Cardijn’s trinomials: A vision and method of lay apostolate formation

Cardijn’s trinomials: A vision and method of lay apostolate formation1

Stefan Gigacz


By the time of Cardijn’s death in 1967, the JOC existed in close to 100 countries around the world with millions of adherents.2 And his see, judge, act method of formation for lay apostolate had been embedded in the documents of the recently completed Second Vatican Council.3 Today, however, few people understand the philosophical roots of this concept which can be traced back to Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas.

Moreover, there was much more to the Cardijn approach than the see, judge, act, the very success of which has tended to overshadow other vital aspects of Cardijn’s vision and method of lay apostolate formation. Often these other aspects were themselves expressed by Cardijn in the form of trinomial expressions, such as his “by, with and for young workers” formula that evidently borrows from the “of the people, by the people, for the people” in Abraham Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address.

In this paper, I endeavour to revive the memory and explain the significance of several of these other Cardijn trinomials, particularly his “three truths” of faith, experience and method, his baptismally-based conception of education, service and representation, and his ecclesiological trinomial of Church, laity and clergy.

Sources of the Cardijn approach

To understand Cardijn and his success, it is essential to appreciate not only the context in which the JOC movement was born, but also the century of effort by various pioneers who laboured to enable the Church to reach out to the burgeoning working class that emerged from the industrial and democratic revolutions that swept 19th century Europe. It was a history of trial and error, mistakes and progress, often controversial, rarely conflict-free – a history that Cardijn drew upon consciously and carefully.

Although rarely cited directly, Cardijn’s early writings are littered with references to the key players upon whose work he drew: the turbulent French priest Félicité de Lamennais and his colleagues, Frédéric Ozanam, founder of the Society of St Vincent de Paul; Alphonse Gratry, sometimes described as the greatest Catholic philosopher of the 19th century; Frédéric Le Play, a mining engineer turned sociologist and social reformer; Léon Ollé-Laprune, a great educator and philosopher inspired by Gratry, Ozanam and Le Play; Marc Sangnier’s social action movement, Le Sillon; Catholic social reformers from Germany’s industrial heartland; Christian socialist leaders of the British trade union movement; the Gospel-inspired mutualist, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon; and even Karl Marx himself.4

Against the backdrop of the French revolution and restoration, Lamennais was one of the first to systematically articulate a new vision for the Church epitomised in the motto of his newspaper, L’Avenir: “God and freedom” and based not on a traditional church-state alliance but on a new Gospel-inspired alliance with the poor. It is remarkable and significant that Cardijn, seeking answers to the alienation from the Church of his own former schoolmates, should turn at the age of 15 to reading the works of Lamennais and his followers.

Although critical of Lamennais’ split from the Church, young Frédéric Ozanam, who was close to several of his followers, remained convinced that it was possible to reconcile freedom and the Church. When a new wave of worker revolutions shook France and Europe in early 1848, Ozanam was one of a minority of Catholics who called upon the Church to side with the revolutionaries. Indeed, Ozanam perceived those events as a historic opportunity for the Church to change course. By the end of that year, however, the revolution had been defeated, leading to the installation of a restored French Empire. For Ozanam, it was the year that the Church “lost the working class” as Pope Pius XI would later tell Cardijn.5

Nevertheless, the work of Lamennais, Ozanam and their generation was not in vain. Some forty years later, students led by Marc Sangnier at Stanislas University College in Paris began to promote study circles on social issues which soon developed into a movement which became known as Le Sillon (The Furrow) as their magazine was entitled. It was the Sillon which pioneered many of the educational methods that Cardijn would draw on in the development of the JOC. These methods in turn were adopted by other “specialised Catholic Action” movements that emerged and spread like wildfire across Europe from the late 1920s.

Emergence of the YCW and specialised Catholic Action

Cardijn began work in 1912 as a curate in the parish of Our Lady at Laeken, a mixed suburb on the outskirts of Brussels, housing many industrial workers, domestic workers and others. Given responsibility for social work with women, within a year Cardijn developed a thousand-strong network of women activists, drawn mainly but not exclusively from the working class areas.

