Catholic Action Technique

John Molony, Towards an Apostolic Laity, 1960

Chapter 6

Catholic Action Technique

The technique we deal with here is that formulated over a period of some years by Monsignor Joseph Cardijn. Experience proves that it is the most suitable technique for the formation of lay aposdes. Other movements, which do not acknowledge any connection with the Y.C.W. itself, have, nevertheless, made use of the Jocist technique thereby adding proof of its efficacy. Thus, right around the world this technique is in use. It has been adapted certainly to the particular needs and circumstances of movements and countries. Nevertheless, to be genuine, it must retain one essential characteristic without which there is no question of Jocist technique. That essential mark is what is called the Enquiry Method or Technique.


Readers of this publication, for the most part, will have some knowledge of the Enquiry Technique. Therefore, we need not treat of it at any great length. As far as the Y.C.W. is concerned,| it is the very heart of the movement’s methods; it is the hub of the circle without which all else will collapse. It is a technique which is all inclusive in the sense that Y.C.W. applies it to the whole of its formative and educative programme. Unless there is a readiness to attempt some understanding of it and, what is even more important, to persevere in its use, there can be no true progress in the founding and fostering of the Y.C.W.

Briefly then, the Enquiry Technique is a simple, natural method by which the human person is led to make a personal investigation into the whole of his life, to judge the whole of his life according to the mind of Christ and to take action on the basis of his conclusions. Only one phrase in this definition requires further clarification. We have spoken of the individual “in the whole of his life.” By this we mean the human person in the total range of his circumstances, his home life, his work life, his leisure life, his religious life. But, the human person lives in society, he lives amongst men and the situations created by men, he is shaped and influenced by his surroundings in all their complexity. Let us return for a moment to the three great truths facing the human person spoken of in the previous chapter.

The human person has been called by God to work out, within the community of the Church, through a temporal vocation, his divine destiny, which is eternal life. This divine destiny is worked out in time, in life, through life and all that it means. In the whole of his life the human person is faced with a number of choices. Dependent to a large degree on the right use of his free will in the making of his choice he will either win eternal life or lose it. Every moment, every situation, every choice will count in the fulfilment of one’s destiny. But free will does not operate in a vacuum. The human will, in order to be entirely free, must work in conjunction with the intellect and the intellect seeks as its natural food the truth, the truth about God, the truth about man, the truth about life. Secondly, it is necessary that the intellect be given a norm by which it can make a judgment on that which is apprehended. As far as the Christian is concerned that norm is no rule written down in a book of rules; that norm is a Person; He who said of Himself, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” Once the truth is apprehended as such on the basis of an investigation of reality, once that truth is bathed in the light of Divine Wisdom, of the Logos Himself, then the way is open to the will to act in all its freedom, to make the choice consistent with the Divine Will, the choice which will lead to the fulfilment of man’s divine destiny.

Therefore, the Enquiry is the means used by the Y.C.W. which leads the human person to do three things . . .

1) To SEE himself in the whole of his life, in his relations with God, with others, with his surroundings in his home, his work and his leisure.

2) To JUDGE what he has seen, to judge it with the mind of Christ.

3) To take ACTION, either personally or in conjunction with others; action which is formative, educative, of service to others, representative on behalf of those for whom he knows he has responsibility.


What then will be the results of the Enquiry Technique if properly applied? Its use will result in a change, a reform, a revolution, firstly of the human person and secondly, not in time, but in conjunction with this first result, of life, of society, of institutions, of organizations, in short of the home, of the world of work, of the whole range of leisure life. This change may start with a few, amongst a few, in a home here, in a factory there, at a dance here, in an institution there. As time goes on it will spread because it is within life. Eventually, it will change men, whole institutions, organizations, nations, the world.

Chaplains will realise that it will be only through the persevering use of the Enquiry Technique that results will be forthcoming. Frequently, at meetings, and in his talks with Leaders, the Chaplain will be tempted to intervene with his own knowledge and convictions, to push them to conclusions. Chaplains must endeavour to overcome this natural inclination, within reason of course, and leave it to the Leaders to make personal discoveries, to come to personal conclusions, to formulate personal convictions. In this way the technique will be truly formative; no violation will be done to the freedom of conscience or will. Gradually the transformation the Chaplain hopes and prays for will take place. It will be a deep-seated transformation which will remain through the years and will become part of the very life of the Leaders.


In this section we will deal with what we prefer to call the Gospel Enquiry. Some call it the Gospel Discussion. To us, Gospel Enquiry seems a better name because the Enquiry Technique is applicable to the Gospel just as it is applicable to any other section of the movement method of formation and influence. Much excellent matter has been written on this topic. In the Preliminary Programme Chaplains will find an explanation of the Gospel Enquiry which is satisfactory and which will be useful aids as to its use.

We have said that the purpose of the Enquiry method is to aid the human person to the right choice of action in the whole of his life. Christ, the Son of God, lived here on earth a life in perfect conformity with the Will of His Father; a life in which, if we may speak in this fashion, the right choice was always made. The Christian, in order to be truly that which he is called, must live a life which is Christlike. In a sense he must live again in himself the life lived by Christ. The Gospel is the written record of Christ’s life. By the application of the Enquiry Method to the Gospel itself; by an apprehension of this Good News given to mankind; by a judgment on this life and in particular by an application of it to the varying circumstances of the individual’s own life; and then, through determined resolutions based on the convictions gained as a result of this entering into the life of Christ, the human person will be aided to live a life in conformity with the life of Christ Himself; a life, therefore, in conformity with the Will of the Father.

The Gospel Enquiry used as a means has a threefold aim. It must result in:

a) knowledge of Christ

b) union with Christ

c) action in Christ.


Before entering into this matter more fully we will give, in outline at least, the most desirable method of doing the Gospel Enquiry. Like any other enquiry it will have three sections, see, judge and act.

