‘Let us prepare our hearts’- Advent Retreat Talk

‘Let us prepare our hearts’- Advent Retreat Talk


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This is a talk given at our advent retreat last weekend. Everyone from Year 9 and upwards is welcome to come to our advent and Easter retreats; they are a great chance to meet other young people and explore our faith further at these important times of year.

 

Ecclesiastes Chapter 3, Verses 1-8

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die;

A time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;

A time to kill, and a time to heal;

A time to break down, and a time to build up;

A time to weep, and a time to laugh;

A time to mourn, and a time to dance;

A time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;

A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

A time to seek, and a time to lose;

A time to keep, and a time to throw away;

A time to tear, and a time to sew;

A time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

A time to love, and a time to hate;

A time for war, and a time for peace.

All these feelings, these emotions, these stages of life. I’m sure we are all familiar with most, if not all, of them- in some way. Listing them out like this gives us a glimpse of the complexity of life, of what we can go through as individuals and communities, what we can feel.

A healthy approach to life is to have time for each of these, as the reading suggests. Too often we don’t make time for all the emotions, we pick and choose. We don’t let ourselves feel certain emotions, we might be scared of them, or not feel worthy. But we are brave enough, we are worthy! We need to consider things like grief, and sorrow. It’s healthy to be happy sometimes, and to be a bit down at others. To be ambitious sometimes, and to relax at other times. To fight for what we believe in, and to choose our battles. To dance, and to mourn. Having all of these things is what makes us human.

Just as human life is complicated and has many aspects, so is Christian life. Perhaps even more so, because we have this whole other dimension. The big guy in the sky. The Almighty. The infinite, all-loving, all-present creator. The Alpha and the Omega. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It can feel like our faith dumps a whole other load of responsibilities and checklists and things to do on us.

We’re meant to be:

-          Joyful and grateful for everything God gives us, including Himself.

-          Sorry for sinning against Him.

-          Trying our best, to discover and become the Saints He made us to be.

-          Pray and have a dialogue with God through our lives.

-          Stay awake and stand firm, as the Bible says, waiting for when Christ comes again.

How are we meant to do all of this?! It was enough just being human. It’s easy to see why we can feel put off at times, why having our faith seems like an unnecessary extra load. But we shouldn’t feel like that!

And we’ve all had those glimpses, sometimes they come more often than others, of the joy and inspiration we can get from our faith- that we can find nowhere else. Those moments remind us it is worth sticking at, but at times of struggle and confusion, those moments can fade away. But we can also not help ourselves by focussing too much on one aspect. I don’t know about you, but sometimes it can feel like we’re always talking about what sinners we are, or how life is hard. I know sometimes when I’m talking to groups on retreat here, and I focus on a particular aspect of our faith, I am concerned I sound a bit depressing, or completely out of touch. So it can be really helpful to have a structure to draw our attention to the different aspects of Christian life. So that we are sort of forced to change our perspective, even if we don’t feel like it.

And the Church gives us this incredible way of helping us to develop all the different aspects of the Christian life. We have different seasons of the year in the Church: Advent, Lent, Holy Week, Easter and Christmas, as well as feast days which celebrate the Saints.

In each season, the Church invites us to focus on a different aspect of Christian life. Like I said, it can be good to be dragged into a different perspective. God always has a message for each of us in these seasons, even if we don’t feel like being joyful, or saying sorry, or changing our lives for Jesus.

It won’t come as a surprise to you that today we’re going to be looking at Advent. What the focus of Advent is and how we can use Advent to enhance our lives as Christians.

My definition for advent (which I definitely didn’t nick off anyone else) is: Advent is a season of devout and joyful preparation for the coming of Jesus.

What do we mean by devout, and joyful? What comes to your mind when you hear those words?

Devout can make us think of pious, someone who is holier than thou. It doesn’t really mean that. Someone can be devout in something other than their faith. Someone who is passionate about a cause, or a sport or a subject could be considered devout. To be devout is to be firm, resolute, whole-hearted.

Joyful is often used in the same way as happiness, and they are similar in some ways. But joyfulness is something more profound- especially for people of faith. Joy is the sense that everything is going to be OK, because God loves us. We can be joyful even when the world is throwing us an absolute stinker of a day, or a week, or a year. We know that even though everything else seems to be going wrong, God loves us and has us close to Him.

So: advent is a time of devout and joyful preparation for the coming of Christ.

But, again, what do we mean by the coming of Christ?!

We remember Jesus coming to Earth at Christmas. When God became man, in one of the humblest ways imaginable. Reminding ourselves that this happened can be a great source of joy for us, that God loves us so much that He came down to Earth, He became one of us. In Him we have hope and joy, no matter what the world around us is doing, no matter how undeserving of His love and gifts we may be. Like the reading we hear at Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve/Day: ‘The people walking in darkness have seen a great light.’

But there are other ways to think about the coming of Jesus. Jesus told us again and again that, when he ascended into Heaven He was leaving us for now, but that He would return. He tells us parables about how we must be ready, at all times of year and all hours of the day. Ready for Him to come back. This is the question we must ask ourselves in advent. If Jesus were to come to Earth this Christmas, not just in the Gospel or in the Eucharist, but as recognisably as He did 2000 years ago, would we be ready? What sort of state would He find us in?

It isn’t just the Jesus on the clouds we are waiting for. We can and do encounter Jesus every day, even when we don’t realise. In scripture, in the Eucharist, in our neighbours and the least of those in our society.

In scripture we hear God’s words, both before, during and after Jesus’ time on Earth. It’s important that we remember that when we read scripture, God is speaking to us in our lives today. So, it can help if we try and read it prayerfully.

Do we go to Mass as much as we should? Do we concentrate, or let our mind wander?

Do we always love our neighbour? Especially those who are poor and vulnerable, who can offer us nothing in return. A priest in a Parish, in a particularly deprived area of a city in Lancashire. He told me that, when visiting some of his new parishioners, he saw where Christ would be born if he returned today.

This is the question we should ask ourselves this advent: are we ready to let Jesus into our lives?

Happy New Year! Wait, what?

Happy New Year! Wait, what?

OK, let’s change that to Happy New Liturgical Year! Its less snappy but avoids the confusion.

The Church has a set calendar, which determines what readings are heard at masses every day of the year, all over the world. This is one of many ways in which we are part of a universal Church; every time we go to Mass or read the readings of the day (as you can here), we read and pray about the same readings as every other Christian all over the world. Like St Paul said, we are all part of one body- the Church- and God speaks to us both as a whole and individually every day in the readings.

