The three truths of Joseph Cardijn

Three fundamental truths dominate and illumine the problem of the working youth of the world. They inspire, explain, and direct us towards the solution that the Y.C.W. has to give:

1. A truth of faith. The eternal and temporal destiny of each young worker in particular and of all the young workers in general.

2. A truth of experience. The terrible contradiction which exists between the real state of the young workers and this eternal and temporal destiny.

3. A truth of pastoral practice or method. The necessity of a Catholic organization of young workers with a view to the conquest of their eternal and temporal destiny.


1. A Truth of Faith: the eternal and temporal destiny of young workers.

From all eternity, God, by infinite gift of his love, has predestined each young worker in particular and all young workers to share in His nature, in His life, in His love, in His divine goodness. He decided to give himself to them, to communicate with them, to have them live his life, to enlighten them with His truth, to make them be part of His kingdom.

Young workers are not machines, animals, nor slaves.

They are sons, collaborators, heirs of God. “He gave them the power of God to be.....sharers of his divine nature.” This is their unique, their only, their true destiny, their reason for being, for living, for working, it is the origin of all their rights and their duties.

This destiny is not a double one: on the one hand eternal and on the other temporal, without a link, without any influence of one on the other. There is no eternal destiny aside from, distant from life on earth without any relationship between them. There is no destiny and still less a religion which is disincarnate. No, an eternal destiny incarnate in time, immersed in time, becoming real, developing, fulfilling its true self, reaching out in time, in life on earth, with all its aspects, applications and realisations; corporal, intellectual, moral, emotional, professional, social and public life; concrete, practical every day life. No longer is religion to be seperated from morality, eternal destiny from temporal. Just as the word became incarnate and lived among us, so the eternal destiny of each person is incarnate in temporal life. There it is developed and realised. There is no question of continuity. It is the one and the same destiny.

This fundamental truth which cannot be brought to mind often enough is the basis of the whole YCW concept but it has to be seen, looked at with the eyes of total faith until in the end we can affirm its revolutionary quality.


2. A Truth of Experience.

Life and the real conditions of young workers, of the mass, of 99% of them is in flagrant (absolute) contradiction to their eternal and temporal destiny. We must have the courage to look at this reality, to not ignore it, any less than we can cease to look at the reality of their true eternal and temporal destiny. We must live with both eyes on heaven and two feet on earth as unrelenting about the brutality of the conditions of earthly existence as about the demands of the eternal destiny. We must be aware of the reality of the age, of the conditions of work, of influences, of the surroundings, of the problems for the future contained in isolation, abandonment and inexperience. The actual realities only add exasperation to the tragic side of the opposition between the two realities: unemployment, crisis, impossibility of starting a home, of feeding the children. And all this in a wave of neo-paganism without precedence in history: nationalism, materialism, racism, messianism, revolutionary communism, nudism, sensualism, amoralism. So many false mystiques that surround especially young people disarmed and ambushed by liberalism, secularism and atheism.


3. A Truth of Pastoral Response or Method.

No eternal solution, no arbitrary solution; but a solution of conquest organised by young workers and taking into account their eternal and temporal destiny.

No external solution: there is no solution to be found outside of working class youth. There is no solution to be found among the clergy, among parents, in institutions, in owners of businesses, in the public authorities. All these factors can and should assist but they cannot substitute for the young workers. It is a personal matter, something which belongs to them. It is their concern.

Nor can there be transformation through a professional, economic or political systems. Systems can be an obstacle or a support. But the most ideal system is not enough. People are necessary, a human action, human conquest.

Nor can there be an arbitrary solution with young workers: a fantasy, capricious organisation or formation for some tangential purpose, aside from real life, from the actual situation, from the mass. Such an organisation could have some success, some momentary attraction, but it cannot resolve the main issue, it is alongside the main issue.

Only an organisation of young workers for the conquest of their eternal and temporal destiny can resolve the essential and vital, primary and fundamental problem which arises for each young worker and for all young workers.

An organisation by, among and for young workers:

  • an organisation for the conquest of their life, their surroundings, the mass in view of their eternal and temporal destiny.
  • In view of their twofold and at the same time unique destiny:
  • And for this an organisation suitable for and specialised in the age range, the conditions of life, the future, the eternal and temporal destiny of young workers:
  • A local, regional and national organisation, one, disciplined, autonomous, alive, conquering, capable of influencing and bringing along with it the mass of young workers, their daily life and their usual surroundings.
  • An organisation which is at the same time and inseperably a school, a service, a representative body.


A SCHOOL of the conquest of their secular life, of the whole of their personal, family, social, emotional and religious life with a programme for life, at a certain stage of life, for a particular condition of life. Not a school in a laboritory, a seminary, a classroom; but in and for real, everyday life with its real problems and real difficulties.