Working with Victoire Cappe, a self-described Christian feminist who had founded the Syndicat de l’Aiguille (Needleworkers’ Union) and others, Cardijn also launched a series of study circles for young female (teenage) workers. Soon after, he came into contact with Fernand Tonnet, a young bank worker, who had recently moved to Laeken. Both Cappe and Tonnet were already familiar with the Sillon’s educational techniques, as was Cardijn himself who had visited the Sillon in France in 1907. Indeed, the early groups of young teenage girl workers that Cardijn and Cappe formed were closely modelled on the work of the Sillon.6

World War I interrupted many of these efforts, with Cardijn imprisoned twice by the German occupiers. However, by 1919, the path was open for further development of study circles for young workers. Cardijn, Tonnet and others soon launched La Jeunesse Syndicaliste (Trade Union Youth) for young male workers, the embryo of the later JOC. Similar efforts were made with the female young workers. By 1922, the movement had begun to refine its trademark see judge act methodology, although that name was not yet in use. In 1924, the name Jeunesse Ouvrière Chrétienne (JOC), later translated as Young Christian Workers (YCW) was adopted.

Inevitably, tensions arose with other Catholic youth initiatives, particularly the Belgian Association of Catholic Youth (ACJB) which regarded the class-based orientation of the JOC as divisive. Moreover, Cardijn never hid the influence of the Sillon, which had been closed down in 1910 following a letter by Pius X to the French bishops, accusing the movement of “escaping hierarchical control” and of being influenced by democratic and socialist tendencies.

In a dilemma, Cardinal Désiré Mercier found himself unable to approve the JOC. This left Cardijn with no option except to appeal directly to Pope Pius XI. In a storied meeting in March 1925, the pontiff of Catholic Action endorsed Cardijn’s movement in a move later likened by Yves Congar to Innocent III’s approval in 1210 of the religious order created by Francis of Assisi.7 It was on this occasion that Pius XI, echoing Ozanam, uttered his statement, made famous by Cardijn, that “the greatest scandal of the 19th century was the loss of the working class by the Church.”8

Pius XI’s endorsement opened the way to the large-scale development of the movement. Across the border in France, the JOC methods were immediately recognised as those pioneered by the Sillon. Moreover, Cardijn had solved the problem of connecting a lay movement to the Church. As a priest and chaplain to the movement, Cardijn acted as intermediary between the hierarchical Church and the JOC, which like the Sillon, operated as an autonomous lay movement with its own democratically elected internal leadership. This was the real innovation of Cardijn’s concept of Catholic Action, later known as “specialised Catholic Action”, and which distinguished it from the hierarchically-controlled “Italian” model.

Moreover, the success of the Cardijn model quickly led to its widespread adoption and “specialisation” in other “milieux” or social environments. Already by the late 1920s, similar movements emerged for high school students (JEC/YCS), university students (JUC/TYCS), farm and rural workers (JAC), young people from business backgrounds (JIC), etc. By the mid 1930s, similarly constituted “adult” movements targeting and organising workers, families, etc. had also developed.

By 1939 when the JOC began to be organised in Australia, it had spread to fifty countries, reaching its worldwide peak twenty-five years later during the early 1960s, precisely coinciding with the holding of the Second Vatican Council where Cardijn’s concepts and methods would have such an impact.

The Cardijn method

Although Cardijn has long been associated with the see judge act method, few people today know the origins of the method or indeed understand his own role in its development. Moreover, the “Cardijn method” is often understood in a reductionist manner as if the see judge act comprises the whole while in reality, it is a complex combination of theory and practice with deep philosophical, theological, sociological and pedagogical roots.

However, with his gift for identifying the essentials, Cardijn managed to express much of this in a series of catchy trinomial expressions, including the see judge act and other aphorisms with which he has often become personally identified.

Here, I will endeavour to show how these phrases taken together form a profound educational praxis for socially transforming lay action in the world.