As you may have discovered if you’ve ever picked up a Bible (if you haven’t, I can recommend it), there is a lot of it to read! So the Church breaks it down into useful chunks which are just enough for us to take in in one sitting. This way, we have enough readings to last us for three years before we repeat ourselves! These three years are called Year A, Year B and Year C. We start a new year on the First Sunday of Advent, which was this last Sunday- hence the title of this blog!

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We have just entered Year C, which takes most of its Sunday Gospels from Luke’s Gospel.

St Luke is believed to have been born around the time of the birth of Jesus, and by trade was a doctor. We know this because St Paul refers to him as ‘our friend Luke, the Doctor’, in his letter to the Colossians. Luke did not know Jesus during Jesus’ life on Earth, but rather came to be a Christian after hearing of Jesus through St Paul. Luke is understood to have travelled with Paul and learnt all about Jesus’ life, ministry and teachings. Being an educated man, he was able to write them down in a book we now know as Luke’s Gospel! Few people were able to write in these times, and fewer had the money to buy ink and papyrus (paper) to write with.

Luke did not only write his Gospel, he also wrote the book of the Bible called ‘The Acts of the Apostles’. This book documents the adventures and trials of the apostles and their companions, spreading the good news of Jesus in the years and decades after the resurrection. People who have studied the Bible recognize the similar writing style of the authors of the two books, and in Acts the author refers to ‘my earlier work’. The Acts of the Apostles is a Testament to the power of the Apostles’ belief in Jesus; they were willing and ready to go to the ends of the Earth, to be discriminated against, imprisoned and even put to death for their belief. But they knew, as we know now, that Jesus is the truth, and He was with them as He is with us today. We can take so much inspiration from the Apostles for our own lives!

In his two books, St Luke gives us a big chunk of the total Bible. He is a really important source of information about the life of Jesus and the actions of the early Church. I hope you enjoy hearing more from him on the Sundays of this next year!

Rememberance

Rememberance

This last Sunday, our communities, towns, cities and nation joined much of the world in commemorating the end of the First World War. Moving memorials and pieces of art have been added to pre-existing memorials and cenotaphs recently, to mark this special 100-year anniversary.

As young people, it can be particularly poignant for us to reflect on how the war changed, and still changes, the lives of so many young people. The young men who went to fight in Northern France in 1914-18 became known as ‘The Lost Generation’. Few families were lucky enough to not experience some loss at the hands of the war, be it a father, a son, a brother or an uncle. Watching a documentary last weekend, I was struck by just how many young men were not just willing to sign up to fight, but excited to do so. There are stories of some boys, as young as 14, lying about their age to sign up. The things these boys and young men went through and saw are beyond our worst nightmares. We are always told by our parents and teachers that the years of our youth are the best years of our life, and they may be right! So, it’s important that we remember the boys and young men of the First World War, who gave the best years of their lives, and indeed in many cases their entire lives, so that we can enjoy the peace and freedom we have today. As the quote states: ‘For your tomorrow, we gave our today.’

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War can seem a distant thing to us today, and we are very blessed that it is. The closest we get here at Castlerigg is when the RAF fly over Keswick, practicing their low-flight manoeuvres. It’s always a real spectacle when they fly over, and the noise is awesome. When we are out walking with school groups, and the planes fly over, all the young people are amazed! Having become more used to it now, though, I find my mind drawn to the other places in the world where warplanes fly over at such a low altitude. Places like Syria and Yemen. There, the sight of a warplane is not a spectacle to admire, or something to get excited about: it’s something that puts great fear in your heart, an omen of death. In the UK, we take for granted that such a sight in the sky is a friendly sight, which would never do us any harm. What a great contrast.

Let us pray, giving thanks to God for the peace in our country, and Europe, today. We pray for our leaders, that they will have the wisdom and courage to always pursue peace. Lord, hear us.

We pray for those who have been killed or had their lives changed in the course of fighting for their country. That they may be welcomed into your Kingdom. Lord, hear us.

Let us pray for the areas of the world where there is war and conflict, especially Syria and Yemen. That civilians may find shelter and safety, and that leaders of warring nations and factions may strive towards true peace. Lord, hear us.

Let us pray for those whose job it is to keep us safe. That You, Lord, will keep them safe. Comfort them, and their families, in their worry and fear. Lord, hear us.

Saint Oscar Romero, Pray For Us!

Saint Oscar Romero, Pray For Us!

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In a Mass in St Peter’s Square, Rome, on Sunday 14th October, attended by some 60,000 people, Pope Francis canonised seven people. This means that they are now formally recognised as saints by the Church! If someone is recognised as a saint by the Church, it means they were good and faithful Christians who set an example for us all today, and they are now in heaven with God, watching over us. It’s important to realise they were not perfect, as none of us are, but they tried their best and never gave up faith in God.

Huge images of the new saints hung from St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. You can find out more about all the new saints here, but in this post we are just going to look at one of our new saints, perhaps the most famous: Saint Archbishop Oscar Romero.

Romero was born in 1917 in El Salvador, and was ordained a priest in 1942. He became the Archbishop of San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador, in 1977. In 1979, a group of military leaders overthrew the government of El Salvador, establishing a military dictatorship in the country. El Salvador then descended into a twelve-year civil war.

 Romero spoke out against the failings and brutalities of the regime, being mainly concerned with poverty, social injustice, assassinations and the use of torture. This was also a time when Catholics in particular were persecuted in El Salvador, especially Priests and Nuns who were working with the poor. He would give speeches on the radio which huge swathes of the population would tune in for, talking about people who had been killed or imprisoned by the regime, and calling out the regime for its cruel actions.

 On 23 March 1980, Romero delivered one of these radio sermons, in which he called on Salvadoran soldiers, as Christians, to obey God's higher order and to stop carrying out the government's repression and violations of basic human rights. The following day, while celebrating Mass in a hospital chapel, Romero was shot dead by an assassin. His death sparked an international outcry, and his funeral was attended by hundreds of thousands of people- it was described as the biggest protest in the history of El Salvador.

 What can we take from the life of Saint Oscar?

 The Gospel reading heard during Mass on Sunday was from Mark, where Jesus was asked what must be done to have eternal life. Pope Francis described how the man asking was caught off guard by the answer he received, that it is easier for a camel to fit through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven! This answer was not one of “supply and demand” but rather “a story of love,” Francis said.

 This echoed with much of the life of Saint Oscar. He could have chosen an easier path, to not ruffle the feathers of the military dictators which ruled his country. But he was faithful to the Gospel, and Jesus.

