By a Staff Reporter
Speaking to a Young Christian Worker today I was able to learn of an interesting experiment undertaken recently by the Movement in the Golders Green (London) area, as part of the " Shelter Apostolate " to which the Y.C.W., as well as other Catholic Action organisations like the Legion of Mary and the Grail, are devoting their thoughts ancl their activities.
After approaching the ShelterMarshal some Y.C.W. lads were able to provide film-shows in one of the air-raid shelters in their neighbourhood. With two fellows on the projector and another on the gramophone they recently gave a fortyminute show, in the interval of which tea and cakes were provided, and a collection taken.
The cost, which included the hire of the films was four shillings, and
this was completely covered. Popeye, a Chaplin film, and two dramas were thrown on a screen, and the show was such a success that the lads have been asked along to other shelters. Now they are looking for a sound projector.
APOSTOLIC CONTACTS " That's all very nice and jolly," I remarked to the Y.C. Worker, " but where's the Catholic angle to all this? How does your Apostolate work into the film show? "
" That follows immediately after," I was told," when we get chatting with the friends we make when the show's over. Then is our chance to give out the Grail and League for God leaflets, and the Y.C.W. mags."
Some experts on the subject criticise adversely the distribution of leaflets in shelters, saying this policy does little to further the Apostolate among night shelterers, so I asked the Rev. V. Rochford, of Homerton, the well-known authority on the Y.C,W. Movement, to give me his views.
Fr. Rochford said : " In general, the Y.C.W. does not regard the distribution of leaflets as a favourable approach to the young worker, who screws it up and puts it in his pocket, from whence it emerges in a few days' time to find its grave in the gutter, The lighting in the shelter is often poor, and young fellows prefer to pass their time making wise-cracks, crooning, etc. The Y.C.W. believes in personal contact. By an attitude of friendliness, patience and charity acquired through daily Communion, they can gradually influence the whole atmosphere of a shelter—or house, or workshop,—and also acquire influence over individuals who will more willingly listen to their ideas," " Nevertheless," Fr. Rochford added, "Y.C.W. sections from Sheffield to Deptford have distributed the admirable Grail leaflets, while Poplar gave out League of God leaflets outside a big East End shelter."
PERSONAL CONTACT I asked Fr. Rochford to elaborate the point of " personal contact," as he called it, and to show me how " friendliness, patience and charity " can achieve so much more than leaflets. He obliged with a couple of examples and said : " Only the other night some girls brought a kettle of hot water into a shelter to make cocoa. They passed the water to others first, and the kettle was returned to them empty, with hardly a word of thanks 1 There was gun-fire at the time, and two Y.C.W. girls then went to their own house and boiled more water for the ones who had lost theirs. This was a practical gesture of charity such as Christ demands from His followers; and more powerful than a sermon.
" The second case I shall give you is an instance of how desultory conversation, talk about the other persen's interests, etc., can be brought round to sortie point where the Christian ideal is brought out. Thus two Y.C.W. leaders, aged seventeen, were able to explain their ideal df Christian marriage and its preparation, to a largely Jewish audience, who showed the greatest interest and agreement. From this a camaraderie developed, and now some refugee girls are holding impromptu classes in French and German in the shelter, with the Y.C.W.s among their pupils."
SPONTANEOUS ACTION Delving into the essence of the Y.C.W. Movement, which, once grasped, sets it apart from many another organisation, Fr. Rochford remarked that the individual Christian Worker " did not have to wait for Headquarters to organise the Apostolate in public shelters." He then gave me an insight into the Movement's driving motive which I found so illuminating that 1 hasten to give it in full to my readers.
" The Young Christian Worker," he said, " has been formed to understand that whatever the material setting of his life, it is providential ; it is not by mere chance that he lives in this house and street, or works in this factory, rather than any other; it is by an act of God's will.
" Again, if his lite is cast in a certain set of surroundings, it is so that in them and through them he may attain his eternal salvation, and that in them and through them he may be Christ's witness and apostle. He recognises that he carries Christ with him wherever he goes, and that through him Christ wills to influence his surroundings.
" He is also formed to observe these surroundings, to form a judgement on their accordance or otherwise with Christ's will, and to take every possible means for the better where change is called for."
" WHAT I CAN DO " Fr. Rochford then came to the point of how the Y.C.W. training arms a member for the Shelter Apostolate. The young man or woman asks him. or herself the following questions in respect to the shelter where the night is to be spent: " What is the accommodation like here? Lighting, ventilation and sanitation? Are they everything that is desirable for comfort, decency and propriety? If not, what can I do? Can I obtain some support from the more thinking elements, and approach the proper authorities? Can my Section help me in that task?
" How do the people spend their time? Does it hang heavily on them? Does it lead to bad temper? Does conversation become improper? Is there much grumbling and distontcnt? Are the people very selfish?
" What can I do in the matter? Can I influence individuals? By lending them the evening paper, passing a cigarette, sharing my sandwiches or flask of cocoa? " As Fr. Rochford remarked, it is " by going to trouble for others and showing himself a real leader that a young fellow becomes popular and acquires influence upon his neighbours and surroundings."
A WAR PRAYER I can do no better than finish this article with the following prayer which Fr. Rochford himself wrote down, and respectfully pass it on to those apostles who take Christianity with them every night to their shelters in the hope of sharing some of it with others: " Thy Kingdom come in all our homes, our factories, our offices--and our shelters ! Yes, Thy Kingdom come; not any time, anyhow, but this night, in my shelter, and through me 1"