It will begin at the meeting itself in that the Gospel passage to be used in the following week will be read. Usually it will be sufficient to read it through; the President will do this, appoint one of the Leaders to see the Chaplain during the week, and leave it at that. Sometimes, however, it will be necessary to clarify for the benefit of the Leaders any difficult point in the passage. This is especially necessary if no explanatory notes are added in the Bulletin after the passage. It is quite useless to have a group of Leaders going away from a meeting faced by the problem of doing a Gospel Enquiry on a passage in which they understand little or nothing. We must remember that the normal lay person, especially the young person, frequently has very hazy notions on the contents of the Gospels. A Chaplain recently remarked in a conversation that at a meeting he was literally amazed to find that a group of young fellows, who had been saying the Hail Mary and probably the Angelus for years, were unable to express themselves at all on the passages from St. Luke’s Gospel treating of the Annunciation. He came to the conclusion that they simply did not understand it. Thus some very simple and brief explanation may be necessary and it is better that it be given now than at the following meeting. This can be done either by the President or the Chaplain. In any case the point to notice is that the explanation given must be brief and simple.


The Leaders will be encouraged to find a few minutes each day (five or thereabouts), during which they will think prayerfully on the passage set. Naturally, in the beginning, this will not normally be done. Nevertheless right from the start they must be encouraged to do this. They must be encouraged to take the passage, put themselves in the presence of God, perhaps by saying the movement prayer, by an Our Father or Sign of the Cross, read it through, think about it and write down some of their thoughts. They should be encouraged to make this simple meditation along three lines . . .

1) from this passage what can I learn about Christ?

2) from this passage what can I learn about my own life?

3) from this passage what can I do in order to make my life more like the life of Christ?

For some considerable time it will happen that in a new group the Leaders will come to the meeting the following week having done little or nothing. As a result it will be necessary to attempt then as a group what should have been done as individuals. In other words, the Leaders there and then at the meeting will have to enquire into the Gospel passage. Gradually, however, provide the method is persevered with, provided both the President and Chaplain insist on the Leaders finding those few moments, acquiring notebooks and jotting down their thoughts, progress will be made.


At the meeting itself the President will ask each in turn to read out what he has written down. A brief discussion will follow after all have read out their thoughts, any difficulties will be ironed out, the Chaplain may say a few words, a resolution on a group basis may be formed and the process is complete.

From the above it is clear that in this way a full enquiry will be done. The See section will be done apart from the meeting; the Judge section will be done both apart from the meeting (due precisely to the fact that the judgment bears on the very person of Christ Himself into whose presence the Leader has entered in mental prayer), and at the meeting if and when difficulties arise; the Act section, insofar as both personal and group action is involved will be decided upon during the time of prayer or during the discussion at the meeting; naturally the Action itself will be done outside of the meeting.


The role of the Chaplain is simple. He is there to help, to encourage, to clarify. He must make sure that he does not play a dominant role. He is not called upon to lead the Gospel discussion at the meeting, much less to preach a sermon on it. He will be rarely called upon to eradicate any heretical notions and he will hesitate to clarify points until he finds that the Leaders are unable to do so themselves. In other words, the less he does and says the better. This will require on his part great patience and humility. The role of the Chaplain is to serve his Leaders in the way that Mary serves us; by leading us to Christ. May we remark that in her service Mary does a great deal and says very little!

When seeing one of the Leaders privately regarding the Gospel Enquiry the Chaplain will aim at helping the Leader to a personal discovery of Christ in the Gospel; of Christ in relation to his own life; and of formulating some resolution which must, before all else, be practical. A few words on the Leader’s personal preparation of the Gospel will always be helpful. Encourage him to find the few minutes daily and to use his notebook. Congratulate him warmly if he is doing his best.


We stated above that this is one of the three main aims of the Gospel Enquiry. No one will deny that a knowledge of doctrine f is essential for progress in religious formation. On the other hand, it cannot be denied that doctrine which is imparted merely as a set of questions and answers in a catechism has provea , unsatisfactory from the aspect both of intellectual apprehension of doctrine itself and of the voluntary application of doctrine to life. The Gospel Enquiry is a means of breaking through to reality, of making doctrine organic, live, realist. The reason is that, through the Gospel Enquiry, doctrine is not apprehended simply as a set of intellectual notions, but as truths upon which, through which, and in which a life is lived. That life is the life of Christ who is the Truth Himself.

It is the person of Christ, in whom the doctrines of the Christian faith are embodied, whom the Leader meets on every page of the Gospel. This Christ is the God-man, the one who in Himself incarnated the spiritual in the temporal. Every truth learnt about Christ is doctrine. It is the knowledge that leads to eternal life. But urging the Leaders to strive towards learning more and more about Christ in the Gospel enquiry must and does always impart a knowledge of doctrine; doctrine which is incarnate. In this way the Leader will eventually gain an organic, living, realistic grasp of Christian truth. Slowly the framework of Christian truth, clothed in flesh, in the person of Christ, will become part of his own mental food. At the same time an effort will be made through the Gospel Enquiry to integrate these truths into the framework of the life of the Leader which will eventually result in doctrine not merely known, but lived. Not only through the meditation on the Gospel which he does away from the meeting, but also through listening to the other Leaders at the meeting and discussing the Gospel passage with them, will each Leader gain a deeper and more co-ordinated grasp of doctrine. The Chaplain will help towards a greater clarification of these truths both in anything he says then and later in his Chaplain’s talk.


Here the Gospel Enquiry acts as the means towards contemplation; towards union with Christ in mental prayer. Let it be noted at the outset that in the initial stages, when the Leaders find it difficult to apply themselves to mental prayer even in its most elementary forms, they will benefit nevertheless in this sense simply because their discussion of the Gospel at the meeting will inevitably have an effect on the way they say any prayer, even on the way they assist at Holy Mass and receive the sacraments. They will begin to become aware of Christ as a person rather than as an intellectual concept, or as an historical figure.

The Chaplain will have to help his Leaders in this work of mental prayer. He will have no difficulty in getting them to realise how they are able to become absorbed in the character of another while they read a book, watch a sporting event or sit through a film. He can show them that they become so absorbed in the character or person of another in these circumstances that quite frequently they actually identify their own person with that other; they feel, they suffer, they love and hate with that other.

Now the Gospel, if used as the basis of mental prayer, will result in a far closer bond of union between the Leader and Christ than any form of union achieved through the examples given above. This is so for two reasons: Firstly, Christ is the giver of divine life; He gives us a share in His own life through grace and no other form of union can be other than a shadow of that. Secondly, the medium used. Holy Scripture, is perfect in itself precisely because God Himself is its author.

