Cardijn: The man

Some knew Cardijn as Joseph. Others knew him as Father Cardijn. When I first met him in the 50’s, I knew him as Canon Cardijn. When I worked with him the period 1955-61, we called him Monsignor Cardijn. For the next generation of YCW leaders, he came to be called Cardinal Cardijn. On his most simple and eloquent tombstone, a large roughly hewn rock, in the Basilica of Laeken in Bruxelles, is written simply:


In this rough stone is wrapped the mystery of this person – a driving force, a missionary, a simple man resting in peace. Yet the world and especially the church that he loved so much has still to discover this man.

To remember is part of discovery. To remember Cardijn is to join him in his continual search and exploration of the uncharted waters of the modern world. How does one get to know a person? The usual process is from the exterior to the interior. When one comes in contact with a work of art and likes it, only then will one want to know the artist. When one discovers beauty, one follows the trail till one discovers the creator.

When one discovers the beauty of the YCW, one is immediately attracted to its creator. For most of us, our contact with the person of Cardijn was the spoken word. For others, now that his voice is stilled, it will be the written word.

Cardijn – the performer.

The outer shell of the man was that of a great performer. When he spoke, his words made contact with the “the tree seedlings” of one’s faith in one’s dignity and importance. He had magic in his voice. He was truly possessed by the Holy Spirit. It was through Cardijn that I came to believe in the “gift of tongues”.

How better to describe him than to quote Maxime van Der Meersch author of the book “Fishers of Men” which described a YCW leader in Northern France:

“All my life long, I shall see the strange figure of this little priest, abruptly jumping to his feet on the platform, coming, going, shouting, throwing himself about, waving his arms, making sudden gestures with his hands. He seemed so thin, so spare, so austere, as he threw out unfinished phrases, blowing, panting, gesticulating, almost comic in his very violence. At first some girls near us were inclined to smile, but gradually his very enthusiasm, his fire, his sincerity, his indignation, his eagerness, his tenderness and his pity had the effect of moving the whole place, stirring the whole crowd to its depth, making it gasp, thrill, grow excited and weep, caught at its very heart by the sight of this man giving himself absolutely to the depths of his soul, nay almost to blood for the cause of the unfortunate and the oppressed for whom his master had died.

In this priest’s tears, his immense love for the wretched, the great high priest himself was incarnate, in him we were beholding Christ; through his voice unmistakably once again Christ was calling men to their duty.”

He was a man of the word. He had to speak. He had to cry out to the world on his mission, the saving of working youth. I myself saw and heard Cardijn perform and speak countless times and every time one would start to smile because you had heard it all before, but sooner or later, the smile would disappear as his words tore at your guts when he spoke of the dignity and importance of young workers.

Cardijn – Doctor of alienation

The new industrial economy looked upon workers as hands. Even to this day workers are looked upon as producers to be used. Young workers through the ages, down deep when they are alone, think ” I am just a worker – I am not important. And the modern culture thunders back: “You are right, you are nothing.” This dialogue is modern alienation. It is this “sickness unto death” that Cardijn came to heal. His electrifying words: “You are more important than all the gold of the world – You are destined to be Sons of God”.

With these words Cardijn exorcised the dread feeling of nothingness that is rampant in our culture. Nothingness can only be cured by one’s act of faith in one’s dignity and importance. Cardijn was a man of great faith. He believed, with an intensity that reached white heat that young workers had an irreplaceable role to play in the world and the church. His faith met the doubts of modern youth and a new creation, a new becoming happened.

Cardijn’s celibacy was neither narrow or sterile, it was fruitful a thousand fold as he brought persons to become fully alive out of the womb of alienation.

Cardijn – Yesterday – Today – Tomorrow

Where did this comet – shooting across the industrial sky – come from? Was he just a shooting star? Was Cardijn just a passing phenomenon? Does he have anything to say to the modern world and to the post-Vatican II Church? I do not ask these questions lightly. In my country and others, especially, those at the edge of the post industrial world, the YCW has, one can only hope, temporarily been abandoned.

At a recent church meeting, I was told by a bishop that “the YCW, the YCS, the CFM, all Cardijn movements had served the church well. In fact, it was their ideas, experiences and witness that were at the centre of the last council. We salute you. You were the instruments that renewed the church. You have done your job.” It was, to be sure an incredible compliment which I could not really accept because I thought that all the time that I was in the YCW, I was renewing the world. In fact, it is only in renewing the world that the church will be really renewed.