 So, when we look at the example of Saint Oscar Romero, we should be inspired to be a voice for the voiceless in our society. Let’s not rely on material possessions to fill our hearts, but love for God and our neighbour- whoever they may be. The teachings of the Gospel can make us uncomfortable at times, they call us to step out of the comfort of our lives, to see Jesus in the poorest and most vulnerable in our society, and to let go of our material possessions. But, as Pope Benedict said, we were not made for comfort, we were made for greatness!

Saint Oscar Romero, pray for us!

CAFOD - Step into the Gap

CAFOD - Step into the Gap

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Hi, my name is Sharon. I’m a third year Psychology student, taking a year out to do a sandwich placement at Castlerigg Manor, Lake District. I’m volunteering as part of a programme called Step into the Gap, run by CAFOD.

During my time at Castlerigg, I will be helping young people learn about Christ. I love working with young people, they bring a lot of colour and happiness into my life. I also love helping people. Prior to volunteering for CAFOD I worked for Victim Support helping Victims of Crime, and Age UK helping patients who have Alzheimer’s, whilst teaching the elderly IT skills (a very fun experience!) As you can see I’m a people’s person.

I will be going to schools and parishes to talk about the projects CAFOD are doing such as “Hands On” and “World Poor Day”, encouraging young people to embrace global justice and do our bit to make a difference in the world.

At the end of my year I will be going to see the projects CAFOD do overseas that transform people’s lives. I’m very excited to learn, and be inspired by this experience.

I have made many friends since I’ve settled into Castlerigg. As you can see above, I have a wonderful family at CAFOD and Castlerigg. There are eight other gappers on both teams. We have got on so well and learned many things about each other. Hope to make amazing memories with them.  Wishing everyone all the very best for the year ahead!

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Medjugorje

Medjugorje

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“They think that they can do it without directing their thoughts to the Heavenly Father, who illuminates – to my Son, who is always with you, anew in the Eucharist and who desires to listen to you” – Our Lady Queen of Peace’s Message to the visionary Mirijana, 2nd August 2018

This year, I travelled to Medjugorje on pilgrimage for an annual youth festival, with a group of my closest friends and other young people from all over the UK. Medjugorje, a small town in Bosnia and Herzegovina, was the home of six children, to whom the Queen of Peace is reported to have appeared to since 1981. After spending many beautiful summers in Lourdes with Lancaster Diocese, I had high expectations from Our Lady for this trip.

My relationship with God began with a prayer I made in the grotto in Lourdes. There, I was filled with a peace that I had hoped to find again as I began my pilgrimage in Medjugorje. But, our God is a God of the unexpected, and peace was not the principle gift that I was to receive in this little town. Despite the reverence that encircles Medjugorje, this place felt different. I felt that Our Lady was working here now, and her message was urgent. Whilst in Lourdes as a 16-year-old girl, God had told me, ‘its all going to be ok’, here I could hear him telling me ‘perhaps it won’t always feel okay, but what does that matter? I am with you anyway.’ It was once I accepted the message of this pilgrimage, that I allowed God to work his wonders in me that week.

Whether it was dancing to the praise-music of the festival, the Croatian woman that hugged each of us as she said “peace be with you” or watching the sunrise in the middle of Mass, you could feel the joy of the Holy Spirit working throughout this town; a joy that has lasted long after I stepped off that return flight into rainy Leeds. As my friends and I spoke of this pilgrimage, we knew that this joy had been kindled throughout the group and couldn’t just be kept amongst us. It felt impossible to leave Medjugorje without feeling as though something needed to be done. Daily, the visionaries share a new message from Our Lady, to tell us that something in our lives needs to change. If we only listen to her message, a message of such powerful peace, then this change can become fully alive in the world.

Rachael

Castlerigg

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his own cross and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life, for my sake, will save it.

-       Mark 8:27-35

Last Sunday’s Gospel reading was a big one. Not for its length, but for the effect it could have on our lives. This week we are going to take a section of the Gospel, which you can read above, and look at it bit-by-bit.

Jesus is telling us to renounce ourselves, take up our cross and follow him. This is a pretty huge command. Why should we ‘renounce ourselves’? What does that even mean? To renounce means to reject or abandon something. So, do we have to sell everything we own and wear a sack for clothes like the High Sparrow in Game of Thrones? Well, maybe…but we don’t have to do that (and I’m certainly not recommending it!).

 

For me, renouncing myself as Jesus tells us to means not living my life by my own way, but by God’s way. We can often think we know best, and that we know what we want and what is best for us, but when we do this we often find ourselves at dead ends, or things go wrong and we get in a mess! When we follow our own desires, we ultimately find ourselves unhappy and unfulfilled, having followed things that don’t make us truly happy.

 

This is what Jesus is telling us to renounce in this passage: our own imperfect ways! Instead we can take the path God is laying out for our lives. Let’s let all our worldly desires go, because they will only fail us. Instead let’s follow God, and let his love into our lives. This doesn’t necessarily mean forcing ourselves into poverty and spending every moment praying in Church, but it means living our lives the way God wants us to. It means saying to God, during good times, as well as the bad and just plain uncertain: ‘God, I’m trusting you here. Please guide me through this.’ At University, I often found myself out of my comfort zone: be it with friendships and relationships or with an essay that would just not write itself. I wouldn’t always turn to God, sometimes trying to plough through my troubles myself or other times simply burying my head in my duvet. These were both sure fire ways to burn out or get a rubbish mark on my work. But when I did turn to God, I found that I had renewed strength, and peace in my heart. I found myself being closer to the best version of myself that I knew- the person God made me to be!

 

This links in to the next part of the sentence, when Jesus tells us to ‘take up your cross and follow me’. We can take our cross to mean the heavy things we carry through life; our burdens and responsibilities, worries and fears, and all the rest. Being a Christian comes with burdens. It means we can’t always do what we want to in the moment, or that we are judged by those who stereotype people of faith. It can mean that we have to drag ourselves out of bed on a Sunday morning to get to Mass- as the team did this week, we got drenched! But the beauty of our faith is that we know Jesus is with us through all of this. By willingly taking up His own cross, and dying on it, he shares in all our burdens, all our fears and worries, all our wet and windy walks to Mass! He is with us through it all, and all He asks is that we stay with Him on our journey of life, because He loves us and wants to be with us.

 

Lord, you came to Earth to share in all our sufferings, both great and small. Help us to trust you, and to follow your path in our lives. Please be with us, because we cannot carry our crosses without you. Amen.