Chaplains will already know from their own experience that mental prayer can be hard work, that it must be persevered with, that it is frequently the last thing in which one is naturally inclined to engage. At the same time, Chaplains will know that without it there can be no true progress in the spiritual life. For this reason they will strive to introduce it into the lives of their Leaders. Gradually, under the influence of grace, the Leaders will begin to make use of the Gospel Enquiry as a means to mental prayer, as a means to union with Christ.


To be truly formative, it is essential that some kind of action should flow from the Gospel Enquiry. Obviously, the knowledge and love of Christ gained through the Gospel Enquiry will have an effect on the judge and act sections of the Social Enquiry. It will likewise have an effect on the relations of the Leader to his Team members; in fact, on his relations with all those into whose company he comes. Nevertheless, it is still necessary that the Leaders be encouraged to make practical resolutions based on the Gospel. This is the act section of the Gospel Enquiry. In order that this action be of real value it must firstly be in Christ and secondly it must be practical.


As has been said in earlier sections, it is the mission of Christ Himself, which has been entrusted for its fulfilment in time to the Church, in which lay apostles collaborate by their work in Catholic Action. In a sense, the mission of Christ cannot be separated from the Person of Christ; He Himself is the Saviour. Thus, collaboration in His mission is truly collaboration with a person, the Person Christ. This sense of collaboration with the Person of Christ must be inculcated in young lay apostles so that it becomes a very part of their lives. They must understand that they do not do things simply for Him; they collaborate, they work with Him. Not only do they work with Him, but through grace they work in Him. There can be no understanding of the doctrine of the Mystical Body while it remains in the abstract. This is especially so for the young. One act done with and in Christ will bring home the meaning of the doctrine far more than ten sermons, no matter how eloquently preached.

Consequently, in the meditation on the Gospel passage the question that must come before the mind of the Leader is not so much “What must I do in the circumstances of my life?” but “What would Christ do in these circumstances?” In this way, a beginning is made towards an understanding of the deep mystery of Christ’s Mystical Body which is His continued incarnation in time through His members. Furthermore, a sense of great confidence is engendered due to the fact that Leaders realise that they are not called upon to act alone; they act in Christ. Sustained by sharing in His life through grace they are confident of their ability to undertake the carrying on of His mission. They begin to understand His words, “My yoke is sweet and My burden light.” They know it is not so much their own burden which they carry, but His burden which He carries with them. Thus, if they resolve to say the Our Father with greater devotion it means that they have resolved to say it with Christ, in Christ. If they have resolved to be more charitable to a certain person it means that Christ, Who loves that person to the shedding of His Blood, will with and in them love that person in the here and now.

This sense of action in Christ can be applied to any resolution, personal or group. In the case of group action, it will strengthen the bonds between the members of the group. They will know that they are acting in and with Christ their Leader. If the Chaplain strives to give them this sense of action, which is grace- laden, by helping them to turn towards the Person of Christ in all their undertakings he will witness a gradual growth in formation which has no limits. It goes without saying that the practical effects of such a development will soon become evident in the lives and environment of the Leaders.


Too often it happens that resolutions made by Leaders are general, vague, even meaningless. Resolutions such as, “I will be a better Leader,” or “I will love God more,” or “I will try to be more charitable,” have little or no meaning unless they are made specific. “How will I be a better Leader?” “Will I prepare my Gospel Enquiry more diligently?” “Will I try to come to the next meeting on time?” “Will I really get facts for the Social Enquiry?” So many little things done well make a good Leader. Again . . . “Will I love God more by avoiding that occasion of sin?” “Will I do it by making a better thanksgiving after Holy Communion?” “Will I do it by saying the Our Father at least once a day with full attention given to the meaning of the prayer?” Then . . . “Will I be more charitable by trying to be pleasant to a certain work mate who annoys me?” “Will I be more charitable by visiting a sick neighbour?” “Will I be more charitable by sometimes dancing with people to whom I am not naturally attracted?”

The Chaplains must encourage the Leaders to make practical resolutions. If they have done the Gospel Enquiry properly they should have looked at their own lives as well as at the life of Christ. They should have seen in what ways they themselves can live more in conformity with God’s will. At the meeting, if a group resolution is being made, the Chaplain, at least in the early stages, must insist that it be practical. In this he would be harming rather than helping the Leaders were he to remain silent and allow them to formulate vague resolutions which will be productive of nothing positive, but could well lead to disillusionment in the long run. Likewise, when he meets any of the Leaders on a private basis, he will do well to refer to this matter by asking how they get on with their resolutions and helping them to a judgment as to whether they are making resolutions that are truly practical.


Whereas the Gospel Enquiry is aimed directly at the formation of the individual Leader, thus having only an indirect ellect on others and on the environment, the Social Enquiry is aimed directly at the environment and all that makes it up, thus having an indirect effect on the individual Leader. The Social Enquiry, therefore, is the instrument of technique which the Y.C.W. uses to transform the environment.


A brief look at the world around us will soon give us a deep conviction of the necessity to transform the environment. The Christian in the world of today is a man whose principles come into continual conflict with the accepted practices of the world! at large. Whether it be in home life, in work life, in leisure life, in the field of international relations, press, mass communications, religion itself as practised in many so-called Christian countries; it is clear that Christian principles are, in the main, ignored. The world is organized on an entirely different basis. What is expedient, what is comfortable, what will further the aims of individuals, groups, nations, these are some of the criteria on which the mass of men act. Furthermore, due to the fact of increasingly successful methods of modern mass communication, millions of men, women and children around the world can be, and are, affected because they are exposed to the humanly attractive vehicles of this propaganda, the films, radio, the press and television.


The result is that the Christian must accept one of three choices: TTT can live in this world in a purely passive sense, expose himself to its poisons and, as a general rule, eventually succumb. He can attempt to retire from this world into a kind of Christian ghetto in which he will sit wringing his hands over the Sodoms of our age, trusting that God will save him from any moral or physical armageddon. Finally, he can face the world with a heart full of burning for “Spring humanity. He can group around him others like himself and together they can go out into that world, amongst the men of that world, into its organizations and institutions. There, in that world, he can be the leaven in the mass which will slowly, gradually, but surely transform it from within.