See Judge Act: Virtue ethics as the basis for life-centred democratic action

Cardijn’s see judge act has often been often traced back to St Thomas Aquinas’ analysis of the cardinal virtue of prudence:

Prudence is right reason in matters of action. It proceeds by means of three kinds of acts:

• deliberating [about possible means to the end]

• judging, i.e., evaluating the options discovered in deliberation

• commanding to put to practice what has been judged to be the [best] action to take.9

The Vatican II Decree on the Lay Apostolate, Apostolicam Actuositatem confirms this linkage:

Since formation for the apostolate cannot consist in merely theoretical instruction, from the beginning of their formation the laity should gradually and prudently learn how to view, judge and do all things in the light of faith as well as to develop and improve themselves along with others through doing.10

However, the development of the see judge act as a pedagogical method also has broader historical roots linked to Le Play, Gratry, Ollé-Laprune and the Sillon.

Frederic Le Play11 was a French mining engineer who sought to apply scientific methods to the search for solutions to the social problems of industrialising Europe. His empirical “method of social observation” was adopted extensively in Catholic social action circles. Cardijn himself was trained in this method at Louvain and many of his early writings bear this imprint, such as his 500-question enquiry into the situation of young workers in Belgium in 192212 and the two editions of Le Manuel de la JOC (The Manual of the YCW) published in 1925 and 1930.

Related to these efforts is the work of Alphonse Gratry,13 whose theory of inductive reasoning14 was formulated in terms of sense, intellect and will,15 three faculties corresponding to the steps of the see, judge, act. Or as Léon Ollé-Laprune later described it: reality, reflection and resolution.16

A disciple of Le Play, Gratry and Ozanam, Ollé-Laprune17 was a committed lay apostle working within the French university system. His most famous and influential work, Le Prix de la Vie (The price/prize of life) argued that “everyone has something to achieve in life.”18 Therefore, it was necessary to identify the right action to take. How to achieve this? Channelling Aristotle’s analysis of the virtue of prudence, Ollé-Laprune gave the following answer:

Everyone must apply themselves more than ever, better than ever, to courageously and faithfully consult the principles and the facts in order to become more than ever, better than ever able to see clearly, judge and decide, precisely because it is no longer fashionable to do so.19

And the reason that this was important was precisely because “history appears to be democratising.” Hence, the need for “a personal effort to raise up spirits and souls” capable of acting for the democratic good.

The Sillon’s method of democratic education

Influenced by Ollé-Laprune, in 1892-93, Marc Sangnier and his fellow students at the Stanislas College in Paris launched a social issues study circle known as The Crypt after the basement in which they met.20 In 1894, the group launched a magazine, Le Sillon (The Furrow) to promote their work. Gradually, they began to start new groups with a priority for targeting young factory workers.

Another Sillon leader, Jules Rimet, began to organise football competitions for these young workers. Formed by this experience, Rimet became a prominent football administrator eventually launching an international football competition with the apostolic aim of promoting peace and friendship between the former warring parties of World War I. We know this today as the FIFA World Cup.21

In 1899, Marc Sangnier described the Sillon method as follows:

Every citizen must know the state of the country; when the situation is bad, he must seek solutions; and lastly, having found the solutions, he must act.

By 1905, the study circles had become a “movement”, coining an influential definition of democracy as the form of “social organisation that tends to maximise the conscience/consciousness and the responsibility of everyone.”22 Thus, the Sillon study circles explicitly transformed Le Play’s method into a method of raising “consciousness” of social issues23 and linked it to the task of developing democratic “virtue.”

Although the Sillon ended in 1910, its methods prospered. In 1921, Cardijn himself described his own work as enabling “the perfecting of this consciousness and responsibility of the most humble of popular citizens.”24 Similarly, in his 1944 Christmas Message on democracy, Pope Pius XII characterised a democratic regime as one in which each person is “conscious of his own responsibility and of his own views.”25

The JOC and the See Judge Act

The emerging JOC movement explicitly drew on this heritage. A key 1922 document characterised the functioning of study circles for young workers as follows:

First rule – Social initiation is based on the enquiry

Second rule – The facts identified by the enquiry must be judged in the light of principles.

