Wednesday 1st August was the official start of the Youth Festival. We started off our day in the usual way with breakfast, prayer and Mass. Medjugorje had already been busy with people since we arrived but there seemed to be more and more young people arriving each day. Around the Church it was starting to get more crowded and colourful as each group of young people brought with them their flags and banners. There was also a giant helium Rosary floating around all week, it looked awesome!
As the Youth Festival was not kicking off until the evening time we joined an afternoon talk and presentation by Pure in Heart (http://www.pureinheartireland.com), an International Catholic Movement of young adults who through prayer and friendship, strive together to learn, live and share the truth, beauty and meaning of human sexuality. The presentation covered many topics including: What is Love?; Dating and relationships; Sex and sexuality; Modesty and Respect; and Chastity - the forgotten virtue. Although I have met the team and heard the presentation many times there is always something new in it for me and their personal testimonies are so inspiring.
The Youth Festival began with a time of welcome from each of the countries who were in Medjugorje for the Youth Festival. Our group were given the opportunity to do the welcome for Scotland so armed with some Scottish flags, the signpost for Scotland and the all important Scottish accent they headed for the main stage to encourage all the young people to have a brave heart and let Jesus give them His Freedom! Following all the welcomes there was an International Mass. One of the most important things you need if you ever go to Medjugorje is your radio, otherwise you’ll be lost. Thankfully with a simple little radio you will get the translation for everything that is happening. After Mass there was a beautiful time of Adoration and reflection. The young people were encouraged to love God now, to love Him wherever we are in life, that if we wait until we are saints or holier then we may never love Him. Jesus is standing knocking at the door of our hearts, waiting for us to open it and to let Him in and to love Him.
Thursday was the first full day of the Youth Festival. Both the morning and afternoon sessions were packed with lectures, music and amazing testimonies. The choir, made up of young people from many different countries, was fantastic. And how could we not mention the Dancing Nuns, absolutely amazing. They had us all up on our feet dancing to all the songs. Although the young people came from many different nations, countries and languages we were united through our faith, the celebration of the Sacraments and song.
Medjugorje has been called the ‘confessional of the world’; this is very true. Everywhere you look there are queues of people waiting to go to confessions and although this year a new block of confessional was opened there were still many priests hearing confessions outside. Many people come to Medjugorje looking for something and feeling overburdened, many want to get close to God but do not know how. Through the loving care of our Mother Mary we find the courage to respond to her call and to allow her to guide us to her Son. Our desire is to better our lives in the love of Christ. We kneel before Jesus and we ask Him to transform and change us. Through the graces that are poured out in confession, Mass, and Adoration we are strengthen in our desire to follow Christ.