Big Walk


Last weekend was a big moment for the Lancaster Diocese...the moment lasted over Saturday and Sunday, involved 20 miles of land being covered and even an overnight stay at Gillerthwaite. It was in fact THE BIG WALK.

24 of us gathered on Friday night to start the journey off. We played ‘the sun shines on’ amongst other games in order to get to know each other better! Our energy was filled by plenty of doughnuts and cake slices, which I think the eating of everyone will agree was necessary in preparing for the walk ahead!

The next morning, we piled our overnight luggage in to the various cars and generally rushed around hoping we had everything ready! We finally left and arrived at Honister Slate Mine. There, we ate more necessary cake and didn’t forget to hydrate ourselves with coffee and hot chocolates. We also had a go on the virtual reality at the café, exploring some of the Lake Districts finest hidden sights and gently power gliding over amongst the mountains too.

Finally, we set off walking this time and had the hill to tackle first to get to Haystacks. After a couple of steep rocks to clamber over, we eventually got to the top and stopped for lunch next to a lovely stream. We had the leftovers of Christian’s 21st birthday cake in our packed bags, so all was good on the cake front then too.

Before setting off again, we gathered to pray a decade of the Rosary. This was done at various points throughout the day and allowed us to be reminded of how present Our Lady was amongst the tranquillity of the hills and in our moments of worry too. Our community and team spirit became stronger in these reflective moments of quiet as we continued the journey to Cleator. From then on, it was bright blue skies, sunburn and all hands-on deck at stream crossings to ensure everyone stepped on the safe stones...

At the final downwards part of the walk, we stopped again to begin another reflective moment. Father John pointed out that for many, the enjoyment in walking comes from simply being in the hills. Being amongst the rocks, grass, heathers, soil and mountain air. So, the next 15 minutes of the walk involved simply taking this in. Taking the chance to recognise the beautiful nature surrounding us, taking in God’s magnificent creation.

Once we had all wandered down the hill, enjoying the quiet of it, we set off once again, but this time...on a flat road!! Noticing the elegance of God’s world did not end there, however. Under our feet may have been simple stones, but above our heads were towering evergreen trees. This amongst bumping into Trish, Liam and Bosco – the adopted member of Castlerigg’s back office team for the past 2 weeks - was enough entertainment to last until we arrived at Gillerthwaite centre!

There, we were welcomed by Josie and Anne with cups of tea and dinner in the evening! We then went on to play a quiz, made up of many different categories...the important thing was that we all shared the box of heroes at the end, almost completely forgetting who won and who lost! Following that, we thought we would make the most of the clear night sky amongst the lack of streetlamps and gaze at the stars before heading to bed.

The next morning, we set off bright and early on pretty much a flat path to St. Mary’s in Cleator. Although the walk was flatter, the second day of walking was not without highlights! One in particular was stopping to be paired up with each other and given three things to discuss for the next 10 minutes. The first was: What brings joy to your life? The second: Where is your faith at now? Finally: What has been a favourite moment of the walk so far?

This allowed for an exciting but also deep conversation to take place amongst the pairs, and for people to get to know each other more. Personally, for me, an overall highlight of the walk was whenever I had a one-to-one conversation with someone. The element of simply giving each other the time of day to listen and respect what is being said, as well as share moments of laughter is what made the walk a community walk with God. I was very much reminded of how magnified the presence of God is in others over the weekend of the big walk. A key moment of this was when we finally arrived at Cleator and were met by many many welcoming and friendly faces belonging to St. Mary’s Church and elsewhere.

Complete strangers as well as old friends were all brought together to celebrate mass. This was a surreal moment for those who had not visited the grotto before. Immediately, I felt reassured and welcomed again in the presence of Our Lady, as we sat down for Mass outside by the Grotto. What followed was a slightly cold experience of Mass for those of us given the Big Walk T-shirts to wear, but nonetheless a very inspiring Mass as well. Something that has stuck with me is the sermon that Bishop Paul gave. He reminded us that the pressure be it to find our path and do it perfectly or something else we feel anxious about, is not on us. The pressure is on God. And God is good at pressure. In moments of struggle, we must only find the strength to give the struggles to God, not to battle alone.

The journey of the BIG WALK, conquering those hills and minding our feet down the hills amongst the rocks was definitely made more enjoyable but also possible as a community! Hopefully next year will bring out the same appreciation for facing challenging and exciting moments in life with others, recognising God in these times!

Our Lady of Lourdes 2019

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Lourdes is a small town in the South of France where Our Lady appeared to St Bernadette fourteen times. This year, to our delight, we managed to avoid the 26-hour coach journey and were lucky enough to fly to Lourdes. But as we ended up running through the airport in an attempt to not miss our flight, this probably worked out just as stressful as the coach journey; it’s fair to say the airport staff were not impressed.

Soon after we were settled in at our hotel and had some delicious food at hotel Eliseo (famous for their four course meals) we were eager to go and explore this wonderful town, where we found so much joy on the streets. Later that day, we had a chance to meet the pilgrims who we would be assisting for the week, as we helped to carry their luggage to their rooms. It was a good way of offering our services to begin the week. And then a short social time and an early night.

On our travels around Lourdes we soon got our bearings and one of the first places we decided to visit was a little cafe to catch up with friends we hadn't seen for a long time; the hustle and bustle of the airport meant we hadn’t had the opportunity so far.

