forums’ or discussion groups to which two full days were devoted for concrete study of four essential fields.

Concrete Discussion

The Education forum was led by Dr. H. Jowitt, C.M.G., Professor at the Pius XII Catholic University for Africans (Basutoland) and former Director of Education in Uganda; the presence among the delegates of many African lay teachers gave special importance to this study of educational problems.

Discussion on Woman and the Family was under the guidance of Soeur Marie Andre du Sacre Coeur, of the White Sisters, who has done extensive research and published much material on the difficult question of marriage customs and women’s status among the African peoples, Dr, Aujoulat was chairman of the forum on the subject of Labor and Social Betterment in the rapidly evolving industrialisation of African life.

Mr. Douglas Hyde, as chairman of the forum on the Training of Leaders, stressed the excellent material afforded by the splendid African Catholic youth with their eager generosity to serve the cause of Christ. If the apostles of atheistic materialism had similar material, they would know how to use it; we may not use all their methods, but Christianity, lived to the full, has a dynamism they cannot know.

Clearly it was not possible in the short time allotted to these forums to exhaust the vast subject matter presented for their consideration, nor was it possible to make all the concrete applications necessary for widely differing territories and for the varying possibilities of their organised laity. It was, however, already of great importance that the problems should be raised and a concrete picture given of the difficulties involved. It was important, too, that African Catholics should have this opportunity to work with lay people from Europe and America whose actions do not belie the teachings brought to Africa by the missionaries – all too often the case with white ‘Christians’ on African soil – lay people, on the contrary, whoso energies are devoted to collaboration in the Church’s redeeming apostolate.

Unity In Diversity

It was important above all that, behind the diversity of the forms of apostolic activity already operative in Africa, the unity should become apparent of their guiding principles and of their source in one same life of grace. If Uganda has a fully constituted National Council of Catholic Action while also where organised lay action is still confined to the work of the catechists; if in one diocese the Legion of Mary is officially mandated as Catholic Action and in another is working as an auxiliary body; if the personal apostolate of African Catholic leaders may be exercised as tribal chiefs or as members of the political organisms of the French Union… these external differences of form or degree are far less important than the deep unity of those laboring, in whatever sphere, to make Christ’s Kingdom a reality on African soil.

This unity – the reality of Christ’s Mystical Body, not only for Africa, but for the Universal Church – was a matter of daily experience: at the opening Mass celebrated by His Excellency Monsignor Knox at the torchlight Rosary Procession through Kisubi Parish on the evening of December 8, where over 2000 Africans took part, singing the Latin hymns of the Lourdes ‘Ave’ with the same gusto as their native Luganda; at the unforgettable pilgrimage to Numugongo, place of martyrdom of Blessed Charles Lwanga, Patron of African Catholic Action, when one African Bishop celebrated evening Mass, another preached and hundreds of Uganda Catholics approached to receive Holy Communion with delegates from all parts of Africa and of the world. It was again the great and deep reality of the Church which remained as a lasting impression from the Pontifical High Mass – offered by a Cardinal for the first time in the history of Uganda – and from the Te Deum which rocked the seminary chapel on the closing afternoon. But this reality was expressed also in other, less solemn ways: by the silent presence, for instance, at every session of one of the parish monitresses, mother of a family, who understood no word of English or French that was spoken throughout, but explained in her own tongue: “I know what you are talking about even though I do not understand. These are the things which I also believe; I want you to see that I am one with you.”

Historic Occasion

At the solemn closing section of December 13, His Excellency, Sir Andrew Cohen, Governor of Uganda, stressing the value of the work done by the missionaries for the material and spiritual development of the Protectorate, styled this meeting an ‘historic’ occasion. And historic it was in deed, not only for Uganda, but for the Church in Africa and throughout the world.

Similar conferences will no doubt follow, in Africa itself and in other continents; but this first regional lay apostolate meeting will remain a decisive step forward on the road towards a ‘full and efficacious collaboration in universal charity’ traced out inn 1951 for the congressists in Rome by the Holy Father himself. It will have been also tangible proof that the Catholicism of ‘mission lands’ can no longer be considered as falling outside the orbit of ‘normal’ ”Catholic life. In the words again of the Holy Father (to the Sacred College, Christmas, 1945), “…to-day we see appearing, as it were, an exchange of life and energy between all members of the Mystical Body of Christ on earth. Not a few regions on other continents have long outgrown the missionary form of their ecclesiastical organisation; they have their own Hierarchy and, whereas they were formerly only receivers, they give now to the Church goods, both spiritual and material.


