Initiated by Pope John Paul II in 1984, World Youth Day serves as a pilgrimage that summons members of the Catholic Church from around the globe to unite as one to celebrate and explore the principles of Catholic living. Keeping with the tradition of World Youth Day, the journey centered around a biblical theme. This year’s theme was a verse from the Gospel of Matthew: “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). The passage emphasizes the responsibility of Catholics to proclaim the Good News of God not only through words, but more importantly through actions and service to others. Throughout the week, these Regians--along with over 3.5 million other Catholic youth-- participated in various activities oriented towards understanding what it means to be a true Catholic in contemporary society and how to grow spiritually in day to day life experiences.
The following reflection was provided by Vincenzo Guido ’16, the only Regis Sophomore to make the trip. You can also read more about Vincenzo and his World Youth Day experience in the September 8 article published by the Hudson Reporter titled Mesmerizing trip: Township boy attends World Youth Day with Pope.
World Youth Day Reflection | Vincenzo Guido ’16
As my group and I arrived in the beautiful city of Rio de Janeiro, we were greeted by the breathtaking Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) statue that stands tall atop Corcovado Mountain with arms stretched outward. The open armed statue of Christ signifies that all are welcome in Christ as he calls us to him with open arms of love and compassion. Spending time in a foreign country thousands of miles from home can be a bit concerning at first glance. However, we were delighted to see how friendly and helpful the people of Brazil were in making our experience as enjoyable and comfortable as possible.
After resting for a day or so following our arrival, the activities began with the first official welcome by The Archbishop of Rio de Janeiro, whom welcomed all the pilgrims to Copacabana beach. He called for all present to pray in preparation for the Holy Father’s arrival. Prior and following the Archbishop’s formal welcome to all the pilgrims, singing and dancing took place on the beach to celebrate the unity of all cultures that came together to celebrate their union in Christ. Having been motivated and excited by the official beginning of the WYD ceremonies, pilgrims were then separated into designated language groups to attend catechesis sessions, in which we would discuss different biblical passages and how we can live up to our potential as Catholics in the Modern World. I was fortunate enough to attend an audience with His Eminence, Cardinal Timothy Dolan from New York City. Cardinal Dolan’s speech centered on the hope we as Catholics must place in the Lord to develop a healthy mind, body, and spirit. He placed special emphasis on the value of interacting with members of the faith from around the world to manifest a deeper sense of community which ultimately leads to true and prolonged friendships and peace. Later that evening, my group also had the privilege of sharing a meal with His Eminence where we again were able to unite in prayer and joy to celebrate the Lord’s gift of food.
Later in the week, Pope Francis arrived in Rio de Janeiro where he rode along Copacabana beach in the Popemobile, greeting some 3.5 million Catholic youth. As with the Pope’s arrival in general there is much excitement and anticipation among the faithful. However, Pope Francis’ overwhelming joy gave him a special radiance that excited the crowds that flooded the streets to catch a glimpse of him as he drove along the beach. When he finally arrived to the center stage, the Holy Father gave an engaging and powerful speech calling for the pilgrims to “open their hearts and minds” to what they would learn while listening to the Word of God. During his homily he emphasized that what we experience during World Youth Day must not end when the festivities are over; rather we must search for ways to bring this new found momentum back to our communities to help them grow in love and spirit. It is important to realize though that this call to go and evangelize is not intended to be an easy task. “Jesus did not say if you would like to, or if you have time”, but rather we are called to fulfill the obligation to live out our lives in dedication to God through our actions towards others. Francis called all youth to think of how we flavor our food with salt. He says that in the same vein, we should “put on Christ” to add new flavor to our own lives. By adding Christ to our life, we are finding true happiness that is eternal and unbounded. Finally, the Holy Father called for us to always have hope in God and that it is through hope that the darkness is lit and the path to a well-developed spirit is revealed.
To summarize every truly profound and wonderful experience I lived while at World Youth Day in few words is impossible. However, the true meaning of the week long voyage could be summarized in three simple yet powerful words: Faith, Hope, and Love. Through our Faith in God we are brought together as one people to trust in the Lord and His teachings. Through hope, we are guided to grow in spirit as we search for God in all things. Finally, love crystalizes the bond shared by all Catholics around the world and creates the wonderful sense of community and camaraderie we share as members of the Faith. As a student of a Jesuit High School, we are constantly reminded of St. Ignatius’ call to be “Men for others”. This ties directly to what World Youth Day is all about; encouraging people to go out and live God’s call to holiness by serving others in a selfless manner and not expecting reward. I cannot express how eternally grateful I am to all who helped to make my journey to Brazil possible. The experiences and memories I have I will cherish for the rest of my life. I hope others took away as much as I have from the journey and hope that we truly live to the call to go and make disciples of all nations and “put on Christ” as we continue our journey through life.
The Regians attending World Youth Day had a front row view of Pope Francis as he rode by in his "Popemobile".
Vincenzo Guido '16 was able to meet and spend time with Timothy Michael Cardinal Dolan during the World Youth Day festivities.
Regians and their World Youth Day peers relax and enjoy a dinner together after a day of discussion, prayer, and reflection.