When the Church reaches out to the marginal and alienated with the words of salvation, then and only then, can we say that the Church is renewed.

The Church is called to plumb the depths of alienation. It is in the womb of alienation that the church will be reborn. We are called to live, breathe the greatest spiritual crisis of history. This crisis did not start yesterday. A famous and holy French scientist Pascal said it all in the 18th century: “Man (person) has plainly gone astray and has fallen from his true place without being able to find it again. He seeks it anxiously and unsuccessfully everywhere in impenetrable darkness.”

Modern technological persons are a concrete example of living death. The only light that can blast the darkness of nothingness lives in the unreachable and undefinable centre of each person. We call this light – Christ. Yet we, often lack the courage to penetrate our portion of impenetrable darkness. Our very fears make us aliens to the real me waiting in the light. The church must exorcise these fears so that we can come in contact with ourselves. There is no other way for people living in a post industrial world to possess themselves so as to love themselves. The person who does not love oneself cannot truly love the other. The mission of Cardijn was to allow young workers to possess themselves in dignity so as to share themselves with other workers.

Cardijn gives this message to the modern church: “Alienated people – people who can not love themselves – cannot love others, no matter how much you tell them to love.”

Cardijn – the young priest

From where did this man come? Surely, he was not the fruit of his time. Could the training in the seminary have brought out such a love of young workers, along with their work and their places of work? If one visited the seminary in which he studied, one would note that even its architectural style “cut it from the world.” All its windows were looking onto the square within the court of the seminary.

A few fellow students noted their recollections of their experiences at some length. “A group of us decided there should be a break with the strict isolation in which our studies were carried on. Why should we be cut off from reading the press and have no library where we could get to know the current thought of our times?”

Was Cardijn a product of this time? I doubt it. The general atmosphere of his early days was impregnated with the spirit of Jansenism – heavily moralistic and puritanical. The spirit of the time was for good christians to remain far away from the world. It was a world that was supposedly heavily laden with evil. A saying was about that expressed this reality: “Put one bad apple in a peck of good apples and soon all the apples will turn bad.” I once heard Cardijn stand this saying on its head: “the only trouble with that saying is that people are not apples.”

Cardijn was haunted, maybe even obsessed, by working youth. Belgium, in his youth, was organized in two social and political camps, the first was Christian and the other was a rather virulent anti-clericalism. In his early teens, Cardijn the son of a good Christian family went off to the seminary while his young friends went off to work in the industrial plants. On his return from the seminary after his first year study, he found his friends totally taken over by the anti-clerical culture of the industrial plants. He felt “excommunicated” and rejected by his young worker friends. This was a great shock. Many of the young workers thought that Cardijn was a traitor to the hard life of workers and in their fight against injustice. This rejection by his friends, their rejection of the church and their growing “immorality” – as Cardijn later remarked “were like a knife in my heart.”

It was this rejection, this gap between the church and young workers that was the motivating force for Cardijn and most YCW chaplains. Why do young workers stop going to church as they leave school? It is this “WHY” that is the seed of the YCW movement.

Cardijn – the seeker

This “why” made of Cardijn a searcher, inventor, experimenter and a discoverer. His favourite saying was: “we are just beginning.” His searching made him travel to find out what was happening to young workers in other countries. During his summer holidays, from his teaching in the seminary, he would visit England, France, Germany etc. His inquiring mind was always seeking, retaining certain elements, discarding others. Everywhere he went, he talked to all types of workers, later he would say: “It was from these contacts that I learned to speak the direct language of workers. Theirs was a rough language yet a language that expressed their experiences.” How many missionaries learn foreign tongues and cultures of the countries to which they are called to bring the good news yet tend to shy away from the culture of workers and marginalized people. The world of the poor and young workers have their own proper culture. And one can only enter this culture if one expresses the values that often are hidden behind their rough exterior.

In 1912, he left teaching in the seminary to enter parish work. He started to put some of his discoveries into practice. He was put in charge of the women’s organisation in the parish. Immediately, he started up study circles for girl apprentices and young office workers. Later he wrote of the experiences of these study circles from a prison cell in 1917 where the occupying forces has sentenced him:

“No one should be content just to be a member of a study circle. Everyone should work at it and take an active part in it. A study circle is not a class of teacher and pupils; nor is it a conference with one giving a lecture and others listening. Study circles should be a real “production cooperative” in which all the members bring their findings, their ideas, their judgments and above all their convictions, zeal, enthusiasm and their will to be apostles.”