After a number of masses and other services, including our Welcome Mass and the International Mass, our first visit to the Grotto didn’t arise until the third day after the rain had decided to clear up. Walking into the Grotto for the first time was an overwhelming experience. To see all the volunteers and pilgrims so in touch with their faith and so invested in this spectacular place was so moving, and to see all the youths from our diocese so calm and taken back was another reward in itself. It is as though as soon as you entered this ‘utopia,’ all your worries disappeared and you felt a sense of peace and tranquillity.

The community life of our diocese in Lourdes is another aspect of the experience in itself. If you’re avoiding coming to Lourdes because you imagine it to be an intense experience completely focused on God and all things holy, you’re wrong! There is an element of fun thrown in with the adventure. You may have seen some photos on social media displaying our diocese in some bizarre and crazy costumes; you were probably quite confused and thought, ‘well if it’s a pilgrimage, why they are dressed up like that?’ or, ‘no way did they go to the Grotto dressed like that’. Well, let me give you some answers to your confusion. On one of the first nights, the youth section holds a fancy dress party to get to know each other and to give everyone a chance to relax. The dress up night was definitely the night where everyone began to mingle and break down barriers, which made the experience of Lourdes a whole lot better. And for everything we did, we would always finish by thanking Our Lady for the things we have in our life to be grateful for, including the people we were surrounded by.

We won’t go on and on about the different things Lourdes has to offer because we think it’s best you see it for yourself, but if you want to know more about your faith, meet friends for life and have a fantastic trip away in a gorgeous town in France then Lourdes is the place for you. To be honest, if you’re undecided whether or not to come to Lourdes, we would 100% encourage you to listen to your heart and listen to what God is telling you to do, and we can guarantee you won’t regret it.

Read on to hear the experiences of three of our team who went to Lourdes this year:-

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Annie Hodgkinson, 18, Blackpool

The annual trip to Lourdes is different for everyone, and everyone experiences different emotions and everyone’s encounter with God varies. Although Lourdes had been at the back of my mind for years, I had never been to Lourdes until this year. For me personally, I found the pilgrimage very moving and touching. The spiritual experience I faced wasn’t exactly what I expected it to be. I felt like I should have felt this huge wave of God’s love as soon as I entered Lourdes, but I think that was me setting my expectations of Lourdes too high. As the week went on, I soon realised that, for me, to be able to grow closer to God doesn’t happen straight away and I had to allow time for God to enter into my heart. I think being surrounded by so much joy shining through the life-long friends I had met in Lourdes, definitely helped me to grow closer to God as they showed me what it means to have found God in my life. Even now, two months after Lourdes they are the friends I turn to in times of doubt or uncertainty and they guide me to do the right things and make the right choices. I now find it so easy to look for God through my friends and trust in him. The experience of Lourdes has given me so much confidence in God and so much confidence for my year ahead that I will be spending as a gap year volunteer at Castlerigg Manor, which I believe was God’s calling to me and this calling was strengthened even more in Lourdes.

The Grotto, I think, deserves a separate section of the blog for itself. It is such an immense atmosphere, in the best way possible, and I feel extremely lucky to have experienced it first-hand. I could sit and write for days about my experience in the Grotto and how I felt, but I believe words cannot do it justice. All I would like to say is that if you ever have the chance to visit Lourdes and the Grotto then GO! Lourdes is one of those places that you will always look back on and just feel the need to tell others about it and spread the word of how good God is!

Charley Harrison, 19, Blackpool

My experience in Lourdes is hard to describe in words. To say I went in blind was an understatement, I was so unsure of what to expect or what my first year would hold but from the moment I arrived, and I met all of the youth, I suddenly felt God’s presence and I knew that it was his plan for me to be in Lourdes. From the Grotto, to the community life, Lourdes has brought such happiness and joy into my life. The people you meet, both the youth and the pilgrims are people I will remember for life. I have met some of my closest, and most special friends while in Lourdes, and I know that God always being on my mind, I would never feel this close to him if I hadn’t trusted the voice in the back of my head, stepped out of my comfort zone and signed up for this Pilgrimage.


I also never expected to feel so much joy in the presence of the pilgrims. Their stories and experiences in life are truly inspiring and our conversations are something I’ll never forget. I’ve always heard about the Grotto and how special it is to so many people, but I never thought I’d feel so moved just being there, with my own thoughts and prayers in the presence of Our Lady and surrounded by those who I now classed as my closest friends. Throughout the week, I felt myself and those around me grow in faith, while also growing in friendship with one another. Each of us filled with so much peace and happiness, it was almost too hard to hold back the tears of joy that we had for God and each other. I can’t even express how much my life has been changed by my week in Lourdes. I have developed such a trust for God, and I am so unbelievably grateful that he called me to volunteer for the Lourdes Pilgrimage. If you ever think to yourself, ‘should I go to Lourdes’ or ‘Maybe God is calling me to go,’ I promise you, he is. Going to Lourdes is the best choice I have ever made, and honestly I would not be sat here writing this, as a volunteer at Castlerigg Manor, if I hadn’t gone. Lourdes is now something which means a lot to me, and I’m already counting down the days till next year.

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Zoë Shirra, 18, Windermere

I have been to Lourdes with Lancaster Diocese for the last three years now and each time my experience has somehow managed to improve. Each time I visit Lourdes I have new experiences and make new memories that will last me a lifetime. For me my week in Lourdes each year is the highlight of my year and something I find myself counting down to every single year, even when I have only been home for a week afterwards.