Third rule – From ideas it is necessary to pass over to action.26

Fr René Van Haudenard explained it thus:

A. Bad method. We propose to study the encyclical Rerum Novarum. The encyclical is divided into ten parts of which each part will take up one session; the explanation of the text will be made without commentary, or examples. Result: By the third meeting the members drift away; it is rare that it will not be necessary to soon abandon the program if one wishes to maintain the circle.

B. Method advised. Detailed and successive enquiries on property, salary, work, etc. as they appear in the living environment (milieu).

Each session will involve examining answers to a questionnaire. Quite naturally the doctrinal points raised in Rerum Novarum will be developed. Result: The members will take an interest in the matter under observation, a social sense will develop, understanding will deepen because people will recall the facts that were the point of departure.27

Soon after, a new expression began to emerge: “see, judge, do”, which by the late 1920s took definitive form: see judge act. In essence, this was the method that would catapult the JOC to the forefront of social action, particularly among young people, first in Belgium and France, and very soon after to other countries and continents.

What made the difference, it would seem, was the simple fact that Cardijn and his team had managed to encapsulate a then well-understood philosophy of social enquiry, prudential action and virtue-based democracy into three practical words that spelled out the method and could be easily learnt.

In ensuing years, the JOC expanded and refined the method into three stages that took on different names over time:

a) Review of influence or review of life, or the personal enquiry, which involved applying the see judge act to facts and action from daily life each week.

b) Gospel meditation or Gospel enquiry, which involved using the see judge act to apply Jesus’ example to the daily events of life.

c) Social enquiry, applying the see judge act to a particular topic, usually of current interest, and/or perhaps extending a personal or Gospel enquiry, such as the Australian road safety campaign.

Perhaps even more significantly, the JOC, beginning with Cardijn in Belgium in the late 1920s, developed an annual program incorporating the above elements, which was distributed widely through the Bulletin des dirigeants for young leaders and the Notes de pastorale jociste addressed to chaplains.

Divine origin, divine dignity and divine destiny: The basis of human dignity

The Cardijn method also has deep theological foundations, which Cardijn again often expressed in the familiar form of his pedagogical trinomials.

Cardijn always rejected any form of Cartesian dualism between temporal and eternal life and he expressed this in some of his most eloquent and powerful language:

Young workers, are not machines, or animals or slaves. They are the sons, the collaborators, the heirs of God. ’He gave them power to become the sons of God… partakers of the Divine Nature.’ That is their sole true destiny, the reason of their existence, their life, and their work, the source of all their rights and all their duties.

This destiny is not two-fold: on the one hand eternal, and on the other temporal, without any link or influence of one upon the other. There cannot be an eternal destiny by the side, at a distance from earthly life, unrelated to it.

The eternal destiny of each human being is incarnate, develops, and is achieved in temporal life always and everywhere-on earth as it is in heaven… The destiny of the little servant girl, the young apprentice, in their normal environment, the framework, the atmosphere of their life; in the midst of all their comrades, their closest neighbours, whom they must help conquer their temporal and eternal destiny.

This fundamental truth, which cannot be repeated too often, is the basis of the whole Y.C.W.28

Simply put, young workers have a “divine origin”, “a divine dignity” and a “divine destiny.”29

Educate, serve and represent: A baptismal basis for transformative lay action

For Cardijn, JOC action had three aims which he expressed in another of his triads as “educating, serving and representing” young workers:

Only an organisation of young workers with a view to the conquest of their eternal and temporal destiny can solve the essential and vital problem, which faces each and all young workers. An organisation for young workers, by young workers, between young workers.

And for this, an organisation which is adapted and specialised to the age, conditions of life, the future, the eternal and temporal destiny of the young workers.

An organisation which is local, regional and national, united, disciplined, autonomous, living, conquering, capable of influencing and leading the masses of the young workers in their daily life and their normal environment.

An organisation which is at once and inseparably a school, a service, a representative body.30

Although Cardijjn never says so in so many words, it is evident that this “educate, serve, represent” is based on the classical formulation of Christ’s mission as the prophet who educates, the priest who serves, and the king who represents or advocates for his people. In fact, it is highly likely that he borrowed this conception from the English Cardinal John Henry Newman, who wrote that “Christ exercised His prophetical office in teaching,” in “the priest’s service when he died on the Cross,” and in showing himself “as a conqueror and a king, in rising from the dead… and in forming his Church to receive and rule” over the nations.31

Thus, for both Newman and Cardijn prophecy corresponded to education, and priesthood to service. On the other hand, for Newman, kingship corresponded to “receiving and ruling” over the people whereas for Cardijn it corresponded to “representation,” giving a slightly different emphasis to the kingly office.

