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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.”