This last is assuredly the only choice open to the convinced Christian. It is a tremendous task he will thereby undertake, but, unless he does it, the powers of evil will work unhindered and the Christian will be responsible for betraying his fellow men in the hour of their need. The transformation of the environment is a necessary task, a God-willed task in that God wants all created reality to be restored in Christ This being so, it is a task the Christian does not undertake alone, he does it with, in and through Christ. To do it he must have a weapon and that weapon is basically the Social Enquiry.

So much has been written on the Social Enquiry already that any lengthy treatment of it in this publication would be superfluous. We refer you to the appendix on it in the Preliminary Training Programme, as also to the excellent publication put out some years ago by Rev. C. Mayne, s.j., and K. W. Mitchell called The Enquiry. Here we will simply stress certain main ideas and give some indications as to how a Chaplain can be of help to his Leaders in the carrying out of the Social Enquiry.


In the Bulletins issued by National Headquarters the “See” section will normally be composed of a number of questions or a statement about which the Leaders can conduct an investigation. The first and most important step, therefore, is that the Leaders leave the meeting with an exact idea as to what it is they are investigating. They will “BT expected to return to the next meeting with a number of facts. They will only do so if they go away from the meeting knowing precisely what they are about. We must remember that we are dealing with youth and youth cannot be expected to deal in abstractions. Therefore, it is a good” thing to make sure that the President spends some time at the meeting on the “See” section of the next Social Enquiry. If necessary, the Chaplain can help in a clarification of the points the Leaders are asked to investigate.

The important thing to be stressed is that the Social Enquiry will be effective only when it is . . . .

a) FACTUAL … to attempt to change the environment and not to know the environment is absurd, even harmful. Therefore, the Leaders must make a serious attempt to estimate the true situation, to obtain the facts of the situation. For them to form vague opinions based on generalities is useless. They must go from their meeting knowing exactly what they aim to do. They may be frustrated in their aim; it may prove impossible or difficult to get the true facts of a situation. Even this in itself can be very rewarding as it will bring them to an understanding of the complexity of situations they may have previously thought simple. Normally, however, they will succeed in making a sound estimate if they are encouraged to obtain the true facts of a situation.

b) REALIST … the Social Enquiry is aimed at the environment and the environment to the individual is a local thing. Eventually he may discover that his environment is shaped by influences and situations that are national or even international. At the same time he must firstly enquire into his own environment. Recently, the Y.C.W. exposed a publication for youth which pretended to be an investigation into the mentality of Australian teen-agers. This publication could well have been said to be the See section of an enquiry. It was factual, or so we were led to believe, in that it conducted a factual enquiry into the attitudes of teenagers and printed the results. One might even say that it was thoroughly done. But it was not realist as far as Australia is concerned precisely because the teenagers were not Australians at all; they were Americans!

Thus, an Enquiry to be realist must endeavour to discover the facts of the real environment. It follows that an enquiry done on a local problem, at least from time to time, is very well worth while.

(c) THOROUGH . . . environments are usually complex and they tend to become increasingly so due to the greater number of influences of varying natures that are brought to bear on them. It is far better to investigate a single aspect of an environment when trying to discover all the factors influencing it than to attempt an investigation of broad problems thereof. Over a period or years, perhaps, a thorough investigation can be made of the whole of an environment; but, it is the work of years. Here again the Chaplain will himself, through a keen interest in, and a study of the facts provided, help in pinning down the problem, singling out a problem and insisting that the Leaders thoroughly investigate it.”

If the See section of the Social Enquiry is factual, realist and thorough then, even if nothing more were done, it would be valuable in that it would educate the Leaders. The Y.C.W. does not stop there, however. The next section, called the Judge section, will put the facts gathered in the See section in their proper light.


At the meeting each Leader will make a report on the facts he has gathered. When all present have done this the President will begin the Judge Section. Before we treat of this in detail it is as well to repeat a couple of observations. A basic belief of the Y.C.W. is that every person, every young worker without a single exception, is called to be a son of God. This calling he will live in life, in and through all that makes up his life. Consequently, anything which prevents him from living this truth in his daily life is wrong, it is against the mind of Christ; anything that helps him to live this truth is according to the mind of Christ. As a consequence the facts gathered in the See section must be judged in this light.

Another important observation is this: In order to train Leaders, the technique of the movement must be geared so that they make personal discoveries, come to personal convictions, make personal decisions. 1 he technique will help them towards this goal, will lead them on towards it, but it must still remain personal. If it does not, in the long run, Leaders will drop out weary of the whole thing because, lacking personal convictions, they will never arrive at a state of personal dedication.


With these points in mind we can consider the Judge section. Briefly, it is aimed at gaining for the Leader a personal conviction on the problems of the environment, men, institutions, mass media; the whole environment, as seen with the mind of Christ. Some would perhaps prefer the expression “in the light of Christian principles” than “with the mind of Christ.” We use the latter because it is personal, while the former is abstract. Abstractions to youth have little or no value. The Person of Christ, especially if the Gospel Enquiry is done as it should be, soon begins to take on the note of reality to them.


The first thing, therefore, is to try to link the Judge section with the Gospel Enquiry. In the Gospels they have done, did any similar situation arise, and what was the attitude of Christ to that situation? Take as an example an Enquiry on respect for parents. The facts will show that a certain number of young people reveal little awareness of their duties towards their parents. In the Judge section most young Catholics will remember that the Son of God lived and worked in the home of Joseph and Mary. Some may even remember that the Gospel says, “He went down to Nazareth and was subject to them.” A judgment made with this kind of reference in mind will be far more valuable than any number of other factors. On many subjects, of course, it will be difficult to find similar parallels. This is especially so when we come to Social Enquiries conducted on subjects such as conditions at work, trade unions and the like. Here we may feel inclined to adopt the use of abstract principles. Again, some attempt must be made to personalize these principles and the means are to hand. The fact that Christ lives on through His Vicar on earth and through the Bishops must be inculcated in the Leaders. Thus a principle that can be brought out by a simple quote from the Holy Father, or by a Bishop, is immediately clothed in a personality; a personality having meaning in so far as he is a representative of Christ.