As the JOC in Belgium developed, this concept was reworked by the chaplains and theologians close to the movement including Paul Dabin SJ,32 whose books on lay apostolate, Catholic Action and the royal priesthood of the faithful, later inspired Yves Congar in his classic Lay People in the Church: A study on the theology of the laity.

In a key speech at Vatican II on The royal priesthood of the laity,33 Belgian Bishop Emile-Joseph De Smedt, a close ally of Cardijn, introduced this concept, which is largely incorporated into Chapter II of Lumen Gentium on The People of God.34 Significantly, the main drafter of Lumen Gentium was another longstanding collaborator of Cardijn, Mgr Gerard Philips, who had worked for many years as a chaplain to the YCS and promoting specialised Catholic Action in Belgian seminaries.

Cardijn’s ecclesiology: The irreplaceable, specifically lay apostolate of lay people

Cardijn’s ecclesiological approach can also be discerned in another of his trinomials: Church, laity, priests.

First comes the mission of the Church as a whole:

The mission of the Church, like the mission of Christ, is to restore the whole of humanity to God and to put the whole of creation back into the plan of divine love.

The Church too must be the leaven of the world, the light of the world, the salt of the world. She must transform humanity, reveal the true way to all persons and make her grace available to them, so that the whole world may participate in the work of redemption through the complete collaboration to which it is called.

But we must never forget that this is the mission of the entire Church: the whole Church must therefore be apostolic.35

The “irreplaceable” role of lay people derives and follows from this mission of the whole Church:

Lay people must receive the person, the life and the doctrine of Christ, so that, growing in grace and making Christ truly incarnate in their own life, they may carry this divine life not only within their own soul, but to all their brothers and sisters: at work, in their social capacity, in their environment, and in any institutions where they can exercise their influence or give witness to their Christianity.

The people who are actually living and working in the ordinary circumstances of everyday life are the lay people, and it is up to them to carry out Christ’s mission in all the different temporal sectors of life and to make the whole Church present there. I can never repeat this often enough: the lay apostolate is irreplaceable.

And this also clarifies the role of the priest “who must reveal God’s plan to the faithful and make them aware of the place they occupy in it.”

It is the priest’s duty to bring each Christian to a discovery of his/her true mission, and, through teaching the Good News, to throw light on all those errors which beset laypeople on every side: false missions, false doctrines, false messiahs.

The priest must reveal this message not only to those baptised, but to all people. He must be concerned particularly with those who are not baptised, and who are not yet part of the flock. The Church is for all humanity, belongs to everyone.

For Cardijn, the priest thus had a vital role in “awakening” in lay people an understanding of their apostolate, and particularly in forming them for an “authentic lay apostolate.” In this conception, lay people are “the frontline” of the Church, as Cardijn stated citing Pius XII, inverting the traditional hierarchically centred ecclesiology as well as anticipating Vatican II, situating the task of bishops and priests as in the service of lay people.

The Three Truths of faith, experience and method

Cardijn synthesised much of the above in his memorable 1935 speech, The three truths:

Three fundamental truths dominate and illuminate 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 organisation of young workers with a view to the conquest of their eternal and temporal destiny.

What was the significance of this formulation? Cardijn’s see judge act had been much criticised, indeed occasionally rejected, as somehow compromising the Gospel in a kind of situational ethic. Sometimes, this criticism was expressed in the form “the Church evangelises in order to civilise, it does not civilise in order to evangelise.”36

The three truths are Cardijn’s dialectical response to this critique, showing how the “truth of faith” remains at the heart of the JOC message. Since it is “contradicted” by the “truth of experience” in the world, a method is required for transforming this reality, namely the JOC method of forming people capable of seeing, judging and acting through serving, educating and representing their communities.

