1960: The problem of lay apostolate

First outline of a preliminary draft.

(For the preparation of Note 1: Handwritten note by Marguerite Fiévez)



I. The problem of the apostolate of lay people and of the formation of lay people for their apostolate can be exposed and solved starting from different points of departure, but which all lead to the same conclusions:

1. The Church, its mission, lay people in the Church.

2. God, the plan of God, in the Incarnation and the Redemption, participation of lay people in this plan of God.

3. The Christian’s mission in the world.

4. Man, his life, his problems, his worth and the mission of each person.

This discovery of the apostolic mission of each Catholic, of each Christian, of each man will lead to the problem of his personal and collective formation with a view to a personal and collective collaboration with a view to the solution of the problem not for a religious or ideological community, not for an elite or a minority, but for the solution of the problem in all humanity and in the technical and ideological world as it is today and will develop tomorrow.

With respect to the formation of laypeople, as we have implemented it and spread it throughout our life, we are always part of each young man and of the concrete elements of his life, of his problems, of his needs, of his mission in helping to discover the why and the purpose of its existence, the greatness of its mission; by helping him to unite with his comrades and his companions in life to transform their life, their own living environment and that of all men.

This is the meaning of the educational formula: see, judge, act: training, action, organisation.

We believe that such training is applicable to all men, all walks of life, all races, all religions and all ideologies.

That it can arouse and promote fruitful collaboration between all categories of men, if formation accompanies and guides collaboration.

The attached questionnaire, which is far from being complete and which is only the beginning of a search for a real, deep, missionary lay apostolate, commensurate with the problems of the present and future world, can serve as a guide for the explanation, understanding and realisation of the lay apostolate as we understand it.

Personally, we have always used it because very often if we start from the Church, or from God, the non-Catholic or the non-Christian, from the first contact, think that we are not addressing them and withdraw. If, on the contrary, we start from man, all peoples and all races, from all ideologies follow us: we keep in touch with them, win their sympathy, break down prejudices and prepare minds and hearts to listen to the word of God and of Christ to enter the Church and to play there the role of apostle and missionary. It is a catechumenate or a precatechumenate adapted to life. Even for the baptised, having reached the age of research and personalisation, the method arouses interest and active participation in research and discovery and produces admirable conversions.



(see – judge – act)

I. Ontological and personal.

1. Who am I? Am I an animal, a machine?

2. Why do I exist? Why do I live ?

3. How and why should I treat my body?

4. How and why should I treat my intelligence?

5. Why and how is health, the development of the body, of the intelligence, of the will?

6. Do I exist alone on earth?

7. How do I relate to others?

8. Why am I working? Its value, its dignity (… any diet?)

9. What is my relationship with God? What is its importance, its meaning?

10. What does death mean? Is it the end of life?

11. What is the relationship between present life and future life?

II. Family and emotional issues?

1. Who are my parents, siblings?

2. What do they mean for me? What are they doing for me? What reports?

3. What is the family? Marriage?

4. What do we think of preparation for marriage? What to think?

5. (Added by hand: Illegible)

III. Do I have free time? How do I spend it? Or ? With whom ? Am I spending money? To what? How ? Do I have a vacation. Are they paid? How and with whom do I spend it? What do I think about it?

IV. Teaching, education

1. How many years have I been in school? What did I learn there? What do I think about it?

2. Did I ever learn anything before going to school? Who taught it to me?

3. Why did I leave school?

4. Before leaving school, what had I learned about life, its meaning, its value, the way and the duty of living? Where did I learn it? By who ? How? ‘Or’ What ?

5. Am I prepared to live? How? ‘Or’ What ? By who ? What life choice have I made? Why ?

V. Work.

1. Do I practice a profession? Which ? Am I preparing for it? How did I prepare for it?

What is my profession for: Productive, commercial, financial, administrative, cultural?

2. Am I working alone or with others? How do I get there? I am back from it ? At what time ? In what way ?

Do I need machines to do my job? Are these machines connected to each other? Is there and can there be progress in the discovery, manufacture, use of these machines?

3. How do I appreciate my work, my salary, my relationship with my fellow workers, with my superiors?

4. Am I in a union? Why yes or no? What purpose ? Am I interested in union action? Why yes or no? How do I judge the union organisation, the leaders, the purpose, the influence of the union?

5. Is there a way and a duty to improve the work, the conditions, the products, their distribution? Do I collaborate on it and should I do it?

VI. Society, organisations, institutions and public authorities.

1. Do I exist alone; or only with the family and for a future family; or only for my profession and my professional organisation?

