I just received a letter from myself.
I just received a letter from myself!
At the end of September last year I attended Celebrate, a Catholic conference held in various places about the country every year. It was one of the best decisions of my life.
The previous March my wonderful youth group went to Flame, a massive Catholic youth event in Wembley Arena. It was incredible! The singing and dancing…miraculous testimonies…God and the Olympics…drama, a glee flash mob, appearances from David Wells, Jason Gardener and Fr Timothy Radcliffe, among many others…and the silence! I’ll bet Wembley has never before seen eight thousand teenage Catholics joined in silent prayer.
(My youth group was inspired by this to hold a long service of singing and silence every three or four months. We market it as ‘loud praise and silent adoration’—and we’ve kept it up ever since. There’s nothing like it for restoring passion to faith.)
I’ll never forget the comment Alex posted on my Protagonize profile two days after the event: ‘…the sign. ‘8000+ people; who have you met before?’ Me: umm…this looks like nobody. In retrospect: Bazzzz!!’ (Baz being another of my internet names.) She was sitting in the block behind mine. No; we didn’t run into one another—heck, we’d only met over the internet!—but the marvel is there.
We were so pumped after this experience (though the hotel in which we stayed in Piccadilly was recently closed down for its atrocious quality!) my youth group determined we’d go away together more often.
The epic praise-song sing-along! And this photo was taken from halfway down the arena!
So in September last year we went to Celebrate. And that was completely different. Kind of like a summer school sort of thing, because we overran the top floor of a school building and did all sorts of awesome things linked to God, and had Mass both days, but we actually got to talk to the other people there.
It was much smaller than Flame—only twenty or thirty people in our age-group (Years7-10). Yes; I was too old for it, but the two girls I’m most friendly with in my youth group are younger than me (though rather more spiritually mature, I might add!). So I made some wonderful and gorgeous friends, Catholics like myself, who go to Celebrate every year and only meet one another then. So strange—but so lovely!
One of the activities we did there was writing letters to ourselves, which they promised to send us sometime in the next year. I’m not sure how seriously I took it; I don’t even remember writing the letter, not to mention expecting it back.
But this morning I received two letters. One a birthday card…and the other an envelope addressed to me in a green felt-tip pen, in my own handwriting!
I wondered if I’d sent one of my cousins an envelope with my address on it. But when I ripped the back off and slid out the letter, that, too, was penned in the green felt-tip, and in my writing. Eesh, I thought, this person is good at imitation.
‘Dear Lillie’, it began, and so I read.
The flyer for this year.
It was my work without a doubt. The phrasing, the imagery…and the letter-writer knew things about me that I’ve never dared tell anyone. I mean the writing was flowery and awful, but still.
I expect I scribbled whatever first came to mind and just shoved it in the envelope as soon as I’d signed it ‘Yourself’ at the bottom.
But every single line I wrote is exactly what I need right now. ‘Can’t I implore you to remain adamant in all you love and believe in now? Keep love as your stimulus, Jesus your nucleus. Be good and patient so that Jesus can be seen in your soul—through you!—yes, you’re worthy when he’s shining inside you.’
I won’t give you any more; the letter is, after all, addressed to me, and is accordingly very personal. But how can I express what this means to me?
Was I wiser last September than I am now, to write such things that would help me in months to come? I may claim I’ve existed in the same way these past three years, but there’s no doubt I’ve changed. We’re constantly processing fresh and powerful emotions, and as we do we forget the old mantras. There are some which may stay with me forever; others fade.
As me ten months ago tells me now, ‘old wounds don’t hurt forever’. Since I’ve no experience of forever, I can’t vouch for that, but to be sure, some things grow less as we learn to forgive those who perpetrated them—myself included. My letter tells me to forgive myself. And today, that’s what I’m going to do.
Flame logo: https://lillianmwoodall.files.wordpress.com/2013/08/7646a-flame.jpg
Flame in action: http://www.priorparkcollege.com/newsimages/560/image2/600_510-(small).jpg
Celebrate poster 2013: http://www.celebrateconference.org/i/button_poster_southampton_2013.gif