5 Ways to Practice Solidarity at World Youth Day

Photo by Oscar Leiva for CRS

Excitement is building as people prepare to gather from countries around the world in Kraków, Poland for World Youth Day 2016. Those gathered will speak dozens of languages, represent different cultures, have various expressions of faith—and join together as one Church. It is a powerful image of solidarity, which means that we are united as brothers and sisters in Christ and that, as one family, we look after each other.

WYD offers a unique opportunity for pilgrims to reflect on and practice a spirituality of solidarity as they prepare for, go on and return from their journey. Below are a few tips from Catholic Relief Services about how to make the most of this experience. 

1. Pray for a deeper understanding of solidarity.   
As you prepare for and eventually make your pilgrimage, pause daily to remember why you are undergoing this experience. Pray that God will open your heart to others. Begin with this prayer for pilgrimages (en Español) to help you get started.   

2. Go out of your way to greet other people.
When else will you have the opportunity to meet people from all over the world at one time? As you participate and travel to WYD events, you will meet people from many different countries. Use the moments when you’re waiting to take a train or for an event to start as opportunities for encounter with others. Greet the folks near you and try to creatively interact with them, even if you don’t speak the same language. You might try singing songs—like Alleluia or Taizé songs—or praying the rosary at the same time, in your own language. You could also try to play a simple game together that doesn’t require language. Your group can play it first as other people watch and learn, and then motion to them to join in.

  • Here’s one idea: Invite folks to stand shoulder-to-shoulder in a tight circle. The game starts with everyone looking at the ground. At the leader’s signal, each person looks up immediately at someone else standing in the circle. If two people happen to make eye contact with each other, the person who shouts first stays in the circle and the other person is eliminated. Repeat until there are only two people left in the circle. These two win!  

3. Offer your pilgrimage for people around the world who are suffering most.
Sacrifice is a part of pilgrimage. Though it’s a privilege to participate in WYD, the experience may not be luxurious. Odds are high that you will sleep on a floor packed with other pilgrims, will be served food you don’t like, and will spend a lot of time waiting. Rather than complain in these moments, try approaching these inconveniences as opportunities to pray for others, like refugees, who have fled their home countries and do not have consistent access to housing or food, or who are stuck waiting for long periods of time to receive services. 

4. Learn about how the Church works in the countries you saw represented.
Remember where the people you meet live and look up their home countries when you return. CRS helps Catholics in the United States live their faith in solidarity with people who are in need overseas, reaching people in more than 100 countries. Check out CRS projects by country to learn about efforts in the places represented by people at WYD. And find out how you can get involved in this work through your youth ministry or university.    

5. Stay committed to the practice of mercy.
Whether you will read the pope’s WYD homily from your home in the U.S., or you will be worshiping with the masses in Krakow, you are bound to hear Pope Francis urge young people to practice Christ’s mercy. And while we certainly must start by showing mercy to the people with whom we interact every day, it should not end there. We can show mercy to people around the world. How? These small group resources discuss how to “live mercy” to help you more intentionally reflect with others on the issue. In addition, buying fair trade products—which ensure artisans and farmers around the world are paid fairly for their work—help us to “live mercy” in the market place. And you can ask lawmakers to enact merciful policies by speaking up through legislative advocacy.