During our time there, the youth spend so much time together. Not only do we sit and eat together, we also pray together and grow together. The friendships made in Lourdes are different to anything else because you all meet for the same reason under the common ground of the pilgrimage, you grow in friendship and faith together and this is something that we are lucky to experience together. Not only do you get to spend time with the other youth, you get to spend time with the pilgrims. The pilgrims are one of the main reasons we all journey to Lourdes, being able to sit with them and share stories is such a privilege because they have so many experiences that deserve to be listened to and every time I speak with them I learn amazing things about each of them. This is one of the most important parts of the Lourdes experience.

The Grotto is probably the most talked about area in Lourdes and that is with good reason. Every single time I walk round the Grotto I feel a sense of peace that is like no other feeling I have ever felt, this is such a safe space for prayer or even just reflecting on your day. I had everything planned for the next year travelling to Australia as an au-pair to look after children for 6 months, and then sight-seeing. My times of prayer in the Grotto changed my plan completely and inspired me to come here to Castlerigg for my gap year so I think it is safe to say that Lourdes has changed my life and it has certainly changed it for the better.

If you are even thinking about coming to Lourdes, just do it, you will never look back.

50th Anniversary Barbecue


On Sunday 7th July we celebrated the 50th anniversary of Lancaster Diocese Youth Service moving to Castlerigg Manor. For this special occasion we were looking forward to gathering with the Castlerigg family - all the people who have taken part in retreats at Castlerigg and those who support us in our work with young people.

Fortunately we were blessed with fantastic sunny weather and we could set up outside: drinks, merchandise, and homemade fudge, and, most importantly, the bouncy castle. By 4pm we were ready to welcome our guests: people of different ages, who joined us on retreats, members of staff with friends and families, Bishop Paul and our management group, as well as past and present volunteers. As a special guest we were happy to meet Mr George Page, who grew up here as a small boy when his parents ran Castlerigg Manor as a hotel.


After Father John has given an opening speech, Bishop Paul welcomed everyone and blessed a plaque in remembrance of Monsignor Paddy O’Dea who was the founder of the Youth Service at Castlerigg Manor. This plaque is going to be placed in our chapel. Throughout the evening we enjoyed the Summer BBQ buffet and a selection of cakes that our wonderful chefs Collin and Martyn had prepared. Rachael and Ruben spent their time face painting for children young and old and, accompanied by good music, people shared the various memories they have from their Castlerigg experiences. It was lovely to see how many people have been involved in and affected by the work of the Youth Service since 1969 (and before) and are so happy to come back to this special place.

At the end of the day, Father John announced the winners of our raffle prizes, which had been donated by different shops in Keswick. We would like to thank them and all our donors for their support. We took £587 on the day. All in all, we say ‘thank you’ to the more than one hundred people who came to share in our celebration and made it an unforgettable anniversary!

Vanessa Landwehr

A Year to Remember

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Rachael (Cleator Moor)

From night prayers, to the nights spent singing along to High School Musical, my year working at Castlerigg Manor in community with my most wonderful friends, really has been the greatest year of my life. We have spent our days here trying to let young people believe that they are loved by a God who they can encounter personally. And in return, God has reminded me daily of this same fact. Not one day has passed since 18th August 2018 that hasn’t been filled with laughter and something to learn. I am different in ways that I may have only dreamt of before I moved into this home, and ever grateful for this.

Harry (Preston)

To say this year has been awesome covers a lot of variation. It neglects to mention the times of frustration, with myself, others or school children who just would not co-operate. It neglects to mention how many times I rocked out of bed on many fewer hours sleep than necessary for another long day. But those won’t be the moments I remember and take with me from this beautiful place.

 What I will remember is the many hours of laughter I have shared with my fellow team members, young people and teachers. I’ll take with me my newfound confidence for sharing my story of life and faith with others, affirmed by those who told me it helped them to reflect on their own journey. When life may be difficult, and I may question why God has led me to a place, I will always have in my heart the love and peace I encountered in this place, and enduring friendships forged in the unique fire of a gap year at Castlerigg Manor.

Vanessa (Germany)

These three months have been the best experience in my life so far and I really wish it would have been longer. This place and especially the team helped me to experience my relationship with God even stronger. I am going to take home new approaches to youth ministry that I have learned about at Castlerigg and will always have a smile on my face when I remember this wonderful time. Becoming part of the Castlerigg Team has been a gift, I am already looking forward to coming back.

Ruben, Hungary

When I arrived at Castlerigg, I didn’t know what the future had for me. I didn’t know what to expect, I finished high school in Hungary and I came here, to do a gap year, before university. That was the plan, just improve my English skills and work with young people, talk about faith and lead some activities, nothing more.

 But this year was completely different from what I thought it was going to be. Obviously, the language part of it and the activities were included in it, but so many other things have happened during this time: I’ve learned so much about faith from professionals and random people; I’ve worked with more than 1000 young people who are all unique, with so many talents and gifts. I think they have given me as many lessons and beautiful moments as I ran activities and workshops for them.

 Also, I became a part of this year’s Castlerigg Team…no, I would say a member of another family. Each member a fantastic person, all incommunicably talented, kind and warm hearted, beautiful souls. We’ve had a brilliant year with loads of fun, adventures, awkward moments to laugh about afterwards, as well as growing in faith together. It’s been a pleasure to be on retreats with them and live with them.

 Every community day/night/activity was an unforgettable event with these guys because of their humour, creativity and just their whole personalities. Also, if we had any kind of challenge, or someone had a difficult time, either in personal or professional life, we were there for each other to help, even just being present without words.