He was inventing a new and revolutionary method of education. No longer would education be a linear transfer of knowledge but rather a “learning cooperative” where everyone brought some knowledge and got more knowledge. Cardijn goes on to say:

“it is the fruit of such findings, remarks, observations made by oneself and reflections which go to form what I call personal knowledge, incomparably richer and much more fruitful that book knowledge or hearsay.” The enquiry method of education – the fruit of Cardijn’s enquiring mind – started to take form.

Towards the end of 1912, Fernand Tonnet, a bank clerk started up a group made up of young men. Fernand Tonnet was to become the first president of the YCW in Belgium and in 1945 died in the infamous Dachau concentration camp. From these initial groups “the union of Apprentices” was born.

After a stay in jail accused as a social agitator, he wrote in a rather prophetic tone: “The first half of the 20th century will see the birth of a new world. It will not come without revolution, fighting and destruction. There has been too much anger, stored up, too much suffering endured, too much injustice perpetrated, too many crimes committed for the new order to be established in peace and serenity.” The very depth of his being rooted in working youth did not short circuit his large view of the world. In fact, his sense of reality passed through young workers to embrace the world.

Cardijn – The organiser

Soon after the war, he continued to start small groups which he simply called “trade union youth”. This developed an opposition in the trade unions who saw that this could split youth from their ranks. Not changing one iota of the method, he changed the name of the movement to Young Christian Workers.

This brought about a new opposition now from the Church who had its youth associations that went from the university to workers. The church worried that the Cardijn approach would break this unified approach. This opposition was even more serious than the one from the unions. This tension is the perennial tension within the church, between unity and pluralism.

He had to go to Rome to solve this problem. Pope Pius XI gave him the green light and named St. Therese of Lisieux, as patroness of the “missions of the interior”.

Cardijn was a first rate fighter. From these labour pains the YCW was born.

Cardijn – A person of culture

The YCW was and continues to be the Church in action in the modern world. The gestation period was long and difficult. It was a long road of experimentation. Like many priest before him, he tried the morality trip, but it did not work. Young workers moving into the industries of yesterday and today accept “the morality” of the culture. What counts is the morality of the gang or the peer group. Culture has a way of imposing its “soul” on persons. It “creates” people in its image as surely as Michelangelo sculptured David. It uses the same chisel.

The young worker leaves his family and enters the industrial culture. He is a young person in an adult world. The task of adults in to initiate the young into the culture of the day. In the early industrial age, this initiation was often crude and brutal. The older workers painted the backside of young workers in bright colours. This humilation of the young was to assign them to their proper role at the bottom of the totem pole.

In my time, this practice had still not totally disappeared, it was still there in a rather more civilized form. One was made fun of by adult workers. I was sent around the factory floor looking for the elusive left handed wrench. I spoke to a worker who sent me to another worker at the other end of the floor. This process continued for a long while till I started to understand what was going on. Each culture has its way to make the new member feel inferior to the group.

Too many people in the church, now that they are no longer in control of the culture, think that education will be able to counter the power of the culture. They easily forget that education is only a small part of the culture. The conservatives at the Council knew the power of culture to form people. They had long experience in using the levers of culture to serve the church. A good number of them voted against the document on freedom of religion. The liberals on the other hand thought that the liturgy would be able to form the coming generations of christians. The conservatives were wrong, as a new “soul” was inspiring the culture. Its driving force was the proposal that the modern industrial and scientific culture would “save” persons by more and more production.

All values must be sacrificed to this new mythical god. This all embracing god will allow no other faith to even co-exist. All other faiths can celebrate on Sunday but all the other days, it is the god of production that must be worshipped. The invisible God of the Judeo-Christianity faith had a place on its Greek pedestal but would not be allowed to move along the road to Damascus.

Cardijn did not discard the morality card, rather he gave it, its fullness of grandeur. He did not contain morality in its narrower and narrower niche, where one instantly equates morality with sex. The source and end of morality is what interested Cardijn, he wrote:

“Can you see this vision? An ideal of life which must reveal the inviolable dignity of each young worker. The body of a young worker being a temple of the living God”.

It was this incredible truth of faith when accepted as a gift that gives birth to a set of moral rules that allowed this gift to grow to its maturity.