Castlerigg Team - 2018/19

Castlerigg Team - 2018/19

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When every new team arrives at Castlerigg in the middle of August, we’re all at different stages of life. Some of us are fresh out of sixth form, and have little experience of the workplace, while others have been out of university for a year and are familiar with work routines and practices such as safeguarding. We are also all at different stages of our faith journey, with some of us not even being Catholic. With that in mind, the two and half weeks of training we go through as a team are designed to bring us rapidly up to speed with all things Castlerigg and youth ministry; as well as getting to know the people we’re going to be spending the next year of our lives with!

After we said farewell to our families on moving-in day, there were a fair few moments of uncertainty and doubt, but the leadership team were always on hand to keep us busy, getting to know each other and our new home. One of our first ‘team-building’ tasks was taking us out rowing on Derwentwater, which some of us took to more easily than others… But it did the trick of bringing us together as a team, and for fun. Phelim’s vast collection of board games has similarly kept us busy in the evenings.

Having only been here for two weeks, we all agree that it feels as though we have known each other for much longer. Theresa particularly notes how quickly she became comfortable with her new housemates, which helped her to be more confident and engage in all we were doing as a team. Being in such a close environment has meant that we have quickly learned to rely on each other, be it with washing up after meals or looking out for each other when we’re out on walks.

What’s more, we’ve had a selection of the Diocese’s best and brightest coming to give us talks and presentations on various topics. These ranged from safeguarding and professional standards to the sacraments and how to read the Bible in a prayerful way. They were all very engaging and thought-provoking, Rachael particularly enjoyed Fr Chris Loughran’s talk on the importance of having a personal encounter and relationship with Jesus. For each of us, it is our personal relationship with Christ that has drawn us here to Castlerigg, and it is this that we are so excited to share with young people (you!) this year. 

We’ve also had two excursions out of Castlerigg, to Walsingham for Youth 2000 (See our other blog!) and also last weekend on The Big Walk. Most of us were experiencing these things for the first time and so they continued to bring us closer together. The boys in particular were united in solidarity against Patrick’s snoring in the boys’ tent…

So, in all, training has been a busy but positive time for us. Full of new experiences, faces and responsibilities. We have already grown as individuals and as a team in the last few weeks, and with our first school retreat just days away we are all eager to get started. It was great to welcome Bishop Paul this weekend, both for the Big Walk but also to have him formally commission us as gap year volunteers. At Mass, he prayed ‘May the Lord, who has begun this good work in you, bring it to fulfilment’. This is our prayer too!
 

Share in the Joy

Share in the Joy

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This weekend the new team travelled to Walsingham in Norfolk, to attend the Youth 2000 festival. First and foremost, our thanks to those who got us there, especially Fr Alf from St Wulstan’s and St Edmund’s Fleetwood, in his Parish minibus! Walsingham is a picturesque village which has a strong history as a place of pilgrimage for Catholics. In 1061, Richeldis De Faverches prayed to Our Lady the Mother of Jesus and Our Lady led her in Spirit to Nazareth, in which Mary told her to build in Walsingham a replica of the Holy House of Nazareth, where Jesus grew up. When she achieved this, Walsingham became as famous as Jerusalem as a place of pilgrimage for Catholics in the Middle Ages. The original Holy House was destroyed in the reformation, but the ‘Slipper Chapel’ and Shrine remain.

The Youth 2000 festival brings together over a thousand people mostly ages 16-35, as well as inspirational speakers from all over the world and dozens of priests and religious. The festival is centred on a huge circus tent, within which Jesus can be found 24/7 in the Blessed Sacrament. We gathered in His presence every day to hear from speakers such as Anthony Gielty and Mary Bielski. We prayed and sang uplifting songs of worship, and to celebrate mass.

We could also spend some time in quiet with Jesus late at night or early in the morning. Phelim took the brave calling to spend some time in adoration at 3am on Saturday Morning. He reports that he enjoyed taking some time reading the story of the road to Emmaus from the Gospel and simply reflecting on a busy day in the tranquillity of the Lord. We let him off for having a bit of a lie-in the next morning…

We all got a lot from the weekend, which for many of us was the first opportunity to take part in such a joyful and vibrant celebration of our Catholic faith. It was emboldening to meet and get to know so many other young people, as well as priests and religious, who are faithfully living out their lives as followers of Christ. It served as an important reminder that our faith is not something that should be restricted to one hour on a Sunday, but something that should soak through our entire lives; and fill us with pure love and joy!

Patrick, who had never been to a Youth 2000 event before, was struck by how passionate people were about their faith: ‘I think it’s good for people to have a space to do that in an increasingly secular world.’ He also enjoyed the healing night, and found the testimonies really powerful. People with ailments such as chronic back pain found they had been taken away after being prayed over.

The theme of the festival was ‘Share in the Joy’. Since arriving at Castlerigg just over a week ago, we have been getting to know each other as we embark on this year together. By sharing in the joy of Christ in such an enthusiastic way at Walsingham, we have certainly grown closer as a team and as friends. As the old mantra states, ‘the family who prays together stays together’!

As many of the speakers reminded us this weekend, Jesus brought us all to Walsingham for a unique reason, and the same is true for us as we begin our year at Castlerigg. We can’t wait to get started, and look forward to sharing the joy with you soon!

Sponsored Walk

Sponsored Walk

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On the 28th May an intrepid group set out from Castlerigg Manor for the sponsored walk. Fr John had planned a challenging route, taking in some of the amazing Lake District landscapes, and the day lived up to expectations.

Each year Castlerigg Manor welcomes thousands of young people and fundraising helps us to keep the costs down to enable everyone to participate. The ten participants on the walk had a target of raising a thousand pounds each and, although money is still coming in, it looks like we are on target.

We left Castlerigg Manor by minibus, ready to set off from Grasmere. It was a beautiful sunny day and, although showers were threatened in the forecast, we barely saw a cloud all day. The route started out by climbing rapidly from Grasmere to Stone Arthur, a challenge in the heat, where the views over the valley opened out below us. From there it was up again to Great Rigg, and then on to Fairfield, where we could see ahead of us along the Helvellyn range. In the way was a sharp descent to Grisedale Tarn, passing a few people brave enough to try swimming, before climbing again to Dollwagon Pike.

From Dollywagon Pike the path continued to rise and fall, taking in Nethermost Pike on our way to Helvellyn, the highest point of the day. Continuing north, we left the tourists behind and found ourselves on the quieter peaks of White Side, Raise, Stybarrow Dodd, Watsons Dodd, Great Dodd, and eventually Clough Head. The heat of the day proved a challenge, and as we came to these latter summits water was in short supply (and not to be found on the ridges!). The final descent to St John’s in the Vale was steep and rocky, passing old mine workings before reaching the road and a car loaded with bottled water – a very welcome sight.

