A Youth 2000 Retreat is always going to be special, but the last regional gathering in Craig Lodge in the Scottish Highlands was wonderful. This is the home of Mary’s Meals, the dynamic charity that provides over a million meals every day to children living in poverty around the world. This time we had almost 200 young people from around Scotland and beyond. Some even bussed it up from London. It didn’t matter where you came from. It was just fantastic to be there. We had those who have been at the last twenty Youth 2000 Retreats and others for whom it was their first time. All were equally welcome.
We were blessed to have some of the most amazing music ministry, led by Kate and the team. Throughout the whole weekend we had Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. It was the perfect opportunity to raise hearts and minds to God, while putting up with the midges. I had heard about them, but honestly anything I was told didn’t do them justice. They were relentless, as was the rain, but plagues of insects and floods of water couldn’t dampen the spirits of all the people there. In fact it kind of made it better. In the River is now officially one of my top five favourite hymns, along with Kate Curran’s Pentecost Sequence that she sang for the first time that weekend.
We had a series of inspirational talks about prayer, the call to follow God, finding you way in life, and loads of testimonials about how faith made a difference in people’s lives. On Saturday the priest who was meant to speak at the vocations workshop was late, so I was drafted in to help. I spoke about my own call to be a Missionary of the Sacred Heart and how I came to join my Congregation after a time of discernment and prayer. The other members of the panel, a sister, a brother and a married couple shared their vocation stories and it was clear that prayer and the openness to taking courageous risks were common themes, as was a sense of joy in doing what we were doing now.
We had a healing and reconciliation service on Saturday night. This is always one of the highlights of the retreat. On Sunday I was blessed to lead the final Mass. It was the Feast of Pentecost and also my eighth anniversary of Ordination. It was a time to reflect on the courage of the early Church in proclaiming to the whole world the hope that they believed in, but to do so with gentleness and kindness. The is the call of all Christians and we are told to witness to it by what we say and what we do. After Mass it was straight into the car and a mad dash for Glasgow Airport. All in all an unforgettable weekend!
Fr Alan Neville