Lastly, the thing to strive for is to discover what the Leaders themselves think of a certain problem or factor affecting the environment It is far better that they express their own ideas then and there, thereby immediately making it possible to bring them to see the Christian attitude to the matter. As Chaplains we will readily concede that on many matters the attitudes of even some of our best Catholics are little short of pagan, due of course to the environment in which they live. That the mind of Christ be brought to bear not only on the problem, but on the attitude of the Leaders to it, is very necessary.


The Social Enquiry is geared to action. Unless some action is taken, either individual or group, the Enquiry will not have its full formative value. Furthermore its aim to gradually transform the environment will not be achieved. All will readily concede that even without action the very fact that the environment has been seen and judged by the Leaders will have value for the Leaders personally. Without action their personal convictions will remain feeble and ineffectual. Eventually they will tire of the whole thing due to the fact that they see no results for their work.

Action taken as a result of the Social Enquiry can be of three kinds, personal, group and representative. The first two will be done by Leaders individually, the last either on a Diocesan or National scale.


It is essential that week by week there be some attempt made by each individual Leader to perform some personal act, no matter how small, as a result of the conviction gained through the Enquiry. There is no question of asking Leaders to do things which are spectacular. If ever they do that kind of action it will usually be completely on their own initiative and normally quite spontaneously. This, however, is not the kind of action that counts most. It is the repeated small act done week by week, year by year, that forms convictions, that becomes habitual. In this way a character is shaped, the character of the worker Leader. His temporal destiny is to transform the world.

We do not need to make suggestions as to the kind of personal action Leaders can take. In any case, they themselves are the ones to decide on the nature and form of their own actions. Especially in his dealings with the President, the Chaplain will have to insist on the necessity of concrete resolutions to do personal action being formed at the meeting and, furthermore, carried through. The President will have to check at the next meeting to find out if the proposed action was carried out and, if not, why not. A word of congratulation and encouragement from the Chaplain at the meeting is important. This is especially so if a Leader has tried and failed in his action. Chaplains must try to impress upon their Leaders that they do not act alone, they act in Christ. Therefore, if they have genuinely tried, and to all appearances failed, it simply means that God has so allowed it. As with the resolutions taken from the Gospel Enquiry, the Chaplain will insist on the necessity for making practical resolutions as to action. It should be something that in normal circumstances can be done without too great difficulty.


Through the Social Enquiry problems will be discovered, needs will be seen, which can only be solved by the taking of some form of group action. It may be realised, for example, that some form of service for young workers will have to be started on a local branch level. This will have to be undertaken by the group, possibly with the assistance of others from the Teams and general membership. It may require the assistance of Diocesan or Regional Headquarters and groups should not be slow in requesting such assistance. Perhaps the group will decide to arrange something special at a General Meeting which will help to solve the problem they have come across. Personal action can be taken by each Leader by trying to get more of the mass of young fellows to come to the General Meeting in question.


This will normally be done on a Diocesan, State or National level. Some matters are simply too big to handle on a local level and it would prove useless to tackle them on that level. A simple example is the question of indecent literature. Certainly, personal and group action can always be taken on this question, but far more will be done on a wide scale if the National Movement is able to represent the attitudes of a mass movement of young people to those responsible for the production and dissemination of said literature.

As far as the group is concerned the important thing is that they regularly send in their findings from Enquiries to Diocesan or National Headquarters. Headquarters will then be in a position to take action by means of services, campaigns, propaganda and direct representation. Chaplains will have to see to it that the President keeps a check on whoever is responsible for sending in reports to headquarters.


May we conclude by one last appeal to the Chaplains? Night after night they will attend meetings. They will listen to long, perhaps boring, recitals of facts; seemingly laborious attempts made at Judge sections; resolutions for action being taken and frequently not lived up to. They will be tempted to become weary of the whole business; to condemn it perhaps as unrealistic and fruitless. We appeal to them here to persevere. Men are not changed overnight; a glance back on the intensive training of their seminary aays will convince Chaplains of that. Institutions and organizations do not readily submit to influences which will mean their transformation. Society itself, the whole environment in which man lives, works and takes his leisure, with all its vast complexities, will only be subject to a gradual transformation from within. The Enquiry Technique will not bring about a revolution overnight; it would be fraudulent if it did. The Christian revolution will only come about through patient, painstaking, humble, dedicated effort. The method of the Y.C W. will gradually bring about this Christian revolution; indeed it is bringing it about as any Chaplain who has been associated with a group for some time will readily agree. The very heart of that method is the Enquiry. Be prepared to persevere, to start and to start again and again. The harvest will be gathered in God’s own time.


This, the last section of the technique of the Y.C.W., is that in which the fruits of all the rest will be seen. This does not mean that the methods employed in this section are not formative in themselves. The whole of Y.C.W. technique is formative, formative through action. In this section, action is more intense because it is more personal. As a consequence, the effects of the formation given through the whole of the technique, as a unit, can be more readily judged. Chaplains will soon realise that this section is the more difficult. This is so simply because it relies more for its effectiveness on the individual effort of the Leader himself. A continual effort will, therefore, be made by the Chaplain to ensure that Leaders persevere with all parts of this Review of Influence. Eventually, Leaders will begin to show real progress.


A fact of action is nothing other than a ¡small personal Enquiry. It means that a Leader has seen some factor in his environment which has an adverse effect on youth, more rarely it may be a factor having good effect. The Leader has made a personal judgment, usually then and there, on the fact. As a result he takes some action in conformity with the conviction he has gained through the clash between his See section and his Judge section.

In the life of normal Leaders such opportunities will arise practically daily. In the beginning they will hardly be aware of their existence, especially if they have become hardened to their environment. Gradually, through the Gospel and Social Enquiries, they will become more alive to the situation around them and in rime they will begin to act. At first, their actions may be timid and insignificant. This is unimportant. What matters is that they are now aware of their environment and the factors that make it what it is. They are judging those factors and they are making the first hesitant steps towards changing them. This is the beginning of the Christian revolution; the revolution that will eventually christianise the world. This is the kind of action that will make the Leaders the salt of the earth and the light on the mountain top. Thus its importance cannot be over-stressed.