We were delighted to be joined on the walk by Bishop Paul, as well as staff from several of our schools. Everyone enjoyed the day and finished with a great sense of achievement. We’d walked 17.15 miles, climbed a total of 6,102 feet and reached the summit of twelve Lakeland fells.  Along the way we had the chance to get to know each other, and spent a whole day in awe of the beautiful countryside around us.

You can still donate at MyDonate

Shine Where You Can

Shine Where You Can

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A talent is something that we are born with that gives us unique skills and abilities.

Talent is set apart from knowledge in that it is not a learned behaviour, although it can be strengthened and practiced.

“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace” 1 Peter 4:10.

The Bible tells us that we are all born with different talents and gifts that set us apart from each other. When you discover the talents that God has given you, thank God for them. Living out your talents it can help us find our unique calling in life.

Paris is one of the Castlerigg Manor volunteers who decided to step out of her normal routine and her comfort zone in Barrow to serve God through serving the Diocese searching and living out her Faith, living in community carrying out youth work sharing her gifts and talents each day and encouraging others to find their own.

One of Paris’s talents is music. She is very talented at singing and I have been telling her how she inspires the young children through singing practice and social time.

In the book of Gary Zukav called 'The seat of the Soul' which I am reading at the moment, he describes the Authentic power as the power that will never leave you but will benefit other people around you. Our best legacy we can leave behind in life, I believe, is that we share our talents, be it singing, playing football, playing guitar or something else. Every one of us was created with solutions to the challenges of others, through empowering them by using the talents we have.

You may have heard about ‘The Voice’ on national television. It is a campaign across England for spotting talented musicians who will participate in next year’s television show, and the winner is receives a recording contract and £100,000.

Well, recently in Keswick there have been auditions for this programme and it was of great joy to see our own Paris participating in the process in front of so many people. It was also great to see her in the Keswick Reminder too.

Through Paris’s example of sharing her talent I came to know that it’s better to believe in yourself and you keep your head held high so you can “run the race with endurance” Hebrews 12:1.

It reminds me that is “a man who sets to win, he never say impossible”.

If you have a talent, let it grow, do not hide it!

Cleo - Castlerigg Manor

 

Rosary Around the Coast of the British Isles

Rosary Around the Coast of the British Isles

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On Sunday 29th April, the Catholics of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland formed a Human Rosary chain around the entire coast!

Over 400 locations were officially registered and an estimated 45,000 Catholics took their Rosaries in their hands to the coast to pray for Faith, Life and Peace!

The event brought together our Church in the UK, with Bishops, Priests, Religious, Laity and youth all praying as one at 3pm for Faith, Life and Peace.

I went home to Fleetwood where I worked with Canon Alf Hayes to get a team together to organise our rosary for the area. Someone opened their Chalet on the beach and provided hot drinks, someone else brought their Statue of Our Lady and others brought so much joy to the cold showery afternoon that it was.

I love my home town and I spend most of my time on the beach when I’m home just reflecting on life and appreciating the views looking across to Morecombe, Barrow and the Lake District hills. On this occasion it was a beautiful experience, firstly receiving a special Apostolic blessing from Pope Francis and knowing that St Wulstan’s and St Edmund’s Parish were  joined together with St Mary’s and even a couple from the Willows in Kirkham to pray our rosary led by some of the Parishioners including our young people, gazing across to the other parts of the Diocese but, also on a bigger scale joining in prayer around the country.

St George, Pray for us.

St David, Pray for us.

St Andrew, Pray for us.

St Patrick, Pray for us.

Patricia, Fleetwood & Castlerigg

Why Should You Join Us In Lourdes?

Why Should You Join Us In Lourdes?

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Ella (centre) and Paris-Ayo (right) explain why they are going to Lourdes with the Youth Service this year:-

 

ELLA

This summer, after finishing my gap year at Castlerigg Manor, I am travelling with the Lancaster diocese, along with other young people from surrounding schools and parishes, to Lourdes. I have never been before and am looking forward to learning more about this special place in the run up to our trip.

Before now I have never really had the opportunity to go to Lourdes, my high school didn’t go every year and I missed out when they did go, but it is definitely something I have always wanted to do. I have had a very Catholic upbringing from my mum, catholic primary and secondary education, and have heard a lot about Lourdes from family, teachers and friends, all speaking very fondly of the Holy place, the amazing experiences people have there and how it has been a significant turning point in a lot of people’s faiths.

I didn’t know too much about Lourdes before I signed up but I always knew that part of our pilgrimage to Lourdes is to assist the sick and that this trip is more for them than us, this is one of the main things that appealed to me about the pilgrimage.  I have given this year to serving God through the youth and I am so blessed to now have this opportunity to serve the sick, I am a big believer in that through serving others we are ultimately serving God.

I also knew I would get to see some amazing places like the Grotto where Our Lady appeared to Bernadette, but apart from that I was pretty clueless. In some ways it made me more excited because there was so much to discover but I feel at a big disadvantage having never been to Lourdes before because it is a really special place for Catholics and as I said a huge milestone in many faith journeys.

Only this past weekend on our Lourdes Prep retreat did I really find out how much we do and get to experience in Lourdes, including torchlight processions, bathing in Bernadette’s spring, visiting the Basilica on many occasions, St Bernadette’s walk, international mass in the underground basilica, sacrament of the sick for our sick pilgrims (VIP’s) and of course free time with the VIP’s from our Diocese. I have met a few young people that will be travelling with us on our 24hr coach trip, and am so inspired at the huge numbers of young people that spend a week out of their summer to assist the sick, something a lot of their peers wouldn’t usually do.

If you would like to support me, I am currently fundraising to be able to go on this amazing trip, and my crowdfunding page is: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/ella-lourdes

God bless,

Ella

O Dear White Rose,

Whose petals enfold our hearts,

Draw us to the centre of your sweetness, Jesus.

Amen

PARIS

After taking part in the preparation weekend for our upcoming pilgrimage to Lourdes, it has reminded me of the amazing experience I had back in 2015, making me even more excited for being there again in the summer. To me, Lourdes is a place full of hope and shows us what true faith is, to see thousands of people all on their own personal pilgrimages come together to share in their faith and the love of Christ is indescribable. When I signed up for the Lourdes pilgrimage back in 2015, initially I was extremely nervous as I didn’t feel I had a true understanding of what Lourdes was and I felt that my understanding of my faith was nothing compared to the people around me. However, shortly after arriving in Lourdes I realised that this wasn’t important anymore. It was about opening up my heart to Christ, understanding the love Mary our mother has for us and helping others to enter into this experience.