The Apostolate of the Laity. First African meeting may offer model for other parts of World
By Rosemary Goldie

Catholic Weekly (Sydney, NSW : 1942 – 1954), Thursday 28 January 1954, page 12

130 Priests Attend Y.C.W. Conference

Role of Clergy and Laity in Catholic Action Discussed

Archbishops Mannix, Simonds, Tweedy at Sessions

THE Y.C.W. is a movement with vision — the vision of an enthusiastic Catholic youth leading the youth of Australia to the cause, of Christ the King,” said His Grace the Coadjutor-Archbishop of Melbourne, Most Rev. J. D. Simonds, D.D., Ph.D., in an important address on the Young Christian Workers to members of the Hierarchy and clergy at a Y.C.W. conference last week. Archbishop Simonds is the Episcopal chairman of the movement. Represented at the conference, besides the four Victorian dioceses, were the dioceses of Maitland, Wilcannia-Forbes, Wagga Wagga (N.S.W.), Toowoomba, Townsville (Queensland), Adelaide, Port Augusta (South Australia), Hobart (Tasmania) and Perth (WA).


“The rising tide of paganism,” continued his Grace, “is not destined to engulf the Church of God, for we can see that the Holy Spirit is already brooding anew over the modern chaos to produce a new human world. The most significant inspiration of the Divine Spirit in our days is that by which He has reawakened in the Church the consciousness that the apostolate of Christ’s Kingdom is not a reserved occupation of the clergy, but is the normal radiation of Christian life by every member of the Body of Christ. The Y.C.W. is youth’s response to that awakening.

“It is an authentic movement of Catholic Action. It has merited many striking eulogies from Pope Pius XI., who, among other things, did not hesitate to say: ‘We have given the definition of Catholic Action and that definition has been perfectly interpreted by the Young Christian Workers.’

“To organise a similar apostolate amongst Australian youth is our high purpose and privilege. I am sure you feel with me that your presence here to-day is destined to become historic, for you are helping to enkindle an apostolic flame in the minds and hearts of young Australians, that will undoubtedly be glowing with its brightest intensity in future years that we shall not live to see.


“The part which the priest has to play in Catholic Action is a very important one, but, at the same time, it is a delicately adjusted role. Pope Pius XI. applied to the chaplains, or ecclesiastical assistants of Catholic Action, the words of the Psalmist: “in manibus tuis sortes meae.” That is the. reason why this conference has been convoked, for I realise that the fate of the Y.C.W. in Australia in its initial stages will be largely in the hands of the clergy. In outlining the role of the priests, the Pope said: ‘The ecclesiastical assistants should be the soul of the associations, the sources of energy, the inspirers of the apostolate, the representatives of episcopal authority.’ These are, of course, normal priestly activities. But the Holy Father was careful to add that the direction of the responsibility of the associations must be left to the” laity. As ministers of Christ and dispensers of the mysteries of God your function will be to form the leaders and members of the Y.C.W. in a thoroughly Catholic spirit, and to give general guidance to the technique of the apostolate according to the directions of the Hierarchy. But the work of the apotolate and the management of their groups are the responsibility of the youth themselves.