 To summarize my thoughts (which were meant to be 100 words only) I just want to say I feel blessed with this year. It wasn’t what I expected, but way better and exciting; I will never forget it!

“Love” Island

Many of us have indulged in the gossip, the drama, the lifestyle of Love Island in the last few years. We all have our own reasons for it too: an escape from reality, ‘guilt-free’ gossip about people we will never actually meet, and then when a couple actually hit it off (I’m thinking Dani and Jack), we see that spark: something real and beautiful! The Love Islanders seem to have such an idyllic life: bathing their beach-ready bods in the Mediterranean Sun, food and drinks on tap, and living with dozens of potential love interests. All this together with the latest phones and fashion items: what more could you want?

 As the old saying goes: if it’s too good to be true, it probably is. In the last year, it has emerged how the Love Island life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Every moment is choreographed by producers: every conversation, every cheeky glance across the fire pit, every bit of drama: it’s all staged. Then you have 70 cameras following your every movement, 24-hours a day, 7-days a week: there is no such thing as privacy on Love Island. Even food and drink are regulated, to stop contestants over-indulging: so much for being on your holidays…

 The problem with this is that the Love Island lifestyle is presented as real, it’s presented as a life that is desirable, that we should aim for. It’s a real-time social media, which only shows us a selective view of the lives of these people we come to, in a way, idolise.

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The desirable life presented to us by modern culture, by shows like Love Island, does not exist! It’s a scam! In this engineered view of life, drawn up by show producers and companies searching for profit, we are told that the lifestyle of having the perfect face and body, the fashionable clothes and latest phones, all in this sun-bathed villa with its pool and cocktails and luxury accommodation, is the way to happiness in our lives.

 When people buy into this lie, they end up simply getting used by this lifestyle: they are treated like a commodity, not a person. Those in the industry encourage them to turn their lives into one big effort to influence others to follow them: they have to advertise their lives and products on their social media, make appearances in certain bars and clubs for money, pretend they’re having a great time. They get consumed by it, their lives become one big advert.

 When people have placed all their bets on this, chased this ‘perfect’ lifestyle of swimsuit-bodies, the latest phones and cars, the ‘perfect’ social groups and events: they are only left wanting more. Tragically, when people realise there is no more: that this lifestyle is actually empty of any meaning and true happiness, it can crush them. In the last few months, 2 former Love Island contestants have committed suicide.

 St Clare of Assisi said:

“We become what we love and who we love shapes what we become. If we love things, we become a thing. If we love nothing, we become nothing.”

 Maybe we can extend this thought into a modern context: if we love gossip, we become gossip; if we love what is fashionable, we become what is fashionable (and, ultimately, what is thrown away); if we love what does not exist, we cease to exist ourselves.

 We are not made for this! We are not made for this phony love that pretends to be in a villa in Mallorca for 2 months a year. We are made for true love, real love, love that sets our hearts on fire! There was a reason we all loved Dani and Jack last year, because we caught a glimpse of something real in them. Something not based on drama, or sex, or fake personalities, but something real and true.

 The issue with calling a show like this ‘Love Island’, is that every person in there is there to have a good time themselves, to further their social media presence, to have the swanky lifestyle. But that’s not what love is about. True love is about completely giving ourselves to the other person. It’s about sacrifices, about willing the good of the other: with no regard for yourself. That is love, if we put that at the centre of our lives, we will never be left wanting more.

 In St John’s letter to the Early Church, he commands the people:

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.” (1 John 4:7-12)

What to do?

We’ve got to wrestle ourselves away from this culture, of Love Island and social media influencers. We’re not doing ourselves any favours, and we’re not doing favours for others who may follow our lead: younger siblings, friends, children. Our watching Love Island, our following of social media personalities, implies to others that we think it is ok. It gives the producers and companies who profit from this massive lie the ratings and profits that tell them to keep going. It feeds this industry that deprives people of their dignity and true beauty as human beings, instead turning them into advertisement mannequins. By not indulging in the ‘other reality’ of shows like Love Island, we deprive this industry of the oxygen it needs to survive.

 Be an example for others! Don’t settle for this phony ‘love’. Bring true love into people’s lives, let them see it and experience it, so that they can tell the difference between true love and the lie of our modern culture.

 Be the change you want to see in the world! And that can start with something as simple as not watching a certain TV show over the next few weeks. Pretty simple, right?

Keswick Half Marathon

Keswick Half Marathon

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Earlier this month, the Keswick Half Marathon took place. Despite commitments earlier in the year, only three brave members of the Castlerigg team made it to the start line:  Fr John, Carrick, and myself. Even then, only two of us were running: Carrick was only there for starting the race with an air horn: an honour bestowed on few people.

It was a lovely day for a run, sunny but not too hot. The race started just outside Keswick, and took us all around Derwentwater: with a few steep climbs for good measure! In the early miles, I took the lead over Fr John, but the naivety of youth meant I pushed myself that bit too much on the early climbs, and hit the wall at the 9th mile: leaving Fr John to zoom past and cross the finish line with the satisfying time of 1h59m59s.

Our very own women of Jerusalem//Castlerigg were there to meet us at the finish line, with a beautiful handcrafted banner. The atmosphere was brilliant, especially at the Rugby club where the race finished. As each of us ran into the final straight, the announcer read our name over the microphone and a great cheer went up, to push us over the line! My dignity was saved by the fact that I still at least beat the bloke in the inflatable sumo suit, and got the respectable time of 2h10m.