A school of the conquest of their surroundings, of their secular environment, in the absence of and at a distance from the priest, in the real world which is the framework, the atmosphere, the support, the nourishment of their life: not just a physical environment but human or inhuman: not an artificial enrironment made up for the organisation and by the organisation but en environment made up by life and for life.

A school of conquest for the mass of young workers. Not for a minority, not for a priveleged few, for a few young people without roots, distanced from the mass, deserters from the mass; but for the true local, regional and national mass of young workers.

Not for a vague and anonymous mass, but for a concrete mass whose address, job, home, age, name, surname, difficulties and life is known.

Not only a school but also at the same time, a SERVICE. The organisation is not just trying to form and to educate. It supports, it helps, it provides a service. It forms and it educates in giving service, in learning to be of service; it is a school and a service of mutual help and support, protection, assistance,brotherly correction. A conquest that is isolated, dispersed, individual is impossible and ineffective in the real conditions of modern life.

For this there is need also of an organisation which will be a representative body able to act and taking action with public and private authorities, with public opinion; using powerful means of action: the press, demonstrations, conresses, petitions; but bearing within itself a witness, a representative value, for a transformation which is at work in the life and conduct of its leaders and its members, of their families and working class youth.

A body representative of the transformation at work within itself: a body representative of the demands of an eternal and temporal destiny: a representative body which is the seed of a revolution being nurtured by the irresistible power brought to bear on it.

And therefore, the question often arises: is such an organisation an organisation of the elite or an organisation of the mass? The question does not seem tomake sense to me. The distinction can only exist in the immagination of those who have no experience of the organisation. An organisation for the conquest of our life and our surroundings is necessarily, essentially an organisation of the elite and of the mass at the same time. The two necessarily complement each other. A true organisation of the mass is impossible without a powerful organisation of the elite. No organisation has need of an exeptionally well formed, influential and active elite except an organisation of the mass. But an elite taken from the mass, active among the mass. Not an elite distanced, marginalised, alongside. Structures, officers, with, among and for people, in the trenches, at the front line, in the battle.

But then it must be an organisation with active methods capable of putting it in motion, of getting the elite and the mass to act. Not a passive, sheep-like mass just watching or listening from the sideline to a few speakers or so called leaders. But a participating mass with a team spirit and team work in the whole of its life, in all its formation, in all its campaigns, in all its sevices, in all the conquests of the Movement.

Militants and members learning to SEE, JUDGE and to ACT: to SEE the problem of their temporal and eternal destiny , to JUDGE the present situation, the problems, the contradictions, the demands of an eternal and temporal destiny, to ACT in view of the conquest of their eternal and temporal destiny. To Act individually and collectively, in the group, in the local section, in the region, in the national Mouvement, in meetings, through actions in life, in their immediate surroundings, forming a unique front, going on the offensive,for conquest , for the sake of their brothers at work.

One fateful question arises in the heart of those who live outside the organisation: all this is very good in theory but isn’t it all very dangerous?

Isn’t it all an illusion? A utopia?

Isn’t it dangerous to group young workers together alongside other young catholics? Does this not create a division, a spirit of class struggle?

All this depends on the spirit which animates the organisation and of the kind of conquests to be made if we are talking of conquests? If it were temporal, material, political or economic conquests which inspire the movement this would constitute a mortal danger. If it is the conquest of eternity which inspires it, if it is the irrisistible vision to make all young workers living members of the unique Mystical Body of Christ, far from being a danger it is the unique solution against class struggle. Just as a young person who has understood his destiny, his vocation, his condition is proud to be able, in his place, in his condition, in his own surroundings, by his life, by his work,, to collaborate in the work of Christ and the Kingdom of God .

Is it a mirage, a trick of the eye giving an illusion of a catholic solution and making us forget the need for a professional, social, economic and political organisation? No, CATHOLIC ACTION, far from forgetting and neglecting CATHOLIC SOCIAL ACTION, shows the need for a temporal destiny which carries within it an eternal destiny. There is no gap between the two. And whoever believes there is has never understood either Catholic Action or Catholic Social Action.

Is it a Utopia, which will only ever be a hope, a promise, but never a reality? We can only reply with the saying: “ab esse ad posse valet illatio”. I believe in Catholic Action because I live it, I see it, I can affirm the the wonderful results which surpass all evaluations.

Yes, I an an optimist with a realistic optimism, based on the experience of 29 years of priestly apostolate.

I often tell myself that we priests do not know the apostolic lay resources which the Church has at its disposal and that we do not know how to use the apostolic strengths which the Church possesses.

Let us believe in the Church, let us believe in a renewed youth, let us believe passionately, practically, conscientiously in Catholic Action; let us form a unique front of clergy around the Pope of Catholic Action, let us be the clergy of Catholic Action which he is asking us to be... and the Church will conquer neo-paganism and the Church will renew the face of the earth.