“The spiritual formation of the leaders and members is by far your most important work. It is therefore fundamentally important that every ecclesiastical assistant should have clear ideas upon the nature of the lay apostolate, and its relation to the Mystical Body of Christ. The call to Catholic Action is not just a new technique to meet present difficulties by adding lay curates to the clergy because of deficiencies in their ranks. Catholic Action is essential to the very life of the Church. The laity’s right to participate in the apostolate has existed from the beginning, but its importance and its responsibilities are being revealed in a fresh light in modern times. It is a direct consequence of their membership in the Mystical Body of Christ; and the authentic sign of this right is the indelible sacramental character impressed on their souls in the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation. Though all the sacraments confer sanctifying grace by which, in St. Peter’s thrilling words, we become partakers of the Divine Nature, three of the sacraments imprint on the soul an indelible character. According to St. Thomas’ beautiful teaching, this character received in the sacraments is actually the character of Christ, or as the word implies, an express image of the beautiful soul of Christ our High Priest, indelibly impressed on the soul. Its triple form indicates the member’s rank in the Mystical Body, and the degree in which he has been admitted to share in the priesthood of the Divine High Priest. “While, therefore, sanctifying grace incorporates us into the Divine Life of Christ, the sacramental character is the seal of our incorporation into the powers of Christ, in particular his priestly powers. This participation in Christ’s priesthood by sacramental character is not a mere passive one. It enables the baptised member to become a co-offerer of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, directly and personally. It confers on the confirmed member the right and the duty of teaching, admonishing and strengthening others in their duty to God. Whilst through the character of Holy Orders the ordained priest becomes so closely identified with Christ that he is able to offer the Eucharistic Sacrifice and confer the sacraments in the person of the Divine Redeemer. Confirmation is therefore the sacrament of Catholic Action; indeed, St. Thomas does not hesitate to call it a quasi ordination. It does not, of course, incorporate the recipient into the administrative and teaching authority of the Hierarchy, but it entitles him to be formally invited to assist in the apostolate. So when he receives this commission he acquires no new rights beyond those already given by the character of Baptism and Confirmation.


“It will be your chief function to inspire your leaders with’ a profound realisation of their dignity as members of the Mystical Body, and to fire them with an enthusiasm for Christ their Leader, and for His holy cause in which they have a personally responsible interest. They must know their Leader intimately, for to know Him is to love Him. Therefore, the prayerful study of the Gospel, which puts before them the fascinating personality of Christ, and which teaches them His spirit and His standards of judgment and action, is an integral part of the formation of Y.C.W. leaders. But since the Christian priesthood has two great functions, the apostolate for souls and the liturgical worship of God, it follows that those who are called to share in the apostolate must also actively share in the liturgical worship and prayers of the Church. Both Pius X and Pius XI insisted that the formation of the leaders will not be complete until they have acquired an intense supernatural spirit, that must be drawn from its ‘foremost and indispensable fount, which is liturgical – worship.’ It is also important, of course, that as they are being made more vividly conscious of their incorporation into the Church’s apostolate and worship, they should also grow in loving appreciation of the unique relation which the Blessed Mother bears to the Head and the members of the Mystical Body, and the providential part that she exercises -in the apostolate as the Mother of Divine Grace.


“This whole formation will require long and-patient effort, but I am happy to be able to announce that his Grace the Archbishop has already taken a step which is of. prime importance in the task of training. A property with extensive grounds has recently been purchased at Cheltenham, where selected . groups of leaders will be able to spend each weekend in a course of training and direction uncler one of the chaplains. This action of the Archbishop in setting up for the Y.C.W. leaders a novitiate, that will be the powerhouse f spiritual and intellectual energy of the movement, is destined to have a profound nfluence on the future of its apostolate.


“Side by side with the spiritual formation of the militants goes your responsibility f general guidance in the technique of the apostolate according to the directions of the hierarchy. The special field of the apostolate of the Y.C.W. is that vast mass of Australian youth whose lives are, for the most part, cast in an environment that is either coldly indifferent or actively hostile to the Christian spirit. The Y.C.W. is not just another defensive club that aims at segregating its members and sheltering them from the corrosive influence of their environment. It is a militant and apostolic movement that is determined to take the offensive by penetrating into the environment of the workers, and impregnating its movements and activities with the spirit of Christ.

“Its organisation is first of all developed on parochial lines, for the parish is the canonical unit of spiritual life. But when its spirit has been captured by leaders and groups, it will then grow by division, in order to regroup itself into specialised movements. These will bring the apostolate into the special environments peculiar to groups of workers in factories, workshops or professions. Particular groupings according to common interests or environments form an essential part of Catholic Action and this is the next big development of th6 Y.C.W. which must be organised. But the Holy See has strongly insisted that the specialised movements must always retain a unity, for this is indispensable to Catholic Action. The Y.C.W. will fulfil this function of unity for all the future specialised movements of youth that will develop according to the different industrial or professional environments.


