Rosalinda Betancourth Montoya, a novice of the Daughters of Jesus at the noviciate at Pavillons-sous-Bois, France, shares her experience of being a group leader with the young people at “The Frat” 20023 at Lourdes. An experience that made a strong impact on her …
From the 24th to the 27th of April, I went to Lourdes as a group leader with a group from our parish youth chaplaincy and 800 other young people from the diocese of St Dénis for the gathering of young people, in Lourdes for the Frat 2023. Some 9000 senior high school students with a great diversity of origins and backgrounds, travelled from L’Ile- de- France to come together to pray, sing, share, and live together.
First created in 1908, the theme of this year’s Frat was « Do not be afraid ». (Click on the words in orange to listen to the dynamic Frat hymn!)
A variety of experiences
Our four days at Lourdes were varied :
- We shared in workshops, during one of which I was called to share my vocational experience.
- Times of praise, adapted for young people, brought us together in an effervescent atmosphere.
- There were several moments of recollection including masses, stations of the cross, confession, and a torchlight procession.
I was especially struck by the night od adoration and confession. What touched me was the depth with which the young lived this time of meeting and reconciliation with Christ.
The different testimonies were also an important moment during the meeting.
“Fear can be a motor, fear is a way to feel alive. Don’t be afraid, or at least learn to tame your fear and you will be committed men and women.”
“If you don’t want to be afraid of dying, you have to be happy; you know the adversary, the devil, is afraid of happy people, so if you don’t want to be afraid, scare him and be happy, give your life.”
“Jesus invites us to choose between fear and faith: to choose fear is to always remain on the same shore, to choose faith is to cross with Him to another shore.”
In our small group, we had the grace to listen to the testimony of Marie-Caroline Schürr. Handicapped and in a wheelchair, she made the Way of St James of Compostela alone! On the way she always found pilgrims to help her and take care of her. She encouraged us to know how to ask for help.
“In this life, we cannot be all-powerful, we have need of everyone from the smallest to the greatest.”
For me, what I lived with the young people at the Frat at Lourdes was an unforgettable experience.
The phrase “Don’t be afraid” accompanied me throughout the week. Living the Frat allowed me to overcome my fear of expressing myself in French and to come out of myself. In this way, I was able to discover in the young people their overflowing joy, their simplicity, and their thirst to be reconciled with the Lord and with themselves. Their deep faith energised my own.
During the torchlight procession, I entrusted myself to the Virgin Mary before entering the first sharing. It was an extraordinary moment when I felt full of trust, which allowed me to open up without fear.
For me, the meeting with the young people in the sharing was a special moment because they asked me to share my vocational experience with them. It gave me the opportunity to speak to them about God’s passage through my life, about his presence, and about the fact that He has never abandoned me, whether in trials or in happy moments. It is Jesus who has always sustained me, as well as the prayers of my family, the Congregation and others: “Because you are precious in my eyes, you are valuable, and I love you.” (Isaiah 43:4 )
Words of encouragement
I took time to encourage the young :
- « Don’t be afraid of responding to the Lord, you are not alone.»
- « Look for meaning in your life and attach yourself to Him. »
- « Continue to give your all in the small missions that you already have. »
All or nothing
Listening to the young people was a very enrichening experience for me. They openly expressed what they felt, their emotions, and their fears for the future. I think it is a big step forward not to be afraid to name your feelings, to be yourself, and to seize the moment.
All of this has stimulated me to live each experience fully, to give myself completely, to pursue my commitment faithfully and to live my deep desire to give my life to the Lord with joy.
Rosalinda Betancourth Montoya
Novice, Daughters of Jesus