Gerry Doherty reflects on his spiritual journey with Youth 2000
“I want you to be happy, always happy in the Lord!” (Phil. 4:4)
These were the words that have stayed with me since the night my 16-year-old self had first arrived at the Youth 2000 Summer Retreat in Cistercian College, Roscrea on August 16, 2014. I want to tell you why this phrase is the embodiment of Youth 2000, and through it, how Youth 2000 can do the same for you.
Around the time of my first Youth 2000 retreat, I was going through a period of challenge in my faith, being asked what I believed in and why it was worth wasting my time in ‘an angry, finger-pointing, narrow-minded make-believe sky daddy’ by peers who had only recently adopted the stance of either not believing in God, or else rejecting him. You could imagine what an experience this must be to a teenager who was previously naïve to the concept of atheism and antitheism.
I was lucky enough that God intervened for me through my father bringing home a church bulletin one sunny afternoon in mid-July 2014, from which I discovered the Youth 2000 retreat.
This was the perfect opportunity for me as I got to travel further down my own country, meet people who I consider very close friends now, reflect among others who believed, and experience God in a way I never thought I could before. The atmosphere felt nearly overwhelming with anticipation and joy as I first walked into the main hall at the retreat, nearly 1,000 young people there, all to celebrate God in their lives. It was a sight I thought nearly impossible after all the critique and rejection of God I had seen amongst young people at home, most of whom only feigned belief to keep their school and their parents off their backs.
The mixture of talks on Confession, understanding God’s will, the power of the Eucharist, and devotion, along with share groups, music, community and reflection was all I needed to better understand how God works in my life and how to approach the human challenges that my beliefs could face.
From that weekend on, I was led on a path of discernment of how I could best tell the world about that love and renewed understanding God gave to me from that weekend on; leading to the decision that I would undertake a joint honours degree in Catholic Theology and Modern Irish at Trinity College, Dublin.
What I noticed was that just as St Paul says in Phillipians 4:4, “I want you to be happy, always happy in the Lord”, God’s wish is for us to be happy in his love, and in Youth 2000, you get a better opportunity to finally realise how you can be happy in him.
Even on a regional retreat (one of four provincial retreats that are put on twice a year in between the National Summer Retreat (Roscrea) and Christmas Retreat (Newbridge), or the national retreats themselves), there is always something for everyone there. It ranges from talks on all aspects of the Faith and being able to discuss these ideas with others in share groups, being able to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation, dancing and singing in an unprejudiced area, letting your inner happiness in God come out (don’t worry, everyone will love the enthusiasm as that is what it’s all about), great meals, plenty of social time for you to meet and bond with other Catholics and create (what has been for me at least) some of the best friendships in my whole life so far.
I especially say that they are some of my best friendships as you can still be in contact with these people no matter what corner of the country (or world) you are from and remain so strong in your bond, in comparison with the friends you meet almost on a daily basis, who may stray away from you a few years later since your lives both lead elsewhere.
This is because you will have this eternal link in common with one another, namely God, and you can celebrate him in your lives with with one another, always becoming like a family to one another (no joke, this is usually what happens, again as per God’s will).
Outside of my own family, I don’t think I would have ever experienced this kind of love and union with anyone or any group in as healthy a manner as I do with Youth 2000 as I owe it to them to leading me on the path to welcoming the love of God all that more and getting to experience this peace.
To conclude, I feel that I am travelling well on the path of Phillipians 4:4, for I have become happier in my life, a lot more happier in the Lord, and if I can receive this love and understanding, I’m very well sure that you definitely can so too!
If you ever want to say hello to me or have a chat if you are a newcomer, you will always find me at the national retreats and I will be the fella’ going about with the blond hair, gold Fáinne pinned on his left-breast pocket, who speaks in an unmistakenably Northern accent.