“We have opened this conference with the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice in honour of the Holy Spirit, to Whom this fair land of ours was first dedicated as the Southern Land of the Holy Ghost. Only the irresistible power of the Divine Spirit can rechristianise the mass of Australian youth, and we wish to offer the Y.C.W. to the Holy Spirit as a willing instrument in that gigantic task. You who generously offer to co-operate in that work of the Holy Ghost must bring to it an enthusiastic optimism that springs from profound confidence in the power of the Holy Spirit and the efficacy of prayer and work in His Name.

“Each morning we ascend the altar in those conditions of tranquillity and spiritual security that belong to the priesthood. It is especially in those moments of grace that we must have compassionate thought for that vast mass “of Australian youth which the voracious industrial machine drags each morning into its inhuman vortex, and after a day of soulless service to the machine is cast out again each evening into homes or places of amusement from which the spirit of Christ has been mostly excluded. More than once the great Heart of our Divine Master was so moved to. compassion at the sight of a crowd fainting with physical hunger, that He gave them miraculous bread. He is surely more deeply moved at the sight of the spiritually starving youth of to-day, and even more anxious to multiply through, the hands of His modern apostles the spiritual bread that endureth unto life everlasting.’ “During the present year the Episcopal Committee for Catholic Action requested me to undertake the direction of the Young Christian Workers’ Movement, which promises to develop into one of the most fruitful activities of the lay apostolate. It was thought fitting that the first conference called to organise the movement on national lines should be a conference of members of the Hierarchy and clergy, whose duty it will be to guide the beginnings of this important movement. I have therefore profound pleasure in bidding you a cordial welcome to the conference, and I express my sincere gratitude for your presence.”


130 Priests Attend Y.C.W. Conference (Advocate, Thursday 28 October 1943, page 7) (Trove)

Our Philosophy of Life

Our Philosophy of Life. The Christian and the Incarnation. Rev. Father B. J. O’Regan, P.P. (Rose Bay)

Preached the first of the Advent discourses at St. Mary’s Cathedral on Sunday, 27th ult. Taking for his text:

“And their Leader shall be of themselves, and their Prince shall come forth from the midst of them. And you shall be my people, and I will be your God” (Jer. 30:21-22).

Father O’Regan said: ‘Whether we realise it or not, on the blood-stained anvil of the world wars we began to beat out a new civilisation in which there will be either the brotherhood in Christ, or a comradeship in anti-Christ.’ (Fulton Sheen— Mystical Body).

 The Mystical Body of Christ (Paperback) – 9 March 2015 by Fulton J. Sheen

The question is: What have we to offer in the formation of that civilisation?

Various movements are begun and urged for the betterment of the conditions that exist in our social and religious order; all well-meaning, no doubt, and apparently all effecting some sort of temporal improvement, but do they go far enough? Are the originators of these movements trying to build without the foundation?

“Unless the Lord build the house, they labour in vain who build it” (Psalm 126:1.)

Are they like architects who, in designing the bridge, omitted the keystone?

“You are God’s building. As a wise architect I have laid the foundation. But let every man take heed how be builds thereupon. For no other foundation no man can lay, but that which is laid, which is Christ Jesus” (St. Paul Cor.3: 9-11).

The Psalmist’s warning note has not passed with its singing. St. Paul leaves no doubt concerning the foundation; he the architect, in the stormy days of Christian beginnings proclaims: “It is Christ Jesus.”

To-day, according to the ritual of the Church, we are observing the first Sunday of Advent. What does Advent mean? With us it is a time of preparation for the ‘King that is to come.’ In a few weeks, the world will, not from Christian conviction, but because of custom or self-interest, make merry over the feast of Christmas. Is there really any reason for this merry-making, for these festivities, secular as they will be for the most part? “And their Leader shall be of themselves, and their Prince shall come forth from the midst of them” (Jer. 30:21).

Spiritual Starvation

Is this the reason? What do they, a vast proportion of the people of this City of Sydney, know of their Leader and their Prince? Whose responsibility is this spiritual starvation? Can it not be said that at tremendous sacrifice the Catholics of Australia have for nearly 60 years tried, more or less successfully, to keep before their own children who their Leader is and whence their Prince came? We have nothing to say in rebuke. We only regret that our fellow citizens are not marching shoulder to shoulder with us in our endeavour to frustrate the attempt that has been made, under the guise of Liberalism, to destroy Christianity. Bitterly we know that the false principles of Liberalism cannot teach who is the people’s Leader and who is their Prince; and the people are left to languish in their enquiry of God their Father and of their Saviour, the Prince of Peace.

