The Call of Youth

The imagination of a boy is healthy, and the mature imagination of a man is healthy; but there is
a space of life between, in which the soul is in a ferment, the character undecided, the way of life uncertain. . . .”— Keats.

THE space of life between boyhood and manhood is a time that is fraught with difficulties, disturbances, and dangers. The years of childhood have passed, and with them their settled feeling of comparative security. Adolescence has come with a breaking away from the old stable outlook on life, with feelings of insecurity and uncertainty born of the vital changes in mind and body. The shelters of childhood are gone —the influence and protection of the school, the absolute dependence on the parents. The youth begins to discover himself; begins to understand that he must now take his place in the world as an independent individual. Before he has attained that measure of moral balance and assurance which would enable him to stand really alone, he begins to walk, by himself, the rugged path of life. Perhaps he totters; perhaps he doesn’t. He is too shy to ask for help, too proud to cry. He longs for somebody’s confidence, but is too diffident to seek it. He is lonely in his newly discovered independence. In his secret thoughts he tries to puzzle out answers to the great questions of life. “He is too self-conscious, to speak, too tempted to move simply with the Sacraments, too perplexed always to see his way.” His character is in the melting-pot, his temporal future is in question, his eternal destiny at stake.

At this critical period in their lives thousands of boys and girls leave our Catholic Schools each year to take up their place in the world. They are thrown among fellow workers and companions who are, for the most part, indifferent, and very often thoroughly demoralised. Paganism flourishes all around them; pagan outlook, pagan conduct; pagan ideas on all the great realities of life, on marriage, on morality, and on religion. Everything about them tends to destroy in them the pure Christian Faith. What they remember of religion from their school days offers them no immediate solution to the problems and difficulties that confront them now. Destitute of effective weapons, they are faced with a destructive and well armed enemy. Is it any wonder, then, that many of these young people drift into indifference, and are even lost to the True Faith.

Australian Catholic Youth is in dire need of help. Something must be done to take up and continue Christian formation where the school left off, A definite effort must be made to so transform working life, that instead of being an obstacle to salvation, it may promote it. “Our young workers,” says Canon Cardijn, “boys and girls, are not mere beasts of burden, nor machines, nor slaves; but children of God, fellow workers with Him and heirs of His Kingdom.” This divine destiny is the sole end of their temporal and eternal life. It does not begin after death; it is embodied in their life here on earth. The sad thing is that our young workers are diverted from this divine vocation, and find it unrealisable in practice.

What is needed is an organisation of young workers in which, among themselves, by themselves and for themselves, they render one another mutual aid and support, so as to make their own lives vitally and actively Christian. By living this full Christian life, and bringing it right into their working surroundings, the members of this organisation would be enabled to face, and solve, successfully all the difficulties with which they are confronted. The Grail is an organisation that answers this need for girls. But what about our young men? Are we neglecting them? It is true, indeed, that the Young Men’s Societies, and the Confraternities, have done much good and useful work. Great credit is due to them. But they do not give a full solution to the problem. Far be it from us to discredit these excellent organisations in any way, but they do not seem to have that active participation in the every day life of their members which is necessary if the young men are to be thoroughly Christianised.

The late Holy Father, Pope Pius XI, gave us the one efficacious solution for this problem. He proclaimed: “The first apostles, the immediate apostles of the young workers will be the young workers themselves.” Those who are the victims of the paganism of their surrounding must themselves become its conquerors. Everybody can help them, but nobody can replace them. They themselves must solve their own problems; and having Christianised themselves, must win by the influence of their lives, their entire surroundings to Christ. Working on these principles, Canon Cardyn, of Brussels, founded an organisation of young workers, to be a movement of young workers for the salvation of young workers. “It would protect them in the beginning of their life, study their whole life, watch over them, solve all their problems, supply the defects in their religious, moral, intellectual and social training. It would establish a band of militants, who would form the others, and through them and with them act on the mass of young workers to Christianise them. It would put a new spirit into them by showing them the incomparable dignity of their vocation as Christian workers and Brothers of Christ the Worker. It would make offices, shops, factories, mines, and streets, places where a young worker could live a decent Christian life.”

This organisation is known as the J.O.C. (Jeunesse Ouvriere Chretienne), Young Christian Workers. It was started in Belgium; in four years it had 70,000 members there. In 1927 it spread to France, and since them to almost every country of the world. It has captivated the enthusiasm of modern youth. Pope Pius XI called it “an authentic form, an achieved type” of that Catholic Action which was the ruling idea of his Pontificate. It has been started in Australia—we publish an account of its Australian beginnings in this issue. It is a movement which demands our sympathy, our interest, and our help. The future of the Church here depends very much on how we answer the Call of Youth.


April 1, 1940.