History was made on Saturday, 7 March, when more than 8,000 young people gathered at Wembley Arena for Flame 2, one of the largest-ever Catholic youth events to be held in this country. Organised by the Catholic Youth Ministry Federation, (CYMFed)n BBC presenters Alfie Joey and Gilly Hope introduced the stellar line-up of speakers and performers: Cardinal Luis Tagle, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Fr Timothy Radcliffe, Baroness Holliins, