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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.