There are so many moments from this pilgrimage that have had a great impact on my faith. One was an experience I had at the Grotto, the place of which Our Lady appeared to Bernadette. I felt as though so far I had been struggling to really enter into the experience, but in that moment I truly felt as though she was with me and was showing me she was there with us every moment of our pilgrimage to comfort and reassure us.                                                   

I was lucky enough to be able to both assist and spend time with some of the most amazing and inspiring pilgrims from our diocese, who really helped to make the experience so memorable for me. One afternoon, after assisting a Lady to the basilica in the domain, we took some time to explore and spent time in adoration and praying the rosary in the Eucharistic tent. This will always be so important to me as it showed how faith truly brought people together. It showed me that people of different ages, genders and nationalities were all able to join in prayer because of this sacred site and Our Lady.

After meeting the young people, I will be traveling to Lourdes with, I am even more excited for what this pilgrimage will bring. I have enjoyed my gap year here at Castlerigg so much and I believe this experience will help me to carry on exploring and sharing my faith after finishing my year here.

Lourdes is a truly beautiful and incredible place and no matter where you may be on your faith journey, or what your understanding is of Lourdes, I would strongly encourage anyone to take the opportunity to visit this remarkable place.

God Bless, Paris

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Easter Retreat

Easter Retreat

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Katie - Castlerigg Team

I really didn’t know what to expect for the Castlerigg Easter retreat, I was so excited for it but I had no idea what it would be like. I have wanted to go for a few years but other things have always come up so I didn’t get the chance. Being part of the team at Castlerigg has given me the opportunity to get involved in such an important and inspiring retreat.

It was really great to meet young people who were so enthusiastic and so happy to be back at Castlerigg. The Thursday evening consisted of celebrating mass in the chapel and the blessed sacrament was removed from the tabernacle. Sister, Cleophas and I had also spent the previous day transforming the conference room in to a garden of Gethsemane so we spent an hour watching and praying with Jesus, time to reflect on the sacrifice Jesus made for us and how we can use this as an example to sacrifice ourselves for others.

I learnt that the cross is where the anger of people and the mercy of God meet and, because of the cross, we are saved from our sins. We venerate the cross in the Good Friday service to express the thankfulness we have for the sacrifice He made for us. I find it so difficult to even imagine the pain that Jesus went through to save us. We had the opportunity to see the stations of the cross through Mary’s point of view. This helped me to comprehend the sadness and the pain of Jesus and Mary on this day. We also got the chance to reflect upon the Passion of Jesus Christ and how we can relate in some way to each character of the Passion through a creative activity.

Holy Saturday helped me to understand about how we can empty ourselves of our sins and the things that get in the way of our relationship with God. In the evening, we had a beautiful service in the parish church. The music led by both the team at Castlerigg and the music group at the parish was really lovely. It was a brilliant service and filled us all with so much happiness and hope. When we got back, we had a late night Easter egg hunt in the garden at 11pm! The day finished with an Easter vigil party, which was so much fun.

I had a wonderful time on the Easter retreat, I am already planning on going next year! I met some of the most inspiring and lovely people and it was a real blessing having an opportunity to be part of it. I had so much fun but I also learnt so much as well. I always love going to the Easter services in my local parish but I often don’t understand the importance of some aspects of the different services so it was really good to get a better insight in to the Easter triduum. If you are thinking about coming to the Easter retreat one year, I would definitely recommend that you do because you will not regret it!

If you need any more convincing read what some of this years attendees had to say:-

 

Amy - Carlisle

Amazing experience, my heart is full of joy and has made me realise I want to be baptised.

Alex - Blackpool

Amazing and so relaxed. It brought me closer to God, even more than last time, I get to know more every time and it was great to see and get to know people.

Jess - Blackpool

Loved every minute! As a non-Catholic it has certainly made me think more about how to deal with different areas of life and how Jesus can work through them.

Jess - Fleetwood

It’s my first retreat at Castlerigg, totally different to what I expected, really feel welcomed into a bigger family. I understand the Easter message and walking through each stage of the Triduum made me understand so much more!

Ben - Bury

It’s amazing to see so many people and get the chance to allow our Catholic family to grow. Very thought provoking in our reflection time and this Easter retreat has helped me understand how to pray to God.

My Time in Lourdes, France

My Time in Lourdes, France

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I cannot wait to go back to Lourdes one day because my adventure was truly fun and amazing as I had to reflect on my faith and also to help children.

When Fr. John told me that I may have opportunity travelling with HCPT group 56 From Preston to Lourdes I couldn’t believe at first because I thought he was joking as Lourdes is one of the places I studied about during my High school and wished to visit.

Being a non-European citizen, the journey to Lourdes wasn’t easy at all as I had to do some paper work like applying for French Visa but I can’t thank enough both my team leaders at Castlerigg Manor and Mr. Richard of HCPT group 56 who provided me with necessary support.

Lourdes is well known to millions of religious pilgrims, but you don’t have to be religious, to enjoy a trip to Lourdes as it has a lot of attractions that everyone must enjoy ranging from good weather to nice hotels.

My aim in Lourdes was not to stay in Five-star hotel but to serve God through serving his people as HCPT takes vulnerable people especially children to Lourdes every year.

I am a person who believes that we don’t need to be strong church attenders in order for us to prove that we love God but we need to focus on helping people as the best way of serving God.

This year’s HCPT pilgrimage theme was summarised in three important words that is “YOU ARE IMPORTANT” indeed through sermons from different preachers, Priests, Deacons and Bishops I became to know that everyone is important and that we all deserve the same.

I can’t explain enough, my time in Lourdes but what I can say was a well spent worthy Easter week as I met different people but mostly to see a place where Mary met Benedetti, the little girl who became a source of faith to people both young and old in this world.

I remember many people in wheelchairs at all the processions and services, the pilgrims who waited patiently to take their turn in the baths near the grotto. Over 25,000 pilgrims gathered in Lourdes in the shrine, several huge basilicas and churches dominated the grounds.

My favourite moment was when my face was painted by our HCPT group 56 members and also to hold Group banner during torchlight processions for which Lourdes is famous, a flickering ribbon of light held by pilgrims singing hymns of praise in a long line of groups of men and women holding large banners aloft bearing the names of their cities and churches

I can’t finish my experience in Lourdes without talking about grotto the most respected small place in this world because I considered it to be the heart of the sanctuary.

