Defining Lasallian at World Youth Day

by Andrea Guyton (in Brazil)

Brothers and Lasallians at Copacabana Beach in Brazil

Brothers and Lasallians at Copacabana Beach in Brazil

When I was first asked the question of “What does the term ‘Lasallian’ mean to you?”, it was simple to Google and discover that faith, service, and community are part of the definition of Lasallian. But it was up to me to determine what faith, service, and community really mean.

Before going to Brazil for International Lasallian Youth Meeting (EIJL) and World Youth Day with my fellow classmates and Ms. Margretta Dobbs (Director of Campus Ministry), I was fearful, nervous, and excited all at once. I was fearful because, as a non-Catholic, I wondered if I would be pressured into converting to Catholicism from my Baptist faith. I was nervous because I would be taking my first international flight to a country where I know very few words and phrases. I was excited because I would be embarking on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that could change my life forever.

My conversion fears were put aside when I attended Mass and realized that as long as I have belief in God and truly believe that He sent His only begotten son to die for my sins, I am healed, covered, and part of royal lineage no matter what denomination I am. For the first couple of days in Brazil, I felt so alone because I knew so little Portuguese and could barely communicate with people. Once I stepped outside of my shell and reached out to others, I learned that plenty of people spoke broken English and — paired with my broken Portuguese — we could hold a good conversation!

The excitement that I felt lasted the entire trip and turned into great appreciation for a wonderful opportunity. Going to Brazil for EIJL and World Youth Day changed my life, because I feel a renewed relationship with God and discovered what faith, service, and community truly mean to me.

One of the masses was about “Googling God.” You can search the web to find God and look up facts about God, but the reality is that you must discover God for yourself. Bishop Charles of Ghana mentioned that we get richer by opening up and listening to the testimony of others. Through life experiences and sharing of faith with others, you can find your own individual path with God.

Another one of the masses was about commitment: Be committed to love and be committed to the teachings and guidance from Jesus. The Bible tells us that love conquers all and that love is kind, patient, and not self-seeking amongst other beautiful things. In order to grow in God, we have to put aside our individual desires and work with each other to increase God’s army against sin and evildoings. Matthew 28:19 tells us to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” The purpose of the slogan of EIJL was to encourage youth to stand strong in our belief of God and be committed to spreading the gospel of God to all.

Being amongst so many young believers in a world consumed by peer pressure, hatred, and carelessness was motivation for me to take what I learned and to be that light and hope in someone else’s life that brings them closer to God. Brother Charles of Italy spoke about “Five Ways to be Light and Hope” – mistakes, risks, trust, forgiveness, and mentorship:

  • Sometimes you have to lose yourself in order to find yourself (mistakes) – don’t be afraid to fall down because in getting up, you’re letting others know that God is always there to catch you in bad time.
  • Having faith is a risk because it is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen. Believing in God and believing that things have already been out in the midst of your trouble is a definite risk but that is part of being a Christian and knowing for yourself that God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent.
  • Trusting in God is the opposite of fear. Fear should not stop us from living because when you have on the armor of God, you are prepared for any battle.
  • Forgiveness starts with inner self. We should forgive others, not because they ask us to (some will not ask or even care to ask), but to have true peace – to understand that carrying on grudges and burdens weighs us down and distances us from God.
  • The fifth way to be the light and hope is through mentorship. Experience, testimonies, and wisdom are what connect us all and by being a mentor and having a mentor, we are able to grow closer to each other and to God.

Faith is what kept me positive throughout the entire trip. I had faith that I would be safe wherever I went because God was with me. I had faith that I’d get to my destinations in a foreign country, and I had faith that no matter what happened, it happened for my good.

Service intensified to an extreme level of relation to me because through prayer, compassion, care, and friendship, we (everybody I met) served one another. When I had my first panic attack because a bridge almost collapsed, others served to make sure I was safe and well taken care of. When we were lost, we helped one another find our way. When we were hungry, we fed one another. I learned that service goes beyond the churches and cathedrals – service is part of life.

Community does not just include the people whom I am familiar with; community includes everybody. Community includes every person, young, old, and in between. For each individual person that took part in the 3.5 million believers at Copacabana Beach, we were a community the Pope Francis was excited to see.

This experience taught me the meaning of Lasallian that Google just could not provide!

 Andrea Guyton (Psychology ’14)