It is the first Sunday of Advent, so the Christian world acknowledges. This means that all Christian people are preparing for the anniversary of the manifestation of the Incarnation – the Birthday of the Divine Redeemer. Now here is the basis on which the results of the new civilisation which emerged from the Great War are to be hammered out – the Incarnation.”

“God left the heavens to remake the hearts of men” (Sheen).

The Incarnation is the most important fact in human history, the foundation of all that is precious in the Christian order. Outside that foundation there is chaos, and destruction awaits those who would dare to build on chaos. “For behold, they that go far from thee shall perish; thou hast destroyed all them that are disloyal to thee” (Psalm 72:27).

Speaking at the Assembly of the French Grand Orient in 1920 a member declared:

“Every revolution had for its object – to bring about universal happiness. When our ancestors proclaimed the principle of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity they aimed at realising this condition. After one hundred and fifty years we see the results of their efforts, and they are not noteworthy. Of Liberty there is not a shred left; of Equality there is scarcely a trace; of Fraternity there has never been a sign.”

This is a remarkable admission from a brother of that fraternity (Masonic) which sent a message of congratulations to the Anti-God Congress assembled in London in September this year. Incarnation, derived from the Latin, means in the flesh. Sometimes, when we wish to emphasise a virtue or a quality in a man, for instance, his patience, we say, in an exaggerated way, he is patience incarnate. By that we mean that the ideal of Patience has taken in him a human form. So when we speak of the Incarnation we mean that the Life, the Truth, the Justice, the Mercy, the Love of God took on a visible human likeness in the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ. Love leads to an Incarnation, hence, God, Who loved man with an ever lasting love, joined man in His Virgin Mother, and the sequence of that union was our Divine Saviour. Christmas, therefore, is the celebration of a marriage – the marriage of God with man – a marriage so solemn, so permanent, and of such consequences as to be the only one the world, without greatly knowing it, will never cease to celebrate.

The Driving Power of Men

What of the application of this great truth? There are many ideologies or philosophies of life which simply mean there are many opinions of the meaning of life: what it is, what we received it for, what is the end and how we are to reach that end. These ideologies make up the ‘driving power’ of men to action. For instance, a man’s object is to grow rich, then everything in his life is subordinate to the accumulation of money. So with the man whose ideology is pleasure, his life is arranged so that everything that touches him ministers unto his god. Today, in the minds of those who make up the greater part of humanity, work – the conditions of the worker and his rewards have become their ideology. The intrinsic value of labour, and the consequent dignity of the labourer, are the measure of worth. Around this ideal fierce conflict rages. Is work the supreme value?

Is the performance of work useful to the race or to the class, man’s ultimate purpose? On this idea of work a new religion is being formed, a religion which is full of high hopes and much self-sacrifice. These people work enthusiastically to propagate their ideas; they fight for them, and if necessary, are prepared to die for them.

We have an ideology – a philosophy of life. We received it when we were children. It is founded on the Incarnation. In the light of the Divine radiance we know who created us, Who God is, what we are for, whither we are going. Taking this to be our view of the primary purpose of our existence, how can we tolerate influences which tend to tarnish, if not to destroy, this ideology, such as mixed marriages or the patronage of schools in which religion is not of supreme importance?

Our race has a genius for compromise; in some affairs compromise might offer a solution of a difficulty, but in matters that concern our faith, “He that is not with me is against me.” “You are not asked to die for your religion, but you are urged strongly to live for it and by it.” (Fahey: Mystical Body in Modern World.) Is it not true to say that with some the joy of possessing a treasure and the ambition to increase it seem to be dead? Are not many of us unconscious of the fact that we hold in our hands the torch which is meant to “illumine the world?” “In him was life and the life was the light of the world” (John 1:4). Yes! and we carry that torch lifelessly and without interest, just as we would carry in a procession a candle that had been extinguished (La Vie Intellectuelle, 1033). That attitude might suffice in an age that has gone; to-day, merely fulfilling our own religious obligations is not enough, we must answer the Holy Father’s call to mobilise. A great French writer said, “We Catholics lose ground, perhaps more on account of the truths which good men have not the courage to proclaim than because of the errors that wicked men have been cunning enough to multiply.”