Cardijn was very much like the great inventor Edison, who after a couple of thousand failures to develop the humble light bulb, was asked if he was a failure, “not at all, I now know that these roads lead nowhere, but sooner or later, I will find the right road”. Cardijn also had many failures but his incredible energy to bring the message of the gospels to young workers kept him going. From each failure he retained something which he added to his final discovery of the methods of the YCW.

Cardijn and youth organisations 

He studied the youth movements of his day. He found them deficient. Most were organised around the principle of preservation. “keep the good apples away from the bad apples” or to use railroad jargon “get aboard the Christian train to heaven.” How many priests were attracted to the YCW because the traditional movements of the church attracted the “front pewers” but the “back pewers” were nowhere to be seen.

Cardijn soon discovered that one element of the solution was to find a type of movement where young workers could feel at home. A movement that would not run alongside them urging them onto the “salvation train” but rather it would be a movement made up of young workers, for young workers and run by young workers.

This emphasis on young workers running their own show spawned an opposition in the church. He was accused, by some as splitting the church and by others because of such a strong emphasis on workers, that he was flirting with communism. Yet all Cardijn was trying to do was train workers so that they would become “the leaven in the bread of life.”

Cardijn – the democrat

He discarded the paternalism of traditional youth organisations that aped the patriarchal nature of traditional societies. In the YCW, paternalism was swiftly replaced by fraternalism which was the new spirit of the day. A society that is going nowhere gives birth to a top-down society, “father knows best.” A society that is on the move becomes a society of seekers in which we all become brothers and sisters. A good example of this, is the worker movement where members are still called brothers and sisters. Cardijn discarded the traditional top-down approach and came to recognize that young workers must be the instruments of their own liberation and salvation.

He would often say:

“The Pope has often said to me: “I can write social encyclicals, but I cannot spread them or make people live up to these teachings. I cannot do it nor can the bishops or the priests. To do that, workers are needed in movements run by workers for workers.” He often returned to this theme: “We must not look for something external to working youth. No solution can be found in the clergy, in parents, in teachers, in employers, in public authorities. All these may and must help; but they cannot replace young workers. This is their own affair.”

He immediately would warn the power boys, top down reformers (who have not meditated on the temptation of Jesus):

“Nor can we expect a solution from the transformation of professional, economic or political regimes.”

He was in close contact with the trade unions. He examined the working of their youth organisations. He found that these organisations were much closer to working youth than his beloved church. He soon realized that the spirit that animated the trade unions of his day were animated by a true “religious” spirit of fraternity and social justice.

Cardijn strove to form young workers to serve their brothers and sisters in and through the trade union movement. Far too often one hears Christians who have been trusted to the spread of the word, of “salt and yeast” complaining that once upon a time unions were good but now they are greedy and materialistic. It is only the spirit of fraternal love that is the glue that keeps human organisations going. If this love is not rooted in the love of God, it will soon be replaced by power and greed. What has to be asked of the keepers of the faith, did they keep the “salt and yeast of the faith” in the pantries or did they spread it in the bread of life. I sometime think that churches should become “salt mines or at least,” yeast factories”. Cardijn got off the train. He realized that young workers were not on the train. From the trade unions, he kept the plank of organising young workers but that something more was needed to make them fully alive. He kept seeking.

Cardijn and social action

He studied the Catholic social action of his day for clues on how to reach young workers. He noted many efforts on the part of the church flowing from Rerum Novarun but not much was reaching the young workers. To Cardijn, social action was and is important but it was not enough. You do not change a society just through leadership pulling at it from outside, rather you must be inside it, breathing spirit within it. He was obsessed with the truth that you transform a society from within. He kept repeating:

“Not an elite beside the masses, far from the masses, foreign and sometime hostile to the masses, no, the leaven in the dough; the salt in the food, not alongside or at a distance but right within. If it is not right within, even at a hair breath from the dough, it is not longer leaven. The dough must be transformed from within.”

Cardjin and spirituality

He kept the social action elements but he knew that the solution was to be found beyond social action. Real action must move in the direction of the world, reaching out for God, Mystery at the centre of the world. Yesterday, today and tomorrow, there are too many social action “burn-outs”. It is extremely dangerous to move into the world and not realize that they are moving towards God living in majesty, power and might in the centre of creation. Too many still think that moving into the world is moving away from God sitting in a “geographical” heaven.

