I grew up in a Catholic home with my parents, my two younger brothers and my younger sister. For most of my teenage years, my faith didn’t mean anything to me. I thought Mass was very boring and I didn’t see the point in going. I went every Sunday but only to please my parents.
As a teenager, I always felt that God was very distant. I did believe in God but this was not a decision I made for myself. It was something I believed because of my parents. I didn’t believe that God loved me. I thought he didn’t really care about me.
This feeling was made worse when I was bullied at school. At first I tried to ignore it. I thought if those involved couldn’t see they were upsetting me they would soon get bored and stop. But this did not happen. More and more people got involved and the bullying, which gradually became aggressive and violent, continued for many months.
Over time I began suffering from depression and always wanted to be alone. My self-confidence, wellbeing and personality were affected and I was full of anger, shame, hurt and insecurity. I didn’t enjoy life and I started to wonder if my life was worth living.
I was 17 when I went to my first Youth 2000 retreat after a teacher made an announcement about it in religion class. I had no idea how it would impact my life. During one of the Masses God allowed me, in a very simple and gentle way, to feel his presence and his love for me and I was consoled by the fact that Jesus also suffered unjustly at the hands of others.
I left that retreat with a desire get to know God. I began to treat God like a friend. I made an effort to spend time with him and I began to talk to him about things that were happening in my life.
I started to pray for the first time in my life. I went to more retreats and I also began to attend a Youth 2000 prayer meeting in a local parish. Youth 2000 has almost 50 prayer groups in different parishes around Ireland. This helped me get to know my Catholic faith and develop a personal relationship with Jesus.
We met once a week for an hour. It also helped me heal from the hurt I had endured while in school. We prayed the Rosary together and spent time with Jesus in adoration. I made many friends and met people who prayed and went on retreats but also lived a normal life.
Seeing people live their faith really inspired me and soon I was going to Mass not only to keep my parents happy. I wanted to go to be with God. Youth 2000 really help me grow in my faith and gave me the confidence to live my faith out in everyday life. Everyone is trying to help each other on the way to Heaven. That’s what I love so much about Youth 2000.
Our summer festival takes places at the Cistercian College in Roscrea, Co. Tipperary from August 17 to 20. It’s going to be amazing! Over 1,200 young people from all over Ireland will be attending. Free buses will be bringing young people between the ages of 16 and 35 together from all four provinces for four days of prayer, worship, talks and craic.
A lot of people come to Summer Youth Festival after hearing about it from their friends who previously attended. When people come for the first time they are always struck by the amount of people who have turned up for a Catholic event. They are not expecting to see so many young people at something religious. They begin to ask questions about the Faith and open their hearts to God. This was something that really helped me at my first Youth 2000 retreat. I immediately felt at ease when I saw so many other people my age.
The retreats are also really fun. We have a packed schedule including talks, workshops, small group discussions, social time, testimonies, Mass, music and adoration. There is plenty of social time and free time to catch up with people.
The talks over the weekend typically focus on aspects of the Faith that are relevant to young people such as the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, Our Lady, God’s mercy and forgiveness in the Sacrament of Confession and what it’s like as a young person trying to live the Christian life in today’s world.
My advice to anyone thinking of coming to this year’s festival is to give it a try. It is something you have to see and experience for yourself. If you don’t have a relationship with God, Youth 2000 is a good place to start.
For more information about the festival and free buses is available from youth2000.ie