After the run, we celebrated with a barbecue back at Castlerigg. We’ve given ourselves a bit of a break from running since, but I’m sure we’ll be back at it before long!

Harry Rawcliffe

"He is Risen, as he said"

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Over the Easter weekend, young people from all over North-West England, and beyond, gathered at Castlerigg Manor for the Easter Retreat. From Maundy Thursday to Easter Sunday we journeyed together: learning, reflecting on and then celebrating the pinnacle of our faith, Jesus’s death and resurrection to save humanity from sin.

The theme for our retreat was “Christus Resurrexit Sicut Dixit,” this translates from Latin to English as “He is Risen as he said”.

  This is the reality of Easter! We can often just think of it as a nice story, or like a drama we see on TV. But the events of Holy Week: the Last Supper, the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection, are not just a story but a reality! Jesus is risen, as he said he would be! What we celebrate in Holy Week and at Easter, the last days of Jesus’ life and his resurrection, are not just events that we celebrate that week, but that we remember, celebrate and get hope from at every mass we go to and every time we pray, reminding us of how much Jesus loves us and continues to do so.

 We started our retreat on Maundy Thursday, remembering Jesus’ Last Supper and how Jesus washed the feet of His disciples. In this moving Mass, Fr John washed the feet of 12 young people. This is a symbol of how Jesus, priests, and indeed all Christians are not called to be served, but to serve others. Washing the feet of others is an act of humility.

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 After our Maundy Thursday Mass, we processed with the Blessed Sacrament to our very own Garden of Gethsemane. On the night before he died, Jesus went with His disciples to the garden, where he prayed for the courage to do what He knew he had to: sacrifice Himself for us all. We spent some time in reflection, song and prayer in the Garden, praying with Jesus as He asked His disciples to.

On Good Friday, we heard about the importance of Good Friday and why we say it’s good. This day represents a day of mourning and great sorrow, but also of an immense act of love! He showed that to the people he met on his way to Calvary, to forgiving the thief beside him when crucified, until his last breath. Jesus reminds us that even when life throws challenges at us, we must and can remain in love and faith till the very end. We joined the local parish for our Good Friday service: lots of us got involved in reading, serving and in the choir. The beautiful weather we enjoyed while walking through the stations of the cross in the Castlerigg gardens reminded us of the great contrast between the sadness of Good Friday but the glory and hope that awaited us in the coming days!

 On Holy Saturday, we heard from Rachael about the importance of waiting. We so often demand to have things immediately, be it food or our ASOS delivery or the latest updates on social media. But on this Saturday, all we can do is wait. Just as Mary and the disciples did: they didn’t know what was coming, all they could do was trust in God.

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 In the evening came the main event: The Easter Vigil! This is my favourite Mass of the whole year: it’s so dramatic! We start gathered around a bonfire outside church, to bless and light the Easter candle. The church, which yesterday was so empty of life and light, is now full of candles, beautiful bright flowers, and crisp white linen instead of the mournful purple. Alleluia! Praise God! He is risen! In the readings we hear a lot from the Old Testament, including Moses leading the Israelites through the Red Sea to escape from Pharaoh. All of the Old Testament is leading to this point, this holy night when Jesus rose from the dead. After the Vigil, we gathered back at Castlerigg to have a party, featuring cake, dancing and some funky bow ties!

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 The Easter Retreat brought us closer to Jesus: we are witnesses to that Resurrection, and we have a mission to proclaim the Gospel bringing the hope and joy that our faith gives us to others. We enjoyed the friendships, laughter, and joy we experienced with the young people over Easter and pray for them that they will bring God’s love to the people they will encounter.  



Greetings from Castlerigg! The weather today is getting us all excited for spring, soon the trees will be full of leaves and we might even be able to wear something other than jumpers!

We all really enjoyed the recent Young Adults’ Retreat

We all really enjoyed the recent Young Adults’ Retreat

This week, we wanted to write about the current Church season: Lent!

During Lent, we as Christians are called to focus on three different things: prayer, fasting and almsgiving. These are meant to prepare our hearts to celebrate Holy Week and Easter. In popular culture, we usually associate Lent with ‘giving something up’. This comes from the Christian idea of fasting during Lent. This can be good, but the intention of it isn’t just to lose weight! We do these things to have a bit of a spiritual ‘spring clean’, to de-clutter our lives a little and have a renewed heart ready for the high moment of Easter. Similarly, we can ‘take something up’, something linked to prayer or almsgiving (being charitable) to help us prepare for Easter and re-orient our lives back towards God.

Three of our Castlerigg volunteers have shared what they have given up, or taken up, for Lent this year. What we do as individuals isn’t something for us to brag about, so we haven’t included their names in this blog post. But we hope this will help you think about what you could do this Lent (better late than never!) to help you prepare for Easter.

Coming up to Lent this year, there was nothing that stood out to me as, in of itself, being worth giving up. Thinking about that while eating pancakes I thought about how Lent is a time to prepare for the death and resurrection of Jesus and figured that one pro-active way of doing that would be to deliberately make time during my day specifically for prayer

How this looks for me in practice is that I deleted several apps on my phone which I waste time on, I made a prayer journal to make sure I was sticking to it and try to start and end my days, when I can, with morning and night prayer. Of course in the busyness of life this sometimes ends up with me scribbling my prayers down late at night, but it has helped me broaden my view of what I pray for, has given me time to reflect on who I am and what God has planned for me and to recognise how much I can still improve.