2. Do men necessarily live together, do they need each other, are there common needs, do we need an organisation larger than the family, or than the profession to satisfy and organise the satisfaction of its needs? ? What are the needs and organisations that meet its needs? Private organisations, and public organisations? Organisations, local, regional, national and international, private, public, semi-public?

3. Should I be interested in these organisations? Why ? Do I have to study and train to be able to participate in these organisations, to have an influence there, to help others to have an influence?

4. Is there one or more truths which determine the value of persons, acts and conduct of families, social and political, private and public, national and international organisations? To improve these people or these institutions?

5. Are these human or moral truths important to each person, each family, each profession, each country, all countries, all of humanity?

VII. Human differences.

1. Do you see and know the differences? Between people, families, countries, races; living standards; technical, economic, social, cultural development?

2. What are the causes, justifications, limits and what is the truth that helps to judge and improve them?


1. All these human problems have a relationship with God, with the worship of God with the mission given by God, to each man, to each family, to each human group, private or public to all humanity? ?

2. Is every man left to personal research, or has God made known to men the human way of solving these problems and is he helping them personally to solve them?

3. Does the Incarnation of the Son of God and the Church which continues and develops it impose on the Christian the duty to collaborate with Christ and with the Church for the effective solution of all these human problems?

4. Is this collaboration with Christ and the Church, which transforms all human (lay) life into apostolic life, important for the future of humanity and for the Redemption of the world?

5. Is there an official organisation in the Church which teaches young and adult faithful this apostolic meaning of their life, which initiates the exercise of this apostolate, which unites them for the effectiveness of this apostolate? ?

6. Are there religions and religious communities which differ from the religion of the Catholic Church, either because they recognise Christ as God and Savior of the world, or whether they recognise another God, Creator and End of the world and of human life? Are there ideologies and conceptions of life that exclude any recognition of a divinity, and survival after death?

7. Do believers in Christ and in the Church have more and more relationships in daily life, in public life, in national and international institutions with believers separated from the Church, or with believers? of non-Christian religion and with unbelievers?

8. Should not these relations be apostolic, and should not everything be done so that in all national and international institutions competent believers participate in the activity of this one and bring to it the witness of their faith and of their charity?

9. Shouldn’t organisations for the formation of lay people for their apostolate pay special attention to international problems and international organisations and institutions, as well as to the relations of Catholic believers with non-Catholics and with unbelievers?

10. Should the clergy and religious not receive a doctrinal and pastoral formation which will make them willing and able to ensure this apostolic formation of the laity and to support them effectively in the exercise of their apostolate?


In themselves for the understanding of their personal life in all its aspects: personal, family, professional, social, cultural, political, national and international;

for the understanding and realisation of their own mission in their own life in its aspects;

for the mutual promotion of this life in their immediate environment and in the world and for the union, understanding, progress, peace of all humanity;

for the eternal destiny of each and everyone;

for the glory of God and the realisation of his plan in the work of Creation and Redemption;

for collaboration in the work of the Church, in the ecumenical mission of the Church in the world of today and tomorrow.


1. The faithful in the Church must be formed

a) to discover these problems of their own life and that of all men

b) to discover the apostolic value of these problems

c) to learning and exercising their apostolic mission in their life, i.e. of the apostolic transformation of their own life in view of their apostolic mission immediate.

2. This apostolic formation begins at birth in the family, intensifies in school, becomes more precise and adapts to the moment of choosing and learning about their state of life.

3. This apostolic formation, doctrinal and practical, is not individualistic, but takes place in an adapted apostolic movement, where young lay people unite on the spot and on the scale of the current world, to collaborate in the action and representation of the apostolic conception of life and of the world at all stages and in all aspects of their life.

–            lives, living environment, daily, concrete and practical problems;

–         private and public authorities at all levels

–        national and international private and public organisations and institutions, confessional and interfaith, interracial.


The Pontifical Commission for the Apostolate of the Laity in Preparation for the Second Ecumenical Council.

Its composition

Its purpose

Its method of work:

1) definition of the lay apostolate

2) organisation of the lay apostolate

3) formation of lay people in the apostolate

4) training of priests, men and women religious for their mission in the formation of the laity for the apostolate

5) extension and deepening of the lay apostolate

in the world of work

in intellectual circles and leaders

in education

in the different continents, races,

in national and international institutions, governmental and non-governmental

with non-Catholics and non-Christians

with organisations, movements, institutions,

achievements of non-Catholics and non-Christians.

6) Should there be sub-committees or working groups with lay people for resolutions, and fruitful practical conclusions?

Translator: Stefan Gigacz


Joseph Cardijn, Outline for a draft (Archives Cardijn 1576 Undated but October 1960) (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)