CLEOPHAS TUKAMARWA

 

 

 

 

 

Lake District - World Heritage Site

Lake District - World Heritage Site

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Living here in Keswick is a real blessing and has really opened our eyes to the beauty of the Lake district that we are lucky enough to have on our own doorstep. It is so great to finally see it with the title it deserves as it has been named a ‘World Heritage Site’, sharing the same status as incredible places such as the Taj Mahal and the Grand Canyon.

We were lucky enough to go down to Crow Park, overlooking Derwentwater, joining Keswick’s community in celebration of this. The lovely weather, the picturesque scenery surrounding the Park and the excitement felt throughout the town made the day so special. Keswick’s theatre company by the Lake and St. Herbert’s Primary School helped us celebrate the occasion with wonderful performances, all building towards Prince Charles himself speaking and unveiling a commemorative plaque.

In light of the event he said:

‘‘Whenever I come here and, in the words of Psalm 121 ‘lift up mine eyes unto the hills’, I feel my spirits rise and I know the same is true of countless others.’’

It was brilliant to hear Prince Charles speak of the beauty of our home, sharing in his experience and hopefully helping us all to understand the importance of our Lake District and of its care and protection. Having such beauty around us can sometimes lead us to taking it for granted, so this day was a real wake up call to how lucky we are.

We were then fortunate enough to have a brief conversation about the day and our work here at Castlerigg with the Prince of Wales after the event, which was a great finish to such a lovely morning.  It was amazing to see so many people from Keswick and the surrounding areas turn up and share our love for the lakes, hopefully enjoying the day as much as we did. It was so great to see the future King of England have such passion for keeping the natural beauty of England protected and ensuring its recognition.

Paris and Ella - Castlerigg

SPUC Youth Conference

SPUC Youth Conference

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Early in March, a few of the team from Castlerigg attended the SPUC Youth Conference for a weekend down in Stone, near Stoke-on-Trent. The Society for Protection of Unborn Children was something I didn’t know a lot about until recently and abortion has always been a bit of a taboo topic for me as an eighteen year old girl. It’s difficult in today’s society, especially if you want to fit in, to know when it is appropriate to voice your views on such controversial subjects and how to do so without offending others.

The conference helped me a lot with this as I got to meet other likeminded young people who were not afraid to speak out and talk with passion about being pro-life and it made me realise just how important it is that people like us do share our views with others if we want to make a difference in the world. There is nothing to be ashamed of about being pro-life, in fact, it is something to be proud of and part of being a Catholic.

My understanding of abortion was quite basic before the conference and I’d never put a lot of thought into how this experience effects people. Abortion is the deliberate killing of an unborn child and since it became legalised in the UK in 1967, there have been over 8.4 million. That’s 8.4 million lives taken away from innocent, defenceless human beings. There are approximately two hundred thousand reported abortions every year in the UK with the NHS claiming one in three women will have an abortion in their lifetime. An abortion can take place up to 24 weeks and even later in some cases, yet statistics show a 39% chance of a baby surviving if born at 24 weeks. By 16 weeks, a baby can respond to sound, feel pain and is sensitive to light. Whilst psalm 39:13 springs to mind; ‘For you created my inmost being, you knit me together in my mother’s womb’, I can’t help but feel like even without my faith this seems inhumane and unmerciful.

The talks at this year’s conference focused on the effects that abortion has on the mental health of women. I found this particularly interesting as I intend on studying psychology at university next year. On the NHS website it states, ‘women who have an abortion are no more likely to experience mental health problems than those who continue with their pregnancy.’ However I learnt from one of the speakers that medical research shows that the risk of suicide is around six times greater after abortion than after childbirth. Another thing that really struck me was the lack of information that women receive prior to the procedure and how little support they receive if they are ambivalent about such a fundamental decision in both their own and their unborn child’s life.

Whilst some of the talks were quite intense and some of the content was extremely upsetting and graphic, it was necessary given the sensitivity and seriousness of such an issue.

The evenings were much more light-hearted with a quiz on the first night with icebreakers to get to know people and a ceilidh on the Saturday which was good fun!

I really enjoyed my first conference and found it a really educational and thought-provoking experience. I have come away feeling proud to be pro-life and inspired by the amazing work other young people are doing to save lives and wanting to make a difference myself.

Hannah, 18, Castlerigg

Dear Papa Francesco, We The Youth Would Like To Say...

Dear Papa Francesco, We The Youth Would Like To Say...

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A couple of weekends ago I was invited to represent the Lancaster diocese at a meeting about the upcoming synod in Rome on Youth, Faith and Vocational Discernment.

Coincidently my Fiancé was chosen to represent the Salford diocese! So we were both speaking from the point of view of a young person in the Church, as well as being a young catholic couple journeying towards the vocation of marriage.

The meeting was a relatively small gathering of around 12 people who had come to represent their areas from around the UK. The focus and aim of the meeting was to give input based on our experience of being young people in the Church as well as what other young people experience in their own communities. It was no surprise that all of us there work with young people in one way or other and so we all had a well-rounded view on various experiences the youth of today are dealing with.

We discussed many aspects of youth culture in the Church and all had different things we felt were relevant to our specific diocese, however there were some crucial points that we all agreed were widespread and should be fed back at the synod: Identity, Social Media and Fear of Being Authentic.

Identity. We talked about many issues plaguing the youth and so many of these stem from some sort of issue with their identity. To know the Father, and to have a relationship with Him, we need to know ourselves as children of God.

But how can we do that if we are having so many issues with who we are physically, emotionally and psychologically? It’s proven that it’s impossible for humans to think of further fulfilment (that of their spiritual wellbeing) if their basic human needs aren’t being met. The church needs to find a balance of being able to support the fulfilment of these needs in order to properly evangelise and catechise young people. In my opinion a simple way of fulfilling some of these areas is to simply be more hospitable, welcoming and accommodating to those seeking out the Church. Many can be put off when they don’t feel wanted or loved by the community they are seeking to immerse themselves in, which is why we see young people especially seeking this acceptance elsewhere.

We as a church are more than capable of providing an environment to allow this to happen.

Social Media. Social media is what our existence has become. It has rapidly grown into a norm for everyone and we live in a society where our lives are being broadcast to the world by the nanosecond. We have started to seek our worth and affirmation through a screen, from people we may never encounter in our physical lives. This is where we are falling into dangerous territory with how this is affecting the human person, in particular youth and their self-worth, esteem and again, identity.

It also fuels a disposable and relative culture that is rapidly growing amongst the youth. Friendships and relationships are thrown away and ended via a text, or even worse a public declaration on Twitter! Unborn babies don’t matter and are thrown away daily, we are changing gender, having cosmetic procedures to alter our look, and we are using people for our own gain whether that is sex, money or affirmation.

