Every year well over a thousand young people gather in Walsingham for the Youth 2000 Festival at the end of August. It’s an amazing gathering of people from all over England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales for five days of music, prayer, workshops, and especially great fun. The atmosphere there is noticeable straight away, from the moment you arrive in the door of the welcome tent and Barbara gives you a big hello. It’s a sign of things to come!
I arrived on the Friday and it was like coming home again. It’s only my second year, but everyone is so open and friendly it’s like I’ve never been away. We had a beautiful reconciliation service in the evening. There were dozens of priest helping people to put aside the mistakes of the past and to move on in life assured of God’s love and understanding.
On Saturday we all processed to the small town of Walsingham where we celebrated Mass in the Anglican Shrine. The weather was sunny and warm and everyone was relaxed sitting around on the grass as the bishop spoke about the plight of refugees in Europe and challenged us see how we could respond. The afternoon was for workshops and football, as well as relaxing and drinking tea. That evening there was a healing service in the main marquee where people reflected on the call of God to live life to the full and to pray for health and wholeness.
Sunday was my final day, but I think it was well spent. While everyone was celebrating Mass in the main tent I was helping the Conventual Franciscan Friars and the kitchen team prepare the sausages for lunch. Needless to say extensive sampling was necessary to make sure everything was perfect. I had time to join in with the vocations workshop, before I had to head off back to Ireland. Still, what a great weekend!
The whole festival revolves around the Blessed Sacrament. When Mass is not being celebrated there is Adoration, which runs around the clock. The person of Jesus is the soul and the centre of the Youth 2000 festival. It is about an encounter with our God that is realised in prayer and reflection, but also in fellowship and fun. The Youth 2000 festival in Walsingham really is the promised land. Roll on 2016. I’m already looking forward to it.
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