This very debate re-emerged at Vatican II in the drafting of Gaudium et Spes. In its initial drafts, the schema took a traditional “doctrinal” approach, starting from Church teaching. In November 1964, however, the conciliar commission responsible decided that the final versions should be drafted using the see judge act method.

The remarkable result is that the final version of Gaudium et Spes, compiled under the direction of Mgr Pierre Haubtmann, a French chaplain to the JOC and its adult counterpart, was formulated in terms of Cardijn’s three truths with the Introduction setting out the reality of the world of our time; Part I with its Christ-centred anthropology presenting the Church’s truth of faith; while Part II applies the see judge act method in the fields of family, social, economic, political life and world peace.

The see, judge, act and religious freedom

At Vatican II, Cardijn himself, having been created a cardinal by Pope Paul VI, also presented the see judge act as a method for educating people in the use of religious freedom:

This interior freedom, even if it exists in germ as a natural gift in every human creature, requires a long education which can be summarised in three words: see, judge and act.

I have never wanted young people to live in shelter from dangers, cut off from the milieu of their life and work.

Rather I have shown confidence in their freedom in order to better educate that freedom. I helped them to see, judge and act by themselves… conscious of being responsible for their sisters and brothers in the whole world.

For Cardijn, then, the see judge act, as adopted by the Council, solved the Lamennais problem of “God and freedom.” In the same vein, he also explicitly linked the see judge act to the Sillon project of maximising the consciousness and responsibility of each person as indeed Dignitatis Humanae does in its opening lines:

A sense of the dignity of the human person has been impressing itself more and more deeply on the consciousness of contemporary man, and the demand is increasingly made that men should act on their own judgement, enjoying and making use of a responsible freedom.37

Thus, without ever using the word “democracy”, Vatican II in effect adopted the Sillon’s method of democratic education as re-interpreted by Cardijn.

Cardijn and the new evangelisation

Among the bishops at Vatican II who fought for the adoption of the Cardijn method were men like Bishop Helder Camara, himself a pioneer JOC chaplain in Brazil, and co-founder of CELAM, the Latin American Catholic Bishops Conference. It was thus no surprise to find that CELAM adopted the see judge act method as the basis of its work at its groundbreaking 1968 conference in Medellin, Colombia. In turn, this led to its adoption as the method of choice for basic Christian/ecclesial communities that grew out of the Latin American experience. Likewise, Gustavo Gutierrez, a former YCS chaplain, embodied it in the liberation theology movement that he inspired.38

Moreover, it was at Medellin that the expression “new evangelisation” first emerged, clearly in reference to the adoption of the Cardijn method.39 It was at the next CELAM conference in Puebla, Mexico in 1979 that Pope John Paul II adopted the expression and made it a cornerstone of his pontificate. Having met Cardijn in Belgium in 1947 as well as while studying in Rome, and having backed the phenomenological approach of Gaudium et Spes, there is no doubt that Wojtyla understood the linkage of the term “new evangelisation” to the Cardijn method.

Elsewhere, Cardijn’s methods were successfully appropriated by many other Catholic organisations, including the Vincentian tradition,40 Franciscan missionaries,41 Marist schools42 and others. Similarly, it has become the basic method for many social justice oriented groups, including our own Australian Catholic Social Justice Council.43

The Brazilian educator, Paulo Freire, adopted the see judge act as the basis of his own method of “conscientisation” through literacy education.44 Later, Freire put his method to work in an ecumenical context with the World Council of Churches where he worked during the 1980s.

More recently, Pope Francis has once again given top billing to the Cardijn method with his environmental encyclical Laudato Si’ adopting the see, judge, act as its basic framework.

A vision of lay apostolate

Yet if there is one aspect of Cardijn’s contribution to Vatican II that has fallen from view it is undoubtedly his conception of the specifically lay apostolate understood as the role of Christians transforming the world. Indeed, for Cardijn this role was a human as well as a Christian vocation, one that applied to those of other faiths or even none.

The forgetting of this lay apostolate is also certainly linked to the paradoxical decline of the specialised Catholic Action movements whose task it was, and is, to promote such a vision. In this sense, Cardijn’s work still remains to be rediscovered and reinterpreted for the future.

