A few weekends ago, my friend Catherine and I went to the Youth 2000 retreat in Leeds. Both of us have had quite a stressful first half of this semester and so it was really beneficial for us both to get away from uni for the weekend and to spend some time with God.
The theme of the retreat was “Rooted” which was taken from the scripture quote:
“Remember it is not you that support the root, but the root that supports you” (Romans 11:16-24).
I’ve got to admit, I’d never come across this piece of scripture before but it has definitely given me a lot to think about both during the retreat and afterwards.
The weekend is made up of many parts – from talks and workshops to group discussions and social time. However, the key element of any Youth 2000 retreat is the fact that Jesus is exposed in the form of the Blessed Sacrament all the time! This means that He is physically with us for the whole retreat, and so the opportunity for adoration is always there – even at 3am or so in the morning, you can get up to be with God. It is really special.
We arrived on Saturday morning and were able to go to our room and get organised before Mass at 10am. As we’d had a busy (and very early!) start to the day, starting the day with Mass was a great way for us to refocus and get in the right mindset for the retreat. Mass was celebrated by Fr Peter Kravos and he gave an amazing homily talking about Our Lady and basically how amazing she is! I loved how passionate he was and it was one of the best homilies I’ve heard.
After Mass, we had a short break where we refuelled on tea/coffee and scones and then went back into the chapel for a talk by Mother Winsome about prayer. I found this talk really inspiring as she talked about how easy it can be to get distracted, to rush prayer or to think you don’t have enough time – all very relatable!! She used many quotes from saints and also a few personal anecdotes as well as giving a few little tips to encourage us. She also reminded us of the three answers God gives to our prayers: “yes”, “no” and “wait”. It was really helpful for me to remember that just because God hasn’t answered my prayers in the way I wanted, it doesn’t mean He didn’t answer it at all! Following this, we had a short time where we split into small groups and shared our thoughts on the talk. It was really interesting to hear other people’s thoughts and what had stood out to them, as well as a great opportunity to meet new people!
Lunch time was next and we were treated to a feast of wraps with all varieties of fillings, soup and then meringues with fruit. With us having breakfast at 5am, the amount of food we were given was very welcome! At lunch we were able to sit with friends from our diocese and catch up on what they’ve been up to recently.
We then were given a choice of workshops to choose from and so Catherine and I chose “Faith in Action” which was a panel of people who were sharing about how they put their faith in action! I found it really interesting hearing how other people put their faith into practice and use their everyday lives to make a difference. I was especially interested by them talking about an event called ‘NightFever’ in which members of the public are invited into a church to light a candle. I’ve heard a lot about this before, however didn’t really know what it was about. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to attend one of these events in the near future, and hopefully one will be able to happen in Liverpool at some point! I really enjoyed this workshop overall, however what wasn’t mentioned was that we would be filmed by the BBC! BBC One are making a documentary about the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal and as two of the friars were on the panel, they recorded the discussion. This was quite distracting at times as the cameras were quite often zoomed in close to our faces or blocking our view of the speakers, however I believe that the documentary will be very interesting and will hopefully display to the public the amazing work that the friars do in Bradford and Leeds, as well as how much they love God. (If you’re interested, the documentary is airing on BBC One on Maundy Thursday after the ten o’clock news!)
After this, we went to a talk by Fr Michael Hall on the theme “Magnify” where he talked about how we can use Mary to bring us closer to God. He was exploring the idea that often perplexes non-Catholics who think that we worship Mary (we don’t). I’ve been to a talk by Fr Michael before and found it really interesting and this one was no different. He talked about how we can use Mary as almost a magnifying glass. However, honouring Mary doesn’t make God ‘smaller’ – she actually works like when you concentrate sunlight through a magnifying glass so makes God ‘hotter’/more important! I thought he was an incredibly passionate and interesting speaker and would definitely recommend going to one of his talks if you ever get the opportunity.
The rest of the day was made up of Holy Hour which was followed by a talk on Reconciliation and then the Reconciliation and Healing Service. It was a really beautiful time of Adoration, Confession and Praise and Worship. The Healing Service was definitely my favourite part of the retreat, but the whole night helped me to relax and truly feel God’s presence. I’m not going to go into detail about this because it was a very private, prayerful time but I’m sure anyone who’s been to a Youth 2000 retreat will tell you how beautiful this time of the retreat is. The night was concluded with praise and worship and at the end, all the musical instruments were put down and we sang a capella. The singing was so beautiful, and the harmonies so natural that it sounded like a heavenly chorus! The night couldn’t have ended anymore beautifully.
When the night’s activities had ended, Catherine and I went to our room, as we realised we had been awake for 20 hours straight at this point!
On Sunday morning we woke up and were treated to a delicious cooked breakfast of sausages, eggs and toast – the day couldn’t have started any better!
We then went into a time of Morning praise and the Rosary, which was followed by a talk entitled ‘The Call to Holiness’. I’m not going to lie, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of the title of the talk because after all, isn’t holiness just for like priests/nuns/religious?
Turns out I was wrong! God calls all of us to holiness! The talk was fantastic – very inspiring and very funny. We were given several tips to help us to be holier, especially how we have to be “like the Avengers” – we have to surround ourselves by people we believe to be holier than us because our friendship with them will help us to become more holy ourselves! I love this analogy and have definitely been giving this a lot of thought since then.
This talk was followed by a time of testimonies, where several people shared how God had spoken to them and touched their lives during the retreat and how they felt inspired to go back into their lives with a renewed outlook. It was so incredible to hear what amazing things God accomplished in our lives over the weekend!
The day was concluded with Sunday Mass where we were once again treated to a brilliant homily. Fr Michael Hall was the chief celebrant of Mass, and his homily about evangelisation was so inspiring! He used the analogy of an orange vs a ball to show how we have to share out the message of Christ, rather than trying to force it on people.
And with that, the retreat came to a close!
It was an incredible weekend and it really helped me to deliberately take time out to spend with God over the weekend. I really was able to feel His presence over the weekend and I was able to go back to uni with a much better mindset than the one I left with!
As I always say, if you ever get chance to go on a Youth 2000 retreat, take it! God will do amazing things in your life over the retreat and it will really help you to focus your life on Him.
Until next time,