These are strong statements, hitting the vulnerable points in our armour which is the armour in which St. Paul clothed his Christian contestant. The truth, however, must be fearlessly proclaimed. Souls are perishing for lack of it, souls that through no fault of their own have been robbed of “the light that enlighteneth every man that cometh into this world” (John 1:9). You Catholics know who and what this light is, and when the Great Judge comes “in the clouds of heaven and with great power and majesty” these souls will reproach you with your cowardice and lukewarmness.

Naturalism’s Opposition

This is our ideology – the one that is the product of the Incarnation. Against that we have the fruit of “the civilisation that has beaten out on the anvil of blood forged in the Great War.” Indeed, its foundations are much older than the war, it is Naturalism under the invisible leadership of Satan against the Supernatural which comes from Jesus Christ. This Naturalism has gone through many transformations – Liberalism, Socialism, Rationalism, Atheism and Communism with revolution which to-day confronts us under the guise of the new religion called ’Work’ already referred to.

R James, in his book, Christ and the Workers, says:

To cry halt to the oncoming armies of workers, as they march in step with an earthly paradise swimming before their eyes, requires courage. It requires still more courage to fall in behind them, work a way to the front, and lead them along another route to a Paradise that will prove no mirage. Both these forms of courage will be needed in the days that lie ahead.

But the courage to save the workers from themselves will not be found apart from God in His Incarnation and from His Church. Unless a compact body of Christian workers enthused with their ideology comes forward now, alive to the moral character of the Communist illusion, and conscious of the redeeming power of their own faith, there will be no staying the anti-Christian materialism which threatens to sweep all before it. “And their Leader shall be of themselves and their Prince shall come forth from the midst of them” (Jer. 30:21).

The onslaught might be stayed, its progress checked, as has happened in some parts of Europe, but it is not defeated, and it shall come again in a more aggravated form, unless social justice is established and the riches of the earth cease to belong to a privileged few:

This modem revolution has actually broken out or threatens everywhere, and it exceeds in amplitude and violence anything yet experienced in the preceding persecutions launched against the Church. Entire peoples find themselves in danger of falling back into a barbarism worse than that which oppressed the greater part of the world at the coming of the Divine Redeemer. (Pope Pius XI. Encyclical, Divini Redemptoris).

Here in the words of the Father of Christendom is described the world situation and its dangers. The old order, the order of the bourgeois, is passing; it has been tried, and in many sections has been found wanting. Through the Liberalism, against which, 50 years ago, Pope Leo XII warned Europe. It has betrayed Christ, and manoeuvred the workers into hostility to

the Church.

The New Order

The old order! But what of the new? The new order has arrived. Russia set the pattern out of the East again! The Russian Revolution might not survive, but it has shown the workers their power, and the question is how that power is to be used. If there is any mistake or neglect, if Christians fail to realise that they alone can lay the foundations of a true human order, if they do not have a full and deep grasp of the nature of the evils that exist, and a clear vision of what they want to do, then they can neither reject what is wrong nor demand what is right, and “the last state shall be worse than the first.”

“The aspirations of the people have their roots in a Christian past and they can find their fulfilment only in a Christian future.” (James: Christ and the Workers).

The same writer continues:

To-day the deepest division is not between Capital and Labour, but between Christianised Labour and labour which marches under the Red flag, and the strength of the latter is being exploited by all who hate the Church and the Church’s Divine Leader. Here is where lies the promise of the final and decisive victory. The attack of the middle class on the Church was characteristically of a compromising kind. It was reformist, not revolutionary. It opposed Catholicism in the name of Christianity. Its prosecution was conducted with careful regard to politeness.

But the revolution which the Holy Father in his encyclical contemplates is not of measured forms and words. The workers are realists; there will be no compromise when the opposing forces meet, ’no room for mediocrity.’ It will be a fight to a finish, a fight between men who believe in God and men who don’t. Moscow, Mexico and Spain reveal the nature of the conflict and the mentality of the men who lead it. Listen again to the Psalmist singing: “They set fire to Thy sanctuary; they have defiled the dwelling place of Thy name on earth. They said in their hearts, the whole kindred of them together, ’Let abolish all the festival days of God from the land’.” (Psalms 73:7 and 8).