At the beginning, Leaders will feel a certain amount of natural reluctance about reporting Facts of Action. Even Chaplains may feel that to report in public on a Fact of Action is to devaluate the act itself. It must, therefore, be stressed that a group which does not report Facts of Action is a group which does not do Facts of Action. It is a group which will make no true progress and if it does not make progress in this matter it will never be a flourishing Catholic Action group.


1) In the first place the normal Leader who does not realise that he will be called upon at the next meeting to report on his Facts of Action will lack the necessary incentive to do Facts of Action. The Y.C.W. is not a movement of individuals, it is a movement of cells. Those cells are basically the Leaders’ Groups in which each helps, inspires, leads and encourages the others. In them the Mystical Body is at work and the actions of each member of that Body have an effect on the other members.

2) Secondly, the realisation that he will report on his Fact of Action will make the Leader more careful both in the actual doing of the fact and in the recording of it. He will know that his action will be judged by others, approved of or criticised by others. This will make him prudent, in the true meaning of the word, in the doing of the fact. Then, too, the very recording of the fact in his notebook will make the Leader himself judge his own actions more carefully. He will thus make a check on himself and will act with greater care and precision in the future.

3) Thirdly, the actual reporting on the facts at the meeting itself acts as an incentive to all. Normal Leaders rejoice that their fellow-Leaders are really doing something positive for Christ. A Leader who would do otherwise, who would be puffed-up by his own efforts, would be an abnormal case.

It will rarely be necessary for the Chaplain to interrupt while Facts of Action are being reported. He may do so if he feels that any point needs further enlightening, especially in order to further clarify the Leader’s reasons for his action. He should congratulate Leaders from time to time on what they have done. This can be done when he meets the Leader privately if the Chaplain feels that it would be out of place to do so at the meeting itself. In general, the Chaplain will frequently refer to the facts reported, show that he is keenly interested in them and encourage the group to be more alert to the possibilities of action in their environment.


In general, an Item of Interest is any factor operating in an environment which has either a good or adverse effect on youth in the environment. It differs from a Fact of Action in that the Leader, although he was aware of it, did not do anything about it, took no action on it. This may be for any one of three reasons. Either he was unable to take action having judged the item to have a real influence on the environment; or, he did not consider he could make a proper judgment on it, meaning in effect again that he was unable to take action on it; finally, the Item may have been of such a kind that no action was necessary.

The importance of Items of Interest lies precisely in the fact that they show that the Leader is aware of the factors at work in his environment. Herein lies the difference between one who simply makes up part of his environment, is shaped by and through it and swims with the tide, and the Leader who realises the factors that influence himself and his companions for good and for bad. An Item of Interest, therefore is normally a prelude to a Fact of Action. It may eventuate that any action will prove unwise or impossible. This does not lessen the importance of the item. Groups in which the Leaders are not aware of these factors are not progressing in the work of Catholic Action. They will never be Leaders, but will remain always as part of the passive mass.


They will be reported under three headings:

SEE-Each Leader will report on the Items he has noticed during the week.

JUDGE—The group together will discuss and pass judgment on any Item which presents some difficulty.

ACT—The group, under the President’s direction, will decide on any action which can be taken, either individually, or on | group level, as a result of the Items reported. The following week a check will be made to see whether action decided upon has been carried through.


The role of the Chaplain in this connection will again be a simple one. He will encourage the Leaders, he will help them towards a judgment on difficult Items, he will congratulate them on their alertness. This last word must not be misunderstood. For a Leader to be alert does not mean that he is inordinately interested in the affairs of others. It simply means that he is truly interested in the problems of youth; he is truly dedicated to the cause of youth. He cannot be dedicated to their cause unless he understands their mentality, the problems that effect their environment, the difficulties they have to undergo.

Leaders must be encouraged to make use of notebooks if they are to notice Items of Interest. Each day they must jot down the Items they have come across and report on them at the meeting. “The weakest ink is stronger than the strongest memory” applies to both Items of Interest and Facts of Action. Unless they are written down soon after they are done or noticed they will be forgotten.


Especially in the early stages of Leader formation it will prove helpful if Leaders are urged to deliberately create situations in which the attitudes of others are more easily revealed. This does not mean that an unnatural or forced situation is created. It means using the evident to reveal what is not so evident. Let us give an example. One of the local theatres has been showing a film which is known to be unsavoury. A Leader is well aware that one or more of his workmates has seen the film. Yet, unless the Leader is prepared to ask them what they thought of it, the opportunity would normally pass by and no reference would be made to it at all. Another example will make it clearer. A Leader reads in a daily paper that a well-known film star has been married for a third time. In itself this is what is usually referred to as an Interesting Item. It could well happen that a remark like the following could be passed in the presence of a Leader: “I see in the paper that X is married again.” The Leader could leave the matter rest there. On the other hand, the Leader could easily remark: “Yes. I noticed that too. What do you reckon about it?” Some such similar remark will normally elicit a reply which will clarify the other’s attitude to the particular matter in question.

Numerous examples such as the above could be given to illustrate this point. In the beginning one or two such matters can be raised at the Leaders’ Meeting itself and the Leader can then be asked to make use of them during the week to obtain the attitudes prevalent in their environment. Naturally, such a method should not be made use of any longer than necessary. As soon as the Leaders begin to show that they are becoming aware of the problems of their own environment, they should be urged to make their own gradual discovery of it in all its complexity.


It is evident that right from the beginning every effort must be made to impress upon Leaders the necessity of seeing their neighbour not simply as a unit in the environment, not as a specimen to be examined and analysed, not as an object of one’s inquisitive investigation, not even only as someone who must be helped in a general way, but as a human being with God-given dignity who must be helped to the full knowledge and love of Christ Our Lord. This latter will not be achieved by any clumsy form of proselytism, still less will it be achieved by rough and tumble methods of correcting faults. In all forms of contact work and in reporting on same at meetings, Leaders must strive for the true love of their neighbour. Chaplains and Presidents will make a point of drawing attention to this matter frequently and being quick to correct any abuses which may arise.