Too many, pray and give glory to the mystery of the incarnation but are still fearful of losing God if they take on the flesh of our new world. Unless, we come to understand the depth of the mystery of Jesus fully man and fully God, you had better stay on the salvation train and hope for the best. The incarnation is not the narrow mystery of small people, that Jesus came to save little old me, yes, it is that but so much more.

Incarnation is the mystery that calls us to salvation by calling us to participate in the redemption of God’s creation. Salvation means to allow God to use us, as his or her tools to “renew the face of the earth.” Truly there is no salvation outside of creation.

This earthly spirituality brought Cardijn to add gospel studies to his small groups. Cardijn’s spirituality was bottom up socially and earthly. He would tell workers, “your work bench is your altar.”

Cardijn – A man of faith

Slowly but surely after 25 years of seeking, Cardijn was ready to put together the YCW. He realized the power of the culture of the factory, of the world ready to swallow up, regurgitate and change young workers in its image. In countless talks, he would say: ” We must change the water(culture) to change the fish(workers)”. Was this the truth accepted by the post council church. I doubt it. We still believe that the renewed liturgy will bring back the masses of young workers. Does the modern liturgy incorporate, in confessing and celebrating, what we do or do not do from Monday to Friday in our working and professional lives? Does it incorporate, those incredibly powerful words of Cardijn: “The factory, not a brothel but a temple. The work bench, the lathe, becomes an altar on which the lay priesthood prolongs the sacrifice of the mass. In receiving the host which we offer, we consecrate, we transform into the very saviour of the working class, all workers unite themselves to him as to create, in their environment of work, the mystic Christ who, by his labours and sacrifices, continues the work of redemption. Without work there is no host, no chalice, no altar stone, no priestly vestments; without work there can be no churches, no religious, no worker families to give the church the priests, the missionaries, the apostles that she needs”.

He believed with a faith of steel that God lives in people. He once said: ” A son of God cannot be housed like a pig.” His belief was not a god living apart from people but rather at the centre of their lives. He realized that the economic, political and social problems of our day had their roots in the spiritual crisis of the day. Cardijn would cry out:”Who am I? What is all about? You are destined to be a son and daughter of God!.

Cardijn – The person

This man, emboldened by the Spirit, remained human with all of his strengths and weaknesses. Just a few experiences with the man will show us the real person. Behind every saint there is a person fully alive. He was a man of discipline, especially when it came to the use of time. This trait of being on time is very much part of Northern European culture. Maybe it was the long nights of winter that gave vent to “use” time efficiently. Cardijn was a true son of northern Europe. If he was told that a meeting was to end at 4:00 PM, at 3:55 PM, he would start to pack his weathered brief case and prepare to leave.

This punctuality nearly got the best of him in his first meeting with Pope John XXIII. Since his first visit with Pope Pius XI who “saved” the YCW, Cardijn returned to Rome every year to make his round of visits. He knew everyone in Rome and everyone knew him. When Pius XII died Cardijn was travelling in Australia, so I represented him when John 23rd was enthroned. Later, Cardijn was ready to go to Rome. He always prepared well. This time he was even more meticulous in his preparation. He kept repeating, “I don’t know this new pope, I have never met him”. Every friend in Rome was asked to give him a run down on Pope John.

The next day, we arrived at the Vatican in time for a 12:30 PM audience with John 23rd. Pius XII was a Roman ” converted” to Germanic time during his stay as nuncio to Germany, so for him 12:30 was 12:30. With this in mind, Cardijn, like a boxer warming up before his entry into the ring, started pacing up and about the room, repeating over and over “millions and millions of young workers” – spiced with “I have never met this Pope.” We were soon to discover that John 23rd was not Pius XII, at least not when it came to time.

The Vatican clock loudly gonged the half hour and nothing happened, warming up at the wrong time means one peaks too early. The descent from the peak comes swiftly. When the clock gonged 1 PM, Cardijn started to show his age, sitting in an old antique chair, with head bowed he kept muttering, “all we will get is a small blessing and sent on our way, Pope John does not know me and does not know the YCW”. Another 15 minutes go by before the door to the Pope’s office opens, usually it is the secretary that takes the visitor into the office, not this time, John comes out himself and comes to Cardijn and says: “you are sure an important man, a man must be elected Pope before he is allowed to meet you.” Cardijn immediately shed 50 years and kept repeating “millions and millions of young workers”.