This Lent, I have decided to give up desserts. We are blessed with two great chefs here at Castlerigg, and there is always a lot of food available- including deserts at lunch and dinner time. I love desserts, my favourite is sticky toffee pudding!

Lent invites us to take a look over our lives, and think about where we have excess. What things do we actually need? What things could we do without? With giving up some sort of food, it’s not about starving ourselves but about trying to live a little more simply. This is for many reasons. Firstly, it helps us to appreciate the things we have. Secondly, it reminds us of people who don’t have so much. Thirdly, when we take excess things out of our lives, we open up more space for God. Our lives can become so full of worldly goods that we forget to leave space for God. I’m hoping that by giving up desserts I will become more grateful for the food I do have, and remember that God is the source of all the blessings in my life- including the food on our table!

This lent I am replacing the time I spend each day on social media with reading the daily Gospel.
Social media can be a place where we keep in contact with those we love and interact with the world in a way we may not be able to without its aid. But, for myself, for much of the time I use social media just to fill a gap. Without much thought, I will pick up my phone and scroll through Instagram, Twitter and Facebook before I sleep and do so again when I wake up. Often this scrolling is aimless and doesn’t incorporate any of the benefits that social media can bring into our lives; I am just scrolling for scrolling’s sake.

So this Lent I have decided to replace the time I spend each day on these apps with something more fruitful. I have been reading the daily gospel each day instead. Reading the gospel and partaking in Lectio Divina (the activity of reading scripture prayerfully) is one of my favourite ways of praying. I very rarely close the Bible without feeling as though some part of my heart has been moved. But, as with any prayer, the problem I find is often with me. I get lazy and I forget how much joy I find in the word of God. I say I’ll do it later, and the day too often ends without my bible being touched.

In Lent, we believe we are ‘giving something up’, but in return we gain far more. I have found in reading the gospel each day, that God always has something to say, in a way that is new and personal.

Have you done something for Lent this year? How could you prepare your heart for Easter? Trying to spend a little more time in prayer? Giving up some of life’s excesses? Or by being a little more charitable towards others?

It’s never too late to start!

Young Adult's Retreat

Young Adult's Retreat

YA 1.jpg

Some of our favourite events here at Castlerigg are open retreats, when we hold a weekend retreat open to anyone. This last weekend we invited over 18s to come and stay with us for a weekend, as we reflected on how our faith can help ‘lead us through the wilderness’ of life.

Our lives can be so hectic, we feel pulled in a million different directions by school, university, work, relationships and family pressures, among other things. While we can be so busy, and be surrounded by so many people, we can feel lonely, and like we have empty lives. There can be a hole in our lives that material possessions and passing pleasures cannot fill. The wilderness we are talking about, which our faith can help with, is the wilderness of our heart rather than a geographical desert.

From when people started arriving on Friday evening, the atmosphere was really chilled, and we started with a fun evening of games and getting to know one another. We finished the day with night prayer in the Chapel, when Rachael led us through a prayer called the examen. It is a really useful prayer you can do wherever you are, it helps us to reflect over our day and our lives, allowing us to see where God is in our day and our lives, and those areas where we did not let God in. This is a great tool we can have in our arsenal of prayer. After this we had a time of silent adoration, so people could have their own personal prayer time.

On Saturday morning, Fr Luiz Ruscillo joined us for our keynote talk. He gave us an insightful and engaging run through of the Old Testament, right up to the time of Jesus and the years of the very early Church. He helped us to understand the origins of the Eucharist, from the days of Abraham and Melchizedek (he sometimes gets a mention at Mass!), right through to when God gave the Israelites manna in the desert. He explained how the people in the Old Testament will not have fully understood what God was saying or doing at the time, but now we know that Jesus came and did what He did, we can understand the Old Testament in a new light.

This all linked into our theme of God leading us through our wilderness. While in the Old Testament it was physical food that God gave His people to survive, the food He gives us today is spiritual food, food for our soul. This is the food that can get us through the wilderness of our heart. This food is His word, the scripture, it’s His Body and Blood, it’s His love. We receive this through prayer, through other people, through the Sacraments. What’s more, sometimes we cannot understand what God’s plan is for us, or why our current struggle is necessary for our lives. Just as the writers of the Old Testament couldn’t see God’s bigger picture, neither can we at times.

On Saturday afternoon, the sun came out briefly for our walk! We enjoyed chatting about what we had heard and done on the retreat so far, and in general about our lives back home. The walk finished in town, where some went shopping and others went to cafes or pubs. On Saturday evening we gathered back together in the Chapel for a Holy Hour, where we could pray with one another, go to Confession or just be still before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Afterwards we enjoyed an evening of quizzes and games.

On Sunday morning, we shared a bit about our experiences as young Catholics in the world today. We shared our struggles, and where we can find support and solace. We finished with Mass and a Sunday roast dinner, before everyone headed home. All in all, it was a chilled out but fun weekend, with beautiful prayer times and also thought-provoking and inspiring speakers. It certainly seemed that everyone had taken some inspiration on how Jesus can lead us through the wilderness of our hearts and lives!

 “thanks for a fantastic weekend”

“A lovely weekend. Very interesting talk, meeting amazing people and a good time to self-reflect in peace, away from all the noise of work and home.”


Flame 2019 #Significance

80 young people from across the Diocese had an early start on Saturday morning, as we boarded coaches travelling down to Wembley Arena for Flame 2019. Flame is a national gathering of thousands of young people from all over the country, who come together to celebrate their faith and be inspired by guest speakers.