The Campaigns drawn up by National Headquarters for Social Enquiries aim at the discovery of the problems of the environment of young workers and at fitting action as a result of this discovery. Naturally, through Items of Interest and Facts of Action, a clearer picture of the problems of local environments will be seen by the groups actually at work in those environments. From time to time the Items and Facts reported by Leaders will reveal problems which are not simply local, but have a much wider application. If the group judges this to be so they should see that both Diocesan and National Headquarters are made aware of these problems. If necessary, action can be taken on a Diocesan or National scale. In this way, those who are responsible for the drawing up of Campaigns are able to form some closer idea of the true situation and thus draw up the Campaign with greater accuracy and application.


On a local level Items and Facts will often reveal a situation which is truly a problem of the local environment. It may be, for example, that over a period of time, the number of Items and Facts reported show that false ideas are prevalent regarding sex and marriage. This could well result in a group setting about the organization of “Talks for Young Men” and a Pre-Cana course. It may be, again, that the group feels that it has not sufficient Items of Interest about a certain matter to immediately take action on any wide scale. Thus the group will endeavour to draw up a local Campaign, lasting perhaps only a week or so, perhaps longer, dependent on the nature of the case. In this instance it is wise to ask for the help of the Diocesan Headquarters. From there it may be referred to National Headquarters and eventually a National Campaign may be done on the matter.

Chaplains should be alert to note Items and Facts that reoccur over a period of time. They may suggest action on the matter. They may themselves take action on the matter by, for example, referring it to the parish priest; or, preaching a sermon on it; or, in any number of ways.


Broadly speaking, a Contact in Catholic Action terminology is another person whom a Leader influences regularly in a Christian way. For purposes of clarification we will divide Contacts into two groups; those who are influenced directly and those who are influenced indirectly.


Under this heading we group all those whom a Leader contacts on a regular basis, but, who, for one reason or another, are not eligible for membership of the Y.CW. On the principle of like to like, “the apostles of young workers will be young workers themselves,” this means that a young worker Leader will endeavour to influence all young workers into whose company he comes. Naturally, the normal young worker will come into regular contact with non-Catholic young workers. He may be friendly with one or more on a neighbourhood basis; he may travel to and from work with a non-Catholic; he will normally work with some non-Catholics.


It is clear that a Leader in any of these situations cannot regard the non-Catholic in question as being outside his sphere of influence. As a Leader he knows that the non-Catholic is called to an eternal destiny just as he himself is called. He knows that the non-Catholic must work out that destiny in his temporal vocation. He is aware, furthermore, that the non-Catholiral although called also to membership of that community which is the Church, nevertheless does not belong to that community and thus has no direct share in the graces and benefits of that community. The Leader will, therefore, base his influence on the following proposition. …

My non-Catholic contact must be brought to understand his eternal destiny; he has a soul and he must save it. He will save it in the here and now, in this job, this home, this place of recreation. Therefore, I must do all I can to make him aware of his destiny. I must do all I can to make this environment in which he lives conducive to the salvation of his soul. I must continuously strive to introduce Christian ideals and principles J into this environment so that my contact will have every opportunity to achieve his eternal destiny through and in it. I | must try to have him work with me in the introduction of these principles and ideas. I must do all I can to lead him to that community which is the Church.


Contact reporting in the case of non-Catholics can be done in two ways. Firstly, they can be reported on simply as contacts. The main benefit arising from this method of reporting is that it is regular in that, normally, a Leader would make a report on such a contact weekly. The difficulty arises when one tries to establish a clear aim in such contacting. We have stated above what we feel the aim should be. Some may be inclined to think that such an aim does not go far enough. They may feel that the aim of a Leader in regular contact work with a non-Catholic should be eventual conversion. As yet the Bishops of Australia have not included direct conversion work as one of the aims of Catholic Action; at least for the youth movements. As a consequence it could happen that a Leader would continue, even over a period of years, to engage in this form of indirect contact work and become discouraged precisely because the fruits would normally remain of a general nature. Another danger arising from this could be the development of a mentality which would favour what has been called “humanization.” Due to the fact that a Leader influences a non-Catholic on the level of moral behaviour, works with him for better living and working conditions and so on, he may be inclined to remain on that level Christ then becomes a moral teacher, a great historical figure rather than the Saviour who is both God and Man. While it is conceded that this latter danger remains fairly remote in this country one would not at the same time be wise to minimise it.

Another difficulty arising from this type of reporting on non- Catholics is that, precisely due to the fact that it is so natural, it remains the only form of contacting engaged in. A Leader normally has no choice as to whom he lives next door to, as to whom he travels to work with, as to whom he actually works with. If, in the main, such people are non-Catholics, it can easily come about that they will be the only contacts a Leader will have. Indirect contact work of that type will never build a mass movement and without a mass movement it is idle to talk about restoring all things in Christ.


The other way of reporting on non-Catholics is to put them under Items of Interest and Facts of Action. This would mean that only some factor said or done by the non-Catholic contact or done by the Leader with the non-Catholic and which has a bearing on the problem of the environment would be reported on by the Leader either as an Item or as a Fact There are two main benefits from this type of reporting. The first is that it means a Leader would actually have to seek out Catholic contacts if he is to have any report on contacts at all. Secondly, it would tend to personalize Items and Facts. This last is a benefit of no small importance. Too frequently it happens that Items and Facts are restricted merely to noting an action done on the problems of the environment to the neglect of the persons of that environment.

Whatever the way in which Leaders report on non-Catholic contacts it cannot be stressed too strongly that Leaders must be brought to realize that they have a duty to their non-Catholic brethren. Their formation would suffer if they were allowed to proceed with the mistaken notion that they need not worry about non-Catholics. While their contacting must remain of an indirect nature, for the present at least, the influence they have on non-Catholics will gradually spread Christian principles throughout society. In the long run, it will make the work of the conversion of the non-Catholic world a much more reasonable task than it appears at the moment, when the majority of non-Catholics actually are imbued with pagan principles and struggle in an environment which is largely pagan.


Leaders will be able to exercise what we call direct influence only on those who are potential members of the movement. We say this because the Y.C.W. is the providential means used by the Church for the formation and salvation of the young worker and through him of the whole world of the young worker. The Y.C.W. is a movement of Catholic Action and only Catholics can engage in Catholic Action as such; thus, only Catholics can be members of the Y.C.W. At a later stage of development it may be possible to have some broader form of membership open to non-Catholics which would not mean membership of the mandated movement as such. At the present stage of development in this country it would be disastrous to even contemplate launching into this sphere on a broad basis; it would deflect us from our major aim which is to build the mass apostolic youth movement. Thus, it would be a disservice to both Catholics and non-Catholics.


