Naomi Ceairns, 25, is the assistant director at Soli House, a retreat centre for 14-18 year olds in the Archdiocese of Birmingham. She is orginally from the parish of Christ the King, Coventry but currently lives in community at Soli House with other 12 young people where she helps 1000s of young people each year encounter Christ and his Church www.solihouse.org
In 2007, whilst I was volunteering with the mission team at Alton Castle Catholic retreat centre in the Archdiocese of Birmingham, my parish youth minister Carmel Keane invited me to join the diocesan pilgrimage to World Youth Day in Sydney. The idea of going to Australia and being given this opportunity was amazing. However, I’d never really thought about the Pope before or his role in the Church, or indeed his role in my life. During preparation for WYD and then being a part of the worldwide group in Sydney, I was overwhelmed by the amount of people, mostly young people who had gathered to be in the presence of the Holy Father. I’ll never forget the atmosphere at Sydney’s Darling Harbour as 200,000 young people assembled to welcome the Pope as he arrived by boat. There were flags from all over the world and pretty much everyone was singing the official song ‘Receive the Power’ which was written for the theme of the pilgrimage. Pope Benedict greeted us in several languages and talked about how blessed he was to be stood on this land! I was stood in the same crowd as the Holy Father, the most important man in the world, the man who was about to become the most inspirational and influential person in my journey of faith.
It was during Pope Benedict’s visit to the UK in September 2010 that I was really inspired by his words. By then, I had taken up my post at Soli House (a Catholic Youth Retreat Centre for 14-18 year olds in Stratford upon Avon) and was striving for Christ to be at the centre of my life. Along with hundreds of young people from the Archdiocese of Birmingham, I travelled to London for the Hyde Park vigil, a time that Pope Benedict described as an evening of “immense spiritual joy”. During the day, before the Pope arrived, we were entertained by dancers, musicians, and testimonies from some very inspirational people- with the added excitement of Carol Vorderman presenting!! But one of the most incredible parts of the day was the arrival of the Holy Father in his Pope mobile- everyone was standing on their chairs and climbing on each others shoulders just to get a glimpse! There were around 80,000 people in Hyde Park that day, most of them chanting and singing the Pope’s name- it was incredible! After he had spoken to us about the words and inspiration of Cardinal John Henry Newman “who taught us that the ‘kindly light’ of faith leads us to the truth about ourselves, our dignity as God’s children”; Pope Benedict invited us to pray with him as the Blessed Sacrament was exposed and we entered into a time of Adoration. Considering there were so so many people in the park and it was getting quite cold- you couldn’t hear a sound. I was overwhelmed as I felt tears fall down my checks and as I turned to the people either side of me, I noticed the tears in their eyes too. The Pope had just told me that I was a child of God, something I’d heard before but never realised how much those words meant to me. This became one of the most precious moments in my faith journey.
We are made to receive love and we need to thank the Lord for the love we have received from our families, our friends, our teachers, and all those people in our lives who have helped us to realise how precious we are in their eyes, and in the eyes of God.
Think of the love that the Father had lavished upon us, that we may be called God’s children1 John 3:1