Just as Vatican II sought to take the Church back to its sources in the Scriptures and in the early Fathers of the Church, perhaps it is also time for the JOC and its sister movements to return to Cardijn and his own sources.

Just as other great spiritualities of the Church, such as those of St Francis and St Ignatius, have continued to spawn new initiatives, so too perhaps the Cardijn spirituality and methodology will inspire not just a renewal of the original Cardijn movements, but also the development of new movements responding to the fresh challenges of the 21st century.


Joseph Cardijn

Cardijn, Joseph, Allocution, 1935:

Cardijn, Joseph, My reading, 1955:

Cardijn, Joseph, Priests and laity in the Church’s mission, 1951:

Cardijn, Joseph, The three truths, 1935:

Cardijn, Joseph, Welcome to Marc Sangnier, 1921:

Church documents

Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, Vatican City, Vatican, 2005.

Pope Pius XII, Democracy and a lasting peace, Christmas message 1944.

Vatican II, Ad gentes, Decree on the missionary activity of the Church, Vatican City: Vatican, 1965.

Vatican II, Apostolicam Actuositatem, Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity, Vatican City: Vatican, 1965.

Vatican II, Dignitatis humanae, Declaration on religious freedom, Vatican City: Vatican, 1965.

Vatican II, Gaudium et Spes, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the world of this time, Vatican City: Vatican, 1965.

Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Vatican City: Vatican, 1964.

Other references

Aquinas, Thomas, ST 2a2ae.47, Summa theologiae, Vol. 36: Prudence (2a2ae. 47–56). Translated by Thomas Gilby O.P.

Albert Bazaillas, Une philosophie de la certitude de la vie – Léon Ollé-Laprune, Paris: Revue des Deux Mondes, 1899:

Cousin, Louis, Vie et doctrine du Sillon, Paris: Sillon – Emmanuel Vitte, 1905

Paul Dabin SJ, Le sacerdoce royale des fidèles dans les livres saints, Paris – Gembloux: Bloud et Gay – Duculot, 1941.

Dabin, Paul SJ, Le sacerdoce royale des fidèles dans la tradition ancienne, Bruxelles – Paris: Descléz De Brouwer, 1950.

De Smedt, Bishop Emile-Joseph, The royal priesthood of the laity, Vatican II, 1963:

Fiévez, Marguerite and Meert, Jacques with the collaboration of Aubert, Roger, Cardijn, Preface by Don Helder Camara, Translated by Edward Mitchinson, London: YCW England, no date (1974).Gibson, Rich, Paulo Freire and revolutionary pedagogy for social justice, San Diego: San Diego State University, undated:

Gigacz, Stefan, Cardijn and Congar at Vatican II (Awaiting publication)

Gigacz, Stefan, The fractured memory of the lay movements, 2004:

Gigacz, Stefan, The radical roots of the new evangelisation, 2012:

Gigacz, Stefan, The Sillon and the YCW, Towards an understanding of the origins of the YCW in Stefan Gigacz (Ed.), First steps towards a history of the IYCW, Brussels: International Cardijn Foundation, 2000:

Guillemin, Henri, Histoire des catholiques français au XIXe siècle (1815 – 1905), Genève – Paris – Montréal: Au milieu du monde, 1947.

Kim, Simon C., Theology of Context as the Theological Method of Virgilio Elizondo and Gustavo Gutiérrez, Washington DC, Catholic University of America, 2011:

Marias, Julian, History of Philosophy, (Translated by Stanley Appelbaumand Clarence C. Strowbridge), New York: Courier Dover Publications, 1967

Ollé-Laprune, Léon, Eloge du Père Gratry, Paris: Téqui – Lecoffre, 1896:

Ollé-Laprune, Léon, Le prix de la viePréface à la 3ème édition, Paris, Bélin, 1896:—preface

Sangnier, Marc, Le Crypte de Stanislas in Marc Sangnier, Autrefois, Paris: Bloud et Gay, 1936:

Sangnier, Marc, L’esprit démocratique, Paris: Perrin, 1905.