The Y.CW. is organized basically on a parish level because the parish is the basic unit of the Church. It will be a strong movement in so far as it is strong on the parish level. Without the parish groups it would be a monstrosity, a head without a body. Consequently, the main aim must be to strengthen the parish units; to form the Leaders’ Groups; to make them group about themselves their Teams and with that instrument penetrate the mass of young workers, winning them to the movement, forming, educating, serving and representing them through the movement.


The main concern of the Leaders must, at the beginning, be to seek out some Catholic contacts on a parish level whom they will bring into a Team. These contacts may already be members of the general grouping; sometimes they will not be. Gradually the Leader will win the friendship and confidence of these few and eventually he will be able to form them into a Team. Every week he will report on his progress with them. He may try to get them to come to the General Meetings at the start and then form them into a Team. On the other hand, he may find it is more satisfactory to introduce them to the Y.CW. immediately through membership of a Team. Therefore, his contact report will be his progress towards a Team. Every Leader will have to realise that such contacts are not necessarily ready made. They must be sought out. They must be won and recruited to the movement through what is frequently hard work. It will require sacrifice, patience, tact, humility and great generosity on the part of the Leader.


The whole concept of Team formation must become part of a Leader’s mentality very early in his formation. He must be brought to realize that he is not a Leader for himself, he is not a Leader for a few, he is a Leader for the mass. But he will quickly understand that the mass will not be won and recruited by himself alone, even with the help of the other members of the Leaders’ Group to which he belongs. The mass will only be won and recruited when it can be effectively penetrated and influenced. As soon as the census is ready the whole Leaders’ Group must take a day at which they will plan the conquest of the masses. If, for example, they find there are two hundred Catholic young workers in the parish, then it is a simple step for them to understand that if they are to do anything effective about that mass of young workers they must have helpers. It can be put to them that the conquest of the mass will take place only when they have one Leader for every five of the mass. Thus they will need forty Leaders. To do this each Leader will have to form a Team which will work with him in the conquest of the mass. Then and there, the steps taken towards the formation of Teams will be decided upon. Each Leader will seek out his contacts and he will not rest until he has grouped about him the Team of young workers who will work with him in the conquest of the mass for Christ.

Once the Leader has formed a Team his contact reporting will mainly centre around his progress with his Team. He may still try to win others to the movement through the General Meeting. Mainly, however, when formerly he reported on Contacts he will now report on his Team. For a time, he will report on the progress of his Team as regards technique, the difficulties they encounter and the development they show. To win, recruit, train and hold a Team of four or five members is as much as can be asked of any normal Leader. This will be his main concern and it is one of the greatest importance to the movement. Once Leaders have Teams in operation they must regard their formation and progress as their main work. They should not normally be required to engage in further direct contact work. To do so is to overburden them and deflect them from their main aim.


Will the team members have contacts and, if so, whom will they contact? They will contact the mass of Catholic young workers on the parish level. They, too, will report on their contacts at Team Meetings and again, they will report on them according to what progress they are making in winning and recruiting them to the movement. This point cannot be stressed too much. The whole key to the success of a really genuine mass movement will be the natural linking of the movement on a parish level through Leaders’ Group, Team and General Membership. The Teams are the key to success in this. The Team members must be brought to a realisation of their personal responsibility for the mass. This mass is not simply a list of names on a census. Each is a young worker who must be won and recruited to the movement. Each Team member will have to take as his personal responsibility the winning and recruiting of some few of these members of the mass. Team members will be led to do this through contact work; seeking the mass out, influencing them, winning them, recruiting them.

This winning and recruiting of the mass will be done in two main ways. The most important is through the General Meeting. Some would say that the Services play a greater role. This is not so, precisely because the Services are nothing more than means and must remain so. Young workers are not part of the movement simply because they are in services. Through services, every attempt must be made to recruit them to the movement and normally that will be to membership through the General Meeting. No one will deny that, in this country at present, the greater number of members come to the movement through the services. At the same time, unless there is this apostolic driving power of recruiting members through the Services, it is likely that many will remain on the fringe of the movement, in contact with it, but not part of it. Many, however, will be brought to the movement even without passing through Services provided that the apostolic missionary outlook is engendered by the Leaders amongst the Team members.

Some Team members will prove capable of themselves taking a Team in a formal way. At least at this present stage of development, until the day in which apostolic formation becomes part and parcel of the education given in our schools, this will be exceptional and, therefore, not to be asked of all and sundry. Team members will be able to get general members to help them in the running of small services, a sick service, selling the paper, organizing concerts and the like. This is a good way of sharing responsibility and should be encouraged.

We spoke above of the reporting done by Leaders on the progress of their Teams. After the initial formation has been given through the Preliminary Programme, Leaders will naturally tend to report less and less on the actual progress of their Team members as far as technique is concerned. They will then begin to report on the progress of their Team members in their work with contacts. Leaders will find out at the Teams’ Meetings who are the contacts of the Team members and this progress will be watched closely by the whole Leaders’ Group. May we repeat again that it constitutes the major factor in the building of the mass movement.


Very little needs to be said on this matter. A Leader may be in frequent contact, normally at work, with a Catholic young worker from another parish. The aim of the Leader should be to win this contact to the movement. If there is no group of the movement in the parish in question then Headquarters should be approached as to the possibility of starting one there. If there is a group the Leader should inform someone from the group of the fact that his contact lives in the parish.


Systematic visitation of the Catholic youth on a parish level is undertaken by some groups. While this can be an excellent means of recruiting to the movement and making the movement better known in the parish, it should never be allowed to take the place of the contact work done by Leaders and Team members. Leaders and Team members will certainly make use of visiting homes as part of their method of contact work. Contacting can be done on all the natural levels on which groups of young people gather. The home and neighbourhood area is one of these levels and it should be seen as such. An intensive drive may be made on the level of home visitation before some major event being run by the group, e.g., “Talks for Teenagers.” Through systematic visitation on such an occasion many young people may be attracted to the movement. Certainly, this is a much better method than simply announcing the event over the pulpit, or sending out invitations through the post.