Richard, 21, from Workington writes:
“Thy Kingdom Come, Thy will be done”. Pretty famous words from a somewhat famous prayer that we even said in my state primary school. On the August bank holiday weekend I – along with 15 other young people from the diocese – made the 332-mile, 6 hour 27 minute journey to Norfolk. Not just to Norfolk but to Walsingham, a tiny village about 25 miles east of Kings Lynn. But I wasn’t just there camping like I told some of my family out of ease of explaining the ‘God Festival’. I was there celebrating, singing, dancing, praying, listening, learning and journeying with hundreds of other young adults at a Youth 2000 retreat.
I’d never been to a Walsingham Youth 2000 Retreat before so I wasn’t really sure what to expect: everyone had told me how great it was and I’d given up going to Leeds Festival for it, so I had pretty lofty expectations. I’m not going to run through a series of events or log my day by day activities but all I need to say is, after a summer essentially spent at Marian Shrines I half expected to be disappointed. I wasn’t. I went home exhausted, in need of a decent meal, but I went home elated. I no way did I want that weekend to be over. This article isn’t so much just about Youth 2000, but more about a realisation that I had whilst I was there. I had a couple of realisations actually, one being that I have the best group of friends ever! The second realisation I had was that of Christ. Jesus is always waiting; I suppose I’d always known this but I was yet to experience it in the way I did that weekend. Or I certainly hadn’t experienced it as powerfully as I did at Walsingham anyway. It first happened when I had somehow signed up for a 6am to 7am adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Now it’s the summer holidays so I had not seen 6am at all so it was a shock! I expected to go in there, to be freezing cold and to fall asleep. Now I was definitely freezing cold but I got in there, prayed my rosary, looked at my watch and thought, Great, now what am I going to for the next 40 minutes. I prayed Morning Prayer, still 25 minutes to go. Then I took my watch off and put it in my bag and forgot about it. Why was I counting the minutes until I could get away? I didn’t have to do anything special. I was sitting in the most special place in the world. Right at the feet of Christ. Not the foot of the cross, but the feet of Christ, alive in the Blessed Sacrament, burning with love and compassion.
The second occasion when I really experienced this was at the end of the festival. Now I’d spent most of the last morning at the hospital so by the time I got back I had missed Mass but went into the tent to find everyone. The Blessed Sacrament was gone, for the first time in 5 days, but everyone was still praising, praying and thanking God for all he had done for over the weekend. And that was when it struck me. We are the Church. We are Christ’s hands and feet, his eyes and ears on Earth. And it’s our mission to go out and be people of God. To love, to care, to cure, to be kind, to laugh, to live, the way He made us to live. To live in Love.
Reflecting upon the experience and my life in general, it struck me that it’s now been 3 years since I left Sixth Form. If things had worked out exactly as I had planned, I would now have graduated from the University of Cumbria with a QTS in RE Teaching. Or the more likely scenario is that I would have wasted 3 years of my life drinking and failed my degree because I was immature and lazy. As it happened God had a different plan. He wanted me to spend 2 years at Castlerigg Manor so I could grow into the person I am today before moving on to my career. We all have a different journey in life, some of us reach our goals quickly and some of us a little slower. But we will all burn as bright. Christ will be waiting for us all and we are all made with a purpose. All of us in our schools, colleges, at university, at work, with our friends, have a responsibility to be Christ’s hands and feet on Earth. Youth 2000 gives us the courage to do that. That’s the experience of the Church that every young person should have. And that is when ‘Thy Kingdom will come’ here on Earth.