1965: International YCW: The Enquiry method

We publish this article, a working document of the Y.C.W 3rd International Council (Bangkok) to be of help to us all in gaining a deeper understanding of the Enquiry. This has a relevance to all Movements of Jocist inspiration. It underlines the need for meetings to be geared to real life, in order that our leaders will use the Enquiry method at all times. The lay apostolate will then become a way of life, rather than a technique.

the enquiry method…


The Y.C.W. method is more than an apostolic and educative method. It is essentially a young workers’ movement “in action” among them, by them, and for them, in their life and everyday surroundings.

To gear this Movement to action in real situations in life – a Movement which is both a transformer of this reality and an educator of active youth – the Y.C.W. helps young people to look at their life and that of their friends, to assess it in the light of Christ, to discover therein the call of God, and then to act together to respond to this appeal. This “acting together” results in the “Movement” which transforms and educates.

So, at the base of the Y.C.W. pedagogy, there are three fundamental attitudes which have prompted the “see-judge-act” technique and which express the orientation of the Y.C.W. method. These fundamental attitudes are:

1.        Spirit of enquiry (to be in search of life).

2.        Spirit of discovery and welcoming God acting in men and in the world.

3.        Spirit of committing oneself in charity to respond to the call of God.

1st Part: SEE

The attitude that the word “see” expresses is one of enquiry, to examine life and living conditions, the desire to know reality, to be close to life and to take an interest in others.

This is being “attentive to life.”

It is related with the spirit of the Gospel, the good Shepherd knows his flock,” “the Son of man came to search out and save those who were lost.”

Thus, this attitude is a form of genuine love and we find it with Christ himself.

At the same time it is educative, for it helps the young worker to be more aware of what’s going on in his life, his surroundings and those of others. There is a danger however, that the young worker is not really aware of many of the realities of his life and the life of others: realities which have a good deal of importance for living a human and Christian life. There is thus the risk that he lets these things slip by. Either because he is more or less fatalistic, thinking that his living conditions are unchangeable and that the only thing to do is to put up with them, or because he is content with material comforts and easy pleasures which blind him to reality.

The Y.C.W. wants to help the young worker to take a deeper interest and be more aware of the ordinary and everyday happenings of life.

The “see” part involves the following stages:

– It is based on what young workers already see and what interests them in their life.

– Based on this and by common reflection or several opportune questions, young workers are brought on the one hand, to “see” aspects which they had not as yet discovered and on the other hand, to “see” in more detail.

This “seeing” in more detail helps them discover:

– How these facts of life involve the human person and affect the young worker both in his dignity and in his destiny.

– How these facts often reveal a more general situation affecting young workers as a whole.

The characteristics of “seeing”:

  • Reality. Seeing must be specific and objective. It’s a matter of seeing facts, not of giving opinions or ideas.
  • “Seeing” already gives us a Christian outlook on life because it means looking at a fact in so far as it relates to the human person in his dignity or destiny.        


2nd part: “JUDGE

The attitude that the word “Judge” expresses is one of reflection on the fact seen, an attitude of reflection with Christ.

This attitude is very important because it trains the young worker to reflect soundly to analyse the facts of life in depth and at the same time trains him in faith, hope and charity.

Two important steps in this Y.C.W. reflection are:

1. Human judgment: To situate the fact in its context and all things relative to it. to discover the causes of the fact and analyse the consequences.

What caused the fact?

What influence has it on young workers and others?

In the fact analysed, how is the young worker brought closer or drawn further away from his vocation, his dignity and God?

In certain English-speaking Y.C.W.’s, the first stage of the judge part is done according to the five W’s: Who? What? Where? When? Why?

This first stage can also be considered as “seeing” but in more depth.

2. Christian judgments: This first stage of reflection essentially leads to reflection with Christ.

What does Our Lord think of this situation?

Can we see God at work in this happening? What is there of God in the attitudes of the young workers? What values do we find which are already the sign of the presence and action of the Holy Ghost?

What does Our Lord wish in this respect?

In the Gospel, are there facts or words of Christ which could be related to the situation analysed?

The characteristics of “judging”:

  • Judgment is not concerned with the morality or the legality of an act. Sin or not a sin? Allowed or not  allowed? Neither is it a critical attitude towards others. We don’t have to judge people to discover something sinful.
  • Judgment is a reflection with a view to discovering the real human and spiritual needs; to discover the thinking and the will of God as regards this and to discover in faith, God’s active presence in the situations or happenings studied.


3rd part: “ACT”

The attitude that the word “act” expresses is one of commitment by a person or group of persons. In the needs seen and judged together, we have discovered the call of God. Action is the answer of love to this call which comes to us through the facts of life.

Therefore action is not just any sort of activity with a view to keeping young people occupied in an honest and educative way. It is always the result of seeing and judging. This is how it is really educative in life. Y.C.W. action, while responding to a need, transforms, by this fact, the persons involved for they have already seen and judged.

Action is therefore an attitude of charity, also, charity with regard to God (response to God’s call, seen through facts) and with regard to one’s neighbour (response to concrete needs), at the same time and by the same act.

Y.C.W. action is essentially one giving rise to other actions. “A Y.C.W. leader never acts alone.” He will make the others see-judge and act with him. Doing it himself, doing it with others, getting others to join in.

Thus Y.C.W. action is always an answer to real needs, seen and reflected on by those who take action. The action itself will help them see more deeply and strengthen their faith (in discovering, living and getting others to live the truth, we arrive at the light).

The Y.C.W. method put into practice

There are two ways of “living” the Y.C.W. method.

During daily life

Each priest and leader can put this method into practice during daily life with young workers, in each natural contact of life, in each visit to someone’s house. It’s always a matter of seeing, judging and acting oneself and bringing others to do the same.

During meetings

Together in a team, the situation in which young workers live are reviewed and judged so as to discover the appeal for personal and communal action; this action which always transforms people and at the same time brings a solution to needs (either through personal or organised services, or through representative action with a view to obtaining the collaboration of others).

This application of the method is called “review of life.” This is not a discussion of ideas, or an examination of conscience; it is a period for deep reflection based on the reality of life, so as to discover the presence and call of God and to decide together on the personal and collective commitment needed.

This review of life assumes that the leaders note down in their notebooks the facts of everyday life.

This review leads not only to action but also to prayer in order to return to God all that has been seen and done.


International YCW, Working Document, 1965 (Joseph Cardijn Digital Library)