A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of joining young Catholics like myself in the diocese’s annual Big Walk through the Lake District. During the walk, we spent a short period in which we each individually made our way down into the Ennerdale Valley, in silence and in solitude. For me, it was a defining moment, slowly descending into the green embrace of the valley as the mountains rose up behind me; the harsh, windswept rocks and brush of the mountaintops contrasted with the soft green trees and grasses lower down. The only sounds were the wind and the footsteps of the person a while behind me, reminding me that there is always someone there, whether that be physically or in spirit.
I took the opportunity to perform an examination of conscience. Had I been a good Catholic? Had I let God into the whole of my life in my actions and my words? To be honest, no. Yes, I had been going to Church, praying every day, but this was just a routine; being a Catholic is something to live, not merely a list of tasks to check off or rules to follow. What had happened? I think the problem is that, with the whole world open to us, we forget how good we have things. It’s easy to forget to turn to God when we don’t need anything, which, come to think of it, seems a little bit ungrateful. The endless distractions of modern life are sufficient to keep us from considering anything deeper than our everyday preoccupations; considerations which, as I found, reveal to us that we do need God after all, because that’s the whole point.
It was then that I realised, as I reached the bottom of the valley, why these times in which we can reflect on the lives we’ve built around us, times in which we can experience the wonder and awe of God’s creation, are so important. It’s something we need to do more often.