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Fresh Experience of Conversion

One of the things I do in my spare time is serve on the leadership team of Youth 2000 (ha ha, I know – normal people take up zumba or buy nice things from Boden…) I first had my conversion ten years ago through Youth 2000 when I was 17. So it is a great, great joy to continue to serve. Every year at Walsingham I wonder when will be my last year, when the Lord will make it clear that this has come to an end. But, somehow, it never grows stale and I continue to receive so many graces through Youth 2000.

Leadership team being commissioned at this year’s festival

One of the beautiful things about Youth 2000 is that it brings you right back again to the fresh experience of conversion. It brings you back to basics – being simple and humble, open and intimate with Christ. It is so beautiful to see this journey beginning in young souls. I don’t have dramatic experiences of God’s love anymore like I did when I was going to retreats at 17 and 18. God needed to get my attention back then, and now my faith has deepened and strengthened, so now it is more a daily experience of his love in my life. But on Sunday night, we heard testimony after testimony from young people, all aged between 16 and 21, of the powerful experiences of God’s love they had received through Confession and the Eucharist. They often articulated them nervously, but an authentic, unmediated experience of joy, peace and freedom from having just been touched by Christ, radiated from each one.

I am sure that, this hidden work of the Holy Spirit and the open response of each individual, young soul is the most precious thing in the whole Church, the whole world!

When I was 17 I didn’t quite realise how precious it was, and perhaps those young people who with such courage and faith got up to give their testimony, don’t either. No one gets to see these miracles within souls. The humility of the Lord in working in such a hidden way is exquisite. But this is exactly what is beautiful about being a Catholic – the joy of being touched by Christ. If we ever lose sight of that, we are lost!

One of the team updated her status:

Just had an incredible experience with about 20 other young people, most aged 16 or 17, who chose to sacrifice sleep and come pray & worship in adoration from 3-4am, or the “power hour”, as we call it! I was really touched seeing these teens pouring their hearts out in prayer to God at that time of the morning – 3am has a new meaning for me, I think!

Over the weekend, I couldn’t help thinking of CT 5 (yes, I know, CT 5 is never far from a catechist’s mind 😉 ):

“the definitive aim of catechesis is to put people not only in touch but in communion, in intimacy, with Jesus Christ”

This is something that is achieved at Walsingham without a shadow of a doubt. Over the space of five days, hundreds of teenagers and young adults have their faith awakened, it is as though their souls rise from the dead, from sleeping; they repent of their sins, experience healing in Christ and the joy of relationship with him.

It’s a winning formula! However, I am very aware that, in our parish programmes, we rarely see the same depth of conversion after a year’s catechesis.

Here’s the theme song from this year’s festival: ‘The lost are found, the blind will see, the lame will walk, the dead will live…’ We really saw this at Walsingham! The deepest prayer in my heart is that we are able to put people into intimacy with Christ in the parish, too, so that we witness the same kind of miracles…