Last week was Youth 2000’s 25th anniversary festival. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this organisation, Youth 2000 runs events for young people, filled with Mass, workshops, Adoration, talks, awesome music, the chance to make new friends in the faith and lots of fun.
One of the main features of this festival that I like is how it demonstrates the normality of faithfully living our Catholic beliefs. We’re often told in the media and elsewhere that Catholic values and practices are strange or outdated. Obviously this isn’t true, but with all the outside pressures it can be tempting to surrender our beliefs for the sake of conformity. But Youth 2000 shows that this surrender is completely unnecessary. On the contrary, being a faithful Catholic is a joy – and the best way to spend our time on Earth.
This normality was highlighted by Father Stephen Wang, in his homily at the closing Mass of this year’s event. He talked about how the faith-filled joy that we felt during these days was how life should be anyway. The day-to-day experience away from our faith isn’t normal; we shouldn’t feel bored, jealous, lonely or anything like this. Whilst we are only human, and therefore prone to these feelings, they shouldn’t be normal for a person who knows that they are loved by the Creator of the universe!
Knowing that we are loved by Love itself (or God) should be the greatest joy in our lives. And Youth 2000 provides a platform for us to demonstrate that joy. Indeed, when we know that we are loved by God, every day is a blessing and another step in our journey to Heaven. Knowing this, we are always moving forward, not backward. As Fr Stephen said, after Youth 2000 we weren’t going “back home”, but “forward home”, to continue the adventure of a lifetime that is being a disciple of Jesus.
This sense of moving “forward home” stood out for me. Various times, people call the Catholic Church outdated and other similar names, because we have traditions they don’t agree with. But they couldn’t be more wrong. When you consider all the needless grief in the world caused by our human weaknesses, knowing that we are on a journey towards Heaven, towards becoming saints, is always a forward, progressive motion.
Youth 2000 can act as a life-changer for newcomers and re-energiser for veterans. In either case, let it be a stepping stone on your forward-journey home.