Van Haudenard, René, La formation sociale aux cercles d’études in La Femme Belge, March 1922:



Pierre Guillaume Frédéric Le Play:


1An earlier and slightly different version of this paper was published in Fr Christian Fini OMI and Fr Christopher Ryan MGL (eds), Australian Catholic Youth Ministry, Theological and pastoral foundations of the faithful ministry, Garrett, Melbourne, 2014.

2In this paper I refer to the Young Christian Workers (YCW) movement by its French acronym, JOC, i.e. Jeunesse Ouvrière Chrétienne, except where referring specifically to the Australian or other English-speaking movement.

3Apostolicam         Actuositatem No. 29; Ad Gentes No. 21 (referring back to Apostolicam Actuositatem); Gaudium et Spes, where the method is applied in Part II; and Dignitatis Humanae No. 8.

4Joseph Cardijn, My reading:                 

5Henri Guillemin, Histoire des catholiques français au XIXe siècle, p. 249.

6Stefan Gigacz, The Sillon and the YCW, Towards an understanding of the origins of the YCW                 

7Stefan Gigacz, Cardijn and Congar at Vatican II (awaiting publication)

8 Joseph Cardijn, A meeting with Pope Pius XI 1925:                  

9ST 2a2ae.47. The English is from Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae. Vol. 36: Prudence (2a2ae. 47–56). Translated by Thomas Gilby O.P.

10Apostolicam Actuositatem, No. 29: Cf. Also Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church in No. 547: Acting with prudence:                 

11Pierre Guillaume Frédéric Le Play:                  

12Fiévez and Meert, Joseph Cardijn, Ch. 4, Brussels                 

13Alphonse Gratry:         

14Julian Marias, History of Philosophy at 309.


16Léon Ollé-Laprune, Eloge du Père Gratry (My italics in the citation.)

17Léon Ollé-Laprune:                  

18Albert Bazaillas, Une philosophie de la certitude de la vie – Léon Ollé-Laprune:                  

19Léon Ollé-Laprune, Le prix de la vie, Préface à la 3ème édition:—preface (My italics in the citation.)

20Marc Sangnier, Le Crypte de Stanislas                  

21Cles Rimet website:                  

22Marc Sangnier, L’esprit démocratique, 1905, p. 167. Note that in French the word         ‘‘onscience’’corresponds to both conscience and consciousness in English.

23Cuis Cousin, Vie et méthode du Sillon, 1906, p. 98 – 99.

24Joseph Cardijn, Welcome to Marc Sangnier, 1921:                 

25Pope Pius XII, Democracy and lasting peace, Christmas message 1944:                 

26René Van Haudenard, La formation sociale aux cercles d’’tudes, in La Femme belge, March 1922:                  

27René Van Haudenard, La formation sociale aux cercles d’’tudes in La Femme Belge, March 1922:                  

28Joseph Cardijn, The three truths                 

29Joseph Cardijn, Allocution                 

30Joseph Cardijn, The three truths                  

31John Henry Newman, Sermon 5, The Three Offices of Christ, in Newman Reader: (Accessed 25/05/2017)

32Paul Dabin SJ, Le sacerdoce royale des fidèles dans les livres saints and Le sacerdoce royale des fidèles dans la tradition ancienne.

33Bishop Emile-Joseph De Smedt, The royal priesthood of the laity

34Vatican II, Lumen Gentium:         

35Joseph Cardijn, Priests and laity in the Church’’ mission:                 

36 Pope Pius XI, n a letter to the French Social Week in 1936

37Dignitatis humanae No:         

38Simon C. Kim, Theology of Context as the Theological Method of Virgilio Elizondo and Gustavo Gutiérrez:                 

39Stefan Gigacz, The radical roots of the new evangelisation:





44Rich Gibson, Paulo Freire and revolutionary pedagogy for social justice: In fact, Gibson appears to believe that the see judge act originated with Freire.


Stefan Gigacz, Cardijn’s Trinomials: A vision and method of lay apostolate formation, Cardijn Studies: On the Church in the World of Today, ATF Press, Adelaide, 2017, 47-68.