The Redeemer came “in the fullness of time.” That fullness was realised on the first Christmas night: “He came unto his own and His own received Him not” (John 1:11). Now another ’fullness’ in time has come, and Christ’s Vicar on earth gives the summons to organise and equip our forces for the reconquest of a world which has largely lost God. It is a daring call, but no more daring than the call to the Galilean fishermen to set out under the guidance of the Holy Ghost to conquer the Roman Empire.

The Loss of the Workers

His Holiness Pius XI declared that “the loss to the Church of the workers has been the greatest scandal of the 19th century.” As one helping in the 20th century to repair this scandal, reference can profitably be made to the story of Canon Cardijn.

About 40 years ago, Joseph Cardijn, ordained a priest, returned to his native Belgian mining town. His former school fellows, now young workers, would have nothing to do with him. In their eyes he had sold himself to the enemy. It was this distressing incident which determined the young cleric to dedicate himself to bridging the gulf between the Church and workers, which his personal experience had made so real. They were Socialists. Socialism was the charter of their class, the expression of their faith, the bond of their comradeship, and the symbol of their hopes as proletarians. The Church had condemned Socialism – he had become a priest of that Church; therefore, the memory of boyish intimacies was swept aside, they could have no traffic with him.

That Belgian town was by no means specially anti-clerical. Joseph Cardijn founded the association of Young Christian Workers (Jocists). Speaking of their activities, he said:

I am convinced that we are at a turning point in history. Religion must re-penetrate social, professional and family life to its very foundations, in order that life shall develop and become fully human, and that the whole of society be re-Christianised.

Yes! The young people are the hope of Christianity in Europe. The Holy Father calls them “the advance guard of the Church.” And Cardinal Verdier, Archbishop of Paris, addressing 80,000 of them assembled around an altar in a stadium in that city, declared “that nothing like

them for their Christian spirit and enthusiasm had been seen since the Crusades.”

It is good as well as encouraging to know what our confreres elsewhere are doing; the Christian workers of France and Belgium have mobilised, not to fight, but by their teaching and example to correct the errors and win the minds of those enlisted in the anti-Christian army. That army is an unpleasant reality with its headquarters in Moscow; socially its centre is in the proletariat, doctrinally it is led by the Left-wing intelligentsia in all countries – pink professors and editors, pink radio announcers and unhappily, pink ministers of religion; morally, its policy is hate, as was shown very painfully at the beginning of the Communist regime in Spain, in 1936.

The Sydney Activities

But enough. Here in the Sydney Archdiocese the Papal summons to mobilisation is not unheeded. The Archbishop has erected a Secretariate with a distinguished director. He will give guidance, help and inspiration. Recently we witnessed the inspiring spectacle of thousands of men thronging this vast Cathedral. They came from every walk of life, and many of them came from afar, at the sacrifice of time and convenience, and for what did they come – these thousands? To be as one body, one family, one voice in proclaiming that they believed in God, and that they were prepared to defend the honour and the name of Jesus Christ and to extend His Kingdom. May we not say to them what the Pope said of the Young Christian Workers – You are the vanguard of the Church? The call, however, is not to sections, but to all; and we shall not be putting our requisite strength to the spiritual wheel till every Catholic, man and woman – every Catholic – is, in some way, co-operating.

An Englishman, not always of our faith, expressing his impressions of the Spanish Nationalist troops, fighting to hold their country for God, wrote: “The battle cry of the Legion is as holy as a prayer and as thrilling as a song” (Arnold Lunn).

We have a battle cry that should galvanise us into action, it was given us by our Leader Himself: “I, if I be lifted up from the earth will draw all things to Myself ” (John 12:32). He was lifted up on the Cross on Good Friday. To-day, ours is the responsibility to lift Him up by the lives we live, and to show how His teaching will contribute towards “beating out the new civilisation in which there will be brotherhood in Christ.” “And their Leader shall be of themselves and their Prince shall come forth from their midst” (Jer 30:21).



Fr B.J. O’Regan, Our Philosophy of Life (Catholic Press (Sydney, NSW : 1895 – 1942), Thursday 1 December 1938, page 16) (Trove)