Celebrate St Albans 2011: a student’s experience of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal
A month ago I went to the Celebrate weekend in my hometown. This was the first Catholic Charismatic Conference that I had been to in 4 years, and although I was really looking forward to it, I had forgotten the sheer power of the Holy Spirit that makes these gatherings such a blessing to be a part of.
In my teenage years I was disappointed by the lack of enthusiasm that I sometimes perceived around me in Masses. I found it so refreshing when I came away to uni and found that there were other people who wanted their faith to overflow beyond obligation. I loved joining in with praise and worship evenings, and meeting up with people to pray with them, and I began to wonder why these things weren’t happening in the rest of the Church, or if they were, where they were hiding. As soon as I walked into the Celebrate conference I realised that I had just not been looking hard enough. It was so beautiful to realise that there were people of all ages who felt the same passion for Christ, and the same love for the Church that I experience at uni. Throughout the weekend I found myself constantly looking around me and praising God that I was surrounded by people far younger, and far older than myself who were all singing and raising their arms in such a beautiful expression of love for our God. And speaking to some of the ‘real’ adults at the conference gave me hope that it is possible to bring this eagerness for Christ into all parts of life even when I have to move beyond my uni community. It’s not that I had doubted the power of the Holy Spirit before, but I had been worried that when I emerged from uni into the reality of the world, I might close myself and become less receptive to His promptings. Celebrate was perfect evidence that it doesn’t have to happen like that; the Holy Spirit can be a transforming power in anyone’s life, no matter their age or occupation.
The atmosphere and the praise and worship at the conference probably would have been enough to set my heart on fire, but the talks that I heard blew me away. The ones that have made the biggest impression on me were the talks about evangelisation. I had heard a lot at world youth day about the importance of evangelisation, and the urgent need to bring Christ to the world, and I had readily agreed with it all, but really was quite daunted by the task of actually going about it. The talks at Celebrate made me realise that it is not a chore to be daunted by, but rather it should be the natural progression flowing from our passion for Jesus. A love for Jesus fosters a love for the world, and we can only truly love the world if we share with it our most precious treasure: our Saviour. The Celebrate experience also encouraged me through the manifestation of the power of the Spirit– I saw that if I was willing to do God’s work, the Spirit would work in me and I realised that I had to do nothing through my own abilities, so there should be no fear of failure.
I am so grateful for the Celebrate weekend, for the transforming talks and for each and every person who attended, because I was inspired merely by your presence.