The theme of this year’s event was ‘Significance’, a reminder to every young person there (and reading this!) that you are significant, because you are individually willed and created by God.

We arrived at Wembley at around 10am, and as we entered the arena were able to say hi and have a quick catch-up with all sorts of friends who we had met through other events around the country. One of my favourite things about Castlerigg and youth ministry is that you get to meet so many other like-minded people, and events like Flame mean you all get to meet up even when you work at opposite ends of the country.

The live music in the arena was awesome. There was something for everyone with rap from Guvna B, praise and worship (including some of the Castlerigg classics), a Gospel choir who sang a crossover of Amazing Grace and Stormzy’s Blinded by Your Grace, and a spontaneous but beautiful unaccompanied version of ‘How Great Thou Art’ led by Archbishop Eamon Martin from Armagh (Ireland). But there were equally beautiful moments of silence, as the speakers led us in prayer. It was incredible just how silent 8,500 people could be, you could really feel the faith in the room.


There was a huge variety of guest speakers. We watched a recorded interview with Jean Vanier, who at 90 years old was too frail to travel from France to be with us. Nevertheless, his testimony was humbling and inspirational. Jean Vanier set up the L’Arche movement, which establishes homes where adults with learning difficulties live in community with those who care for them. Founded with one house in France in 1964, L’Arche now operates in 35 countries and supports over 3,500 adults with learning difficulties. Jean spoke about ‘discovering the secret God has put in our hearts’ and how those with disabilities teach us how to be human, they seek to love and be loved above all else.

For many people, Robert Madu was the highlight of the day. From Texas, he had travelled over specially to speak to us at Flame. He spoke to us with amazing energy and conviction, about how we should not compare ourselves to others - such an important message! He reminded us that we are all created just as we are, by God, for a reason. We should recognise all the blessings God has given us in our own lives, and not worry about what others have that we might not. God has given us everything we need! So, we should just stay in our own lane of the race and keep our eyes on Jesus. The roar of agreement and applause at the end of his talk showed just how important his message is for young people today.


The event finished with a time of adoration of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Cardinal Vincent Nicholls joined us and led us in prayer before Jesus. While Jesus was maybe 50 metres away from us, up on the stage, I was in awe again of the prayerful silence of 8,500 people, and just how awesome it was to be surrounded by so many other young people, united with them in faith.


When the day finished at 6pm, we headed out to our coach and back up north. As with so many of the events I have attended with Castlerigg, be it Flame or Lourdes or retreats, they seem to fill you with so much spirit and energy despite robbing you of many hours sleep! It was a truly inspirational day.

Photographs courtesy of ©Mazur/

Comparing Youth Work in the UK and Israel: A Visit to Sadaka Reut.

Comparing Youth Work in the UK and Israel: A Visit to Sadaka Reut.


Hi, my name is Sharon and I’m a volunteer at Castlerigg and taking part in the CAFOD Step into the Gap programme. As part of the Step into the Gap programme, we were privileged to visit CAFOD’s partners in Israel and Occupied Palestinian Territories. One of the highlights from this trip for me was visiting CAFOD’s education partner, Sadaka Reut.

Sadaka Reut is a bi-national organisation established in 1983 bringing Palestinian and Jewish students together and encouraging them to be one voice to speak up about social and political change in society. Students have the opportunity to take part in various projects that involve working with the community and creating partnerships by promoting education, awareness, and action. This is achieved by reflecting and understanding the injustices arising from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and creating a new generation of citizens and leaders towards a future based on the values of equality, solidarity, and friendship.

We had the opportunity to meet a group of seven Jewish Scouts and two Palestinian students who were taking part in one of Sadaka Reut’s programmes, Community in Action. This is a year-long programme in which students live together in community, and their role involves being part of sessions where they learn about politics and social issues, being counsellors, and helping out in school activities. We were intrigued to learn about the students work and life in Sadaka, and started to identify many similarities in youth work between Sadaka and our placements.

One of the similarities found in youth work in both countries is the volunteer’s motivation to make a positive difference in society and for the individuals we encounter. The reason why I love conducting retreats is meeting so many young people who come from different backgrounds, each with their own unique story, and it’s inspiring to see how they use their gifts and talents to be a positive impact in society. Retreat sessions in prayer, games, and outdoor activities make young people aware of how they can be a better person and make a positive change to their schools and communities. This value is also shared in Sadaka Reut. Noya, one of the volunteers says “Everyone realises that closing the gap comes from our understanding of each other”. The combination of encountering others and their cultures creates partnership. This shows how when we encounter each other it opens our minds to acknowledging our differences and success is gained from working together.

Another similarity is community living. The Jewish and Palestinians students live together during the course of the year. This is similar in our placements as I get to live with seven other volunteers, an experience I have not had before. I have had the opportunity to meet amazing people and share many joys over our individual, funny personalities, bringing so much colour and diversity to the team, whilst learning so much from each other. The scouts also share similar views. They mentioned that Noa from the team, was the messiest. She really enjoys this experience because she was able to meet people she may not have met before. Sihalm, another volunteer says it has been difficult to work with the seven volunteers in the community, but she does feel like she is part of the group. We can see that community life at times can be challenging, but it also a blessing.