But, that’s not to say that it can’t be a force for good and a positive tool to be used. Like it or not, social media is here to stay and the church needs to use it and be present on the platforms that reach billions of people far and wide at every minute of every day. Pope Francis recognises this and is well known to people outside of the church due to his efforts. It’s now time for us to reflect this across the wider church.

The third topic that we felt was important to share was Fear. It appears that the Church is fearful to really be who she is. We are worried of offending, scared to speak truth into the lives of those we encounter, and we seem terrified that we will cause any more ‘bad press’. But, by being timid we are doing a disservice to the future of the Church. By not being authentic we are not offering the world anything different than what they are already having shoved down their necks. We need to shed the fear and live out our first vocation and shared mission of holiness – and that’s not to just be from the Bishops, your parish priest, or youth minister. We ALL have an obligation to uphold the truth and share it with everyone we encounter!

These were just some areas we spoke about, but there is so much more the youth have to say. Even though we won’t be in the meeting with the Synod fathers and won’t get the chance to voice our individual opinions we must continue to make our voices heard.

So if you’ve got something you’d like to say, ideas you want to share, issues you want to raise, then start talking. To each other, to your priests, to your chaplains, youth ministers, anyone that will listen! Do not settle for what we have in front of us, do not settle for injustice, do not settle for a church that is doing the minimum. We, the youth, are the future generation that will carry the church forward, it is our responsibility to make sure it not only survives, but thrives.

Keep the Faith,

Narquita

Pope Francis: “Can we change things?”

The youth shouted: “yes!”.

That shout came from your young and youthful hearts, which do not tolerate injustice and cannot bow to a “throw-away culture” nor give in to the globalization of indifference. Listen to the cry arising from your inner selves! Even when you feel, like the prophet Jeremiah, the inexperience of youth, God encourages you to go where He sends you: “Do not be afraid, [...], because I am with you to deliver you” (Jer 1:8).

 

Let Any Anxiety Go And Live In God's Hand

Let Any Anxiety Go And Live In God's Hand

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LET ANY ANXIETY GO AND LIVE IN GOD’S HAND

Anxiety gets into our heart and takes away our energy, sense of wellbeing, sense of security but mostly takes our faith both to fellow human beings and to God.

Most of the time anxiety leads us into negative decisions which end up affecting our life emotionally, spiritually and physically.  One of my friends called Jackson was put in prison for fighting with another friend of mine, John.  They had fallen out due to something so minor.

After serving his three-month sentence in government prison he asked me to act as a bridge between him and John in order for them to be friends again, which I did.

When he was asking for forgiveness from John, he said “I don’t know what caused me to fight, but I linked it to Anxiety”. Jackson apologised while tears rolled down his cheeks.

Anxiety is something everyone must learn to cope with when tackling our daily life challenges, but more especially it should be a time to draw close to God rather than going far from him.

I always think about the story of David and Goliath in the Bible, and imagine how the little boy David was nervous to face the giant Goliath.

After realising that he is too small to defeat the giant and warrier Goliath, David left everything in God’s hand.

“You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel”
1Samuel 17:45.

I’ve always found that the first step in overcoming the challenge of anxiety is you have to figure out exactly what you’re afraid of and to know that God’s hands are everywhere and he will support you in whatever you face. One step at a time, just let that anxiety go and enjoy God’s caring hand help and take control.

Once I spent three nights, unable to sleep because of all the anxious thoughts racing through my brain, and in the middle of a lot of questions that were soon taking over my life so I opened my Bible and I read:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
Philippians 4:6-7

 The key to bouncing back is to learn whatever lessons you can from the experience so that you can avoid making the same mistakes in the next chapter or know the signs so you can stop the anxiety and say ‘No, you have no control on me.’ This will help you to overcome your fear, take a leap of faith and try again.

“When I said, ‘My foot is slipping, your love, O LORD, supported me.  When my anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul”
Psalm 94:18-19

Little steps can take you along way.

Cleophas Tukamarwa

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Radical Hospitality

Radical Hospitality

“Hospitality requires not grand gestures, but open hearts”- Radical Hospitality, St. Benedict’s Way of Love

The art of radical hospitality requires very little. Humility, Love and Availability.  When we lean into these three things our lives will naturally be at service to all those we encounter. Christ calls us to humbly serve Him through our hospitable posture, we must greet each other as if we are welcoming Christ Himself into our homes.

Last week our dear Sisters, Sr Sheinrose and Sr Maria Dee, renewed their vows in front of a small group of us at Mass. They took great care and time in preparing for the humble celebration, but they still found time to witness radical hospitality to myself and Ella (Volunteer) in so many ways, and its these small acts of love that I’d like to share with you all.

In order to transport the Castlerigg community to Windermere for the Mass two of us had to catch a very early bus to the sisters’ home. When we arrived we were greeted at the bus stop by Sr Sheinrose and she walked us the few metres to the little home. Act of love No. 1

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When we entered the house we could hear St Maria Dee busy in the kitchen preparing breakfast. I had not expected this as it was so early and they would have been very busy preparing for their special day. I took my boots off and left them by the door, Sr Sheinrose immediately rushed to the cupboard where she pulled out some slippers for me to wear! She was worried I’d be cold.  Act of love No. 2

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Sr Maria Dee appeared and we were ushered into their dining room, we found a beautifully prepared table with wonderful food. I was really over whelmed with the sheer thought, love and care that had gone into them welcoming us into their home.  Act of love No. 3

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After being well fed and looked after all four of us piled into a taxi to take us to the Church, where the Sisters’ took to busying themselves with the final touches for the mass. The rest of the Castlerigg community arrived and we prayed the rosary in preparation of the mass. It was during the mass that the sisters witnessed to us the greatest act of love. The renewing of their vows. They invited us to celebrate the wonder of Christs love in the Eucharist and allowed us to witness their affirming of vows. Act of love No. 4

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The sisters’ have served as a great reminder that all we have is to be shared, and all that we do should be an open invitation to all. Our faith isn’t a private or individual thing, it’s a gift that should be open and shared with all. Our lives and hearts should be open to all those we encounter to allow them to share Christs love that we as stewards of the faith have been gifted.

‘Your life is not personal property; you belong to God. We are simply stewards of what God has given us. We are to serve one another in love. Everyone is a guest – even those of us who live here. God is the host, but God also becomes the guest we receive in others.’ - Life Teen Rule of Life

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Keep the Faith,

Narquita