Then he sits down across a desk from the Pope. The discussions begin, “a new papal letter for young workers, a new social encyclical, training of priests for the lay apostolate”. The Pope “dutifully” took notes. (Cardijn had been prepared by his contacts that this new Pope liked to talk, so he had better get his business done as rapidly as possible).

With business done, they started to talk like two old timers sitting on a park bench. Suddenly time meant nothing. I was the eavesdropper to the conversation. They started to talk about the past. What seminary did they attend? Who were the professors? What were the interesting subjects?

Then John started to talk about his hopes for the council. His central hope was the unity of the churches. He talked about the scandal of division then he added: “We must shake hands and make up, and we Catholics must be the first to offer our hand in peace. After all, we keep proclaiming that we have the whole truth and this truth is charity, so we should be the first to offer our hand in peace.”

Just as the 40 minute audience was winding up, the Pope asks Cardijn his age, Cardijn says that he is 76, Pope adds: “I am 77. What month were you born? Cardijn answers “November”. “Then we were born in the same month” says the Pope “now don’t tell that we were born on the same day.” Cardijn responds “I was born on Nov. 12th. The Pope laughs and sticks out his tongue and touches his tongue with his finger. After the audience, I saw that Cardijn was rather upset, he tells me ” Why did the Pope insult me by sticking out his tongue?” I realized that humour and body language have great difficulties to cross cultural boundaries. What may be funny in one culture can be very unsettling in another culture. Humour is the finest flower of any culture and not easily transplanted. I explained to Cardijn that rapidly touching one’s tongue in Italy meant a very talkative person. Pope John was telling us that he was born on November 25th which is the feast day of St. Catharine. And Catherine was remembered as a very proficient speaker.

Cardijn – the tough builder 

It would be so much rose water to say that everything was smooth sailing with this incredible bundle of energy. I came to know Cardijn in the period of writing the constitution of the International YCW. It was not an easy time. Cardijn was worried about a written constitution. He knew how quickly the written word can capture and imprison the spirit.

The leadership insisted that the constitution should be approved at an international meeting of YCW leaders. Cardijn agreed with this but wanted it accompanied with a mass rally of young workers to be held in Rome. We were not attracted by the idea of a mass rally. Cardijn, finally carried the day. Rome, in August 1957 became the temporary home for 32000 young workers from 80 countries. Cardijn understood through his long experience, that once in a while young workers must feel their collective strength. Large manifestations, without the formative work of the participants at the local level is believing in magic. The exchange of experiences of action and experience turns manifestations into an incredible educational reality. I have never attended a more joyful and spiritual event. Some day, I should commit on paper the “innards” of organising such a mass rally. Suffice it to say, the principle of solidarity had its ” Everest” when young workers paid the same fare whether they came from Australia, Canada, England or Switzerland.

After the rally, the first council of the International YCW was held. Its constitution had been approved by the Vatican. It contained a revolutionary clause that the president and vice-president could be elected by the participants of the council. This was a major step on the part of the Vatican in accepting democracy. Previously all presidents of international church organisations had their presidents named by the Vatican. This breakthrough was a compromise as the nominees had to be approved by the Vatican before standing for elections.

One last little story before saying good-bye to this great human being. As international president, I approached, in 1958, a high level official in the Vatican, suggesting to him, that Cardijn should be named an auxiliary bishop for all the work that he had done for young workers and the church. All I got was a merry chase around the mulberry bush. You can well imagine my glee when Cardijn was made an Archbishop and a Cardinal, in one full swoop of incense.


How can one ever hope to sum up such a man of faith? His motto was “Seek and you shall find”. He was a great missionary, not towards a nation, not even towards a people, but rather to the incredible masses of young workers throughout the world. Cardijn is a great teacher and the discoverer of a new method of education “formation through action”. Yet he still awaits to be discovered by his beloved church. The methods and strategies of Cardijn which were developed in the crucible of the industrial world are still waiting to be understood and applied. When the church discovers the neo-paganism of the modern world, and its incredible power to “form people in its image of nothingness” then will Cardijn become fully alive in the church.

The last words that I heard Cardijn say to me were: “we are just beginning.”

Romeo Maione

This talk was given in the cathedral of Liverpool England on the occasion to unveiling a plaque to honour the beginnings of the YCW in England. June 10, 1995. 
It was also given in Melbourne on the occasion of the Cardijn Centenary in 1982 as the first in a series of three talks.