A difference in youth work is the aims and goals set in the organisation. At Sadaka Reut, youth work and education revolves around educating young people about building bridges between the Jewish and Palestinian community, breaking the stereotypes, taboos and injustices. Understanding the commonalities that bring the two groups together, rather than what sets them apart. Whereas, at Castlerigg the aim of the retreats is to allow the young people to understand how they can use their faith, gifts and talents, to make society a better place, and an opportunity to try new skills and hobbies.

Another difference in youth work between UK and Sadaka is the reasons why the volunteers chose to do a year of voluntary service. One of the reasons the Jewish Scouts decided to do CIA was because they wanted to do a year of voluntary service before they joined the army. Another reason for joining Sadaka was to get an exposure of the reality other groups are going through in society.  Illy, one of the volunteers says “I come from a Jewish background, growing up I was only exposed to Jewish education, radio, and television but I wanted to hear the other side. I acknowledge humanity and want to feel their life experiences in person”. You can sense that the students are inside a political circumference and they want to go deeper and beyond that to gain new insights. 

There are many reasons why the students volunteer at Castlerigg. For some it is an opportunity to think about their direction in life, particularly as they finish college or university. For others it is the opportunity to gain experience that will help them in their future, if they want to pursue a career in a faith based environment, or simply to gain experience working with young people, or doing something out of their comfort zone that they have not done before. But at the heart of it is the motivation to make a positive difference, to give something back.

Seeing how CAFOD’S support makes a change in these young people’s lives inspires me. It has taught me,  that despite the challenges we face from society or any other restrictions, if you have the will, commitment and positive mind-set social change through partnership can be brought about.

Our Lady of Lourdes

Our Lady of Lourdes


I had been sat on a coach for about twelve hours by now. We were in the midst of watching the cinematic masterpiece that is Sister Act, and I was trying my hardest to remember the names of those on the seats around me. An entire bus of other young Catholics. There were more than fifty Catholics my age; a fact I was still trying to get my head around. As I placed my pillow on the window, I thought of what the Hotel might be like, and how warm it would be at the Lake, and who these people were that I was going to get to know. As I fell asleep, I did not think of God. But he had other plans.

Lourdes is a small town in the South of France, where in 1858, Our Lady appeared to a young girl called Bernadette Soubirous. Surrounded by many who did not believe her story, Bernadette was told by Our Lady to build a Church. It was under this church that countless miracles have happened since; where so many have been brought back to God; and where I, and a bus load of Lancaster Diocese Youth, would be arriving in the morning.

That week, I found God in so many things that, before visiting Lourdes, I was naïve enough to believe he didn’t exist in. In my head, God lived in Church, and it sort of stopped there. Yet, over the next week, I was to see him so clearly in all that I experienced. In the friends I met, who made me laugh until it hurt and who I could be vulnerable with without hesitation. In the sick and the elderly I got to know over trips to mass and post-prayer coffee, who showed me what it was like to live a life that was rich and fruitful.

But, above all these, I found Gods love most tangibly, in his Mother.

I had been visiting the grotto, the place where Our Lady appeared to Bernadette, each evening for the last few nights now. It had felt good to be sat there looking around and enjoying the quiet. I had stopped myself from feeling much else beyond this. I had built a wall up that I was unwilling to bring down. But, hearing my new friends talk about what they had felt in the grotto I was saddened that I had allowed myself to miss out. I went there that evening, with the intention of feeling something. No matter how small.

But God gives abundantly.

That night, I prayed the first real prayer I’d said in years. I spoke to Mary, and in return, I was filled with a peace that I had never felt before. A peace so immeasurable, that I find almost impossible to put into words. I knew in that moment, that God was real and that he loved me. And knowing that, was to change everything.

Not every moment in my life since has been filled with the same peace I felt in the grotto when I was sixteen. But every moment after this, that has been filled with joy and love, that has made me feel more alive than I had thought possible, has come from that week in small town in the South of France.

Places available for Lourdes 2019 - sign up now

Could you help support a young person to go on a pilgrimage to Lourdes? If so, please contact Fr John -

New Year Resolutions: not just once a year!

New Year Resolutions: not just once a year!

Giving ourselves an opportunity to turn over a new leaf and start afresh is important, but the idea of New Year resolutions suggests we can only do it once a year. When you can only make a fresh start once a year, and then slip up on it, it can feel like there’s no point carrying on - you have to wait until next January!

Past Team Retreat

Last weekend, we welcomed back many of our past team volunteers for a reunion weekend. Every year, Castlerigg recruits around eight gap-year volunteers to help run the youth service, be it retreats, outreach or pilgrimages. The bond many of us form as volunteers over our gap year is unique and extremely strong, and lasts for much longer than the year we spend at Castlerigg! This was clear to see as we welcomed back volunteers from over 10 different gap year teams, many of whom are now married (some to each other!) and have families of their own, but all of whom remain friends. We caught up with each other, shared memories and stories of our time on the team at Castlerigg.

What particularly struck members of the current Castlerigg team, many of who had not met many past team members before, was the strong bonds of community that stretch over multiple generations of Castlerigg team. It wasn’t just the 2011 team talking to itself and the 2008 team talking to itself. We all shared a special bond regardless of if we knew each other particularly well or worked at Castlerigg together. It was this which above all made this weekend one of real joy, fun and community.

If you would like to become part of this community, and think working at Castlerigg as one of our gap year volunteers is something you would like to do, email for more information and an application form!

‘Let us prepare our hearts’- Advent Retreat Talk

‘Let us prepare our hearts’- Advent Retreat Talk


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!


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!



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.’


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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“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.