The Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, gave the keynote address on the Sunday morning. He talked about the three stages of Cardinal Newman’s conversion as an example of how to consider a vocation. He said Cardinal Newman described himself as possessing a natural religion and a having personal belief in God, which was followed by a realisation of the importance of dogmatic truth. His gift of presence with a Church of infallible teachings was the final stage at which point Cardinal Newman decided to become a Catholic.
A sense of how historic and significant the weekend was came as the Holy Father’s Apostolic Blessing for Invocation was read out at the final Mass celebrated by Archbishop Nichols. Part of the message read:
“Particularly during this period of preparation for the Apostolic visit of the Holy Father, when this country has a special place in his thoughts and prayers, Pope Benedict XVI encourages all those present to continue to stay close to Our Blessed Lord as they strive to discern his will for their lives, and to put their trust in the power of the Holy Spirit who will give them the courage to say ‘yes’ to the Lord’s invitation.As well as the main talks, we had the chance to go to four workshops throughout the weekend on various different topics. I went along to the ‘priesthood’ workshop. It was encouraging to see a good number of lads, between 6th Form and university student age, listening attentively to three priests and a seminarian talk about the work of a priest and the journey to ordination. There was opportunity to ask questions after each of the talks and things like a deeper explanation of the celibate priesthood were explored. I also went along to sessions on witness and the theology of the body.
“His Holiness cordially imparts to all the participants in Invocation 2010 and to their families and loved ones a special Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of abundant graces from Our Blessed Lord.”
Youth 2000 had a lot of input into the liturgies, but there was a mix of ‘praise and worship’ and more traditional hymns at the Masses. In the large marquee on the Saturday night, there was a moving reconciliation service. Dozens of priests were dotted around inside and outside and there was some reflective praise and worship music as confessions were heard. Afterwards, there was a Blessed Sacrament procession around the college grounds, ending with Benediction and a blessing for Birmingham.
The college’s chapel was full for the three Masses, two of which were celebrated by Archbishop Nichols and Archbishop Bernard Longley respectively. The sight of people standing outside the doors to the chapel for Mass and for morning prayer highlighted how encouraging the numbers were.
There was no sense of teenagers being badgered by their diocesan vocation directors or by the representatives of the different orders. Instead, all were easily available for youngsters to chat to for information and about what their calling might be. Evenings in the bar provided a more informal setting for people to chat to priests and seminarians. To see a Catholic event dominated by young people who were actively open to the possibility of a vocation to the priesthood or religious life was a delight. Father Stephen Langridge, staff and students at Oscott College and volunteers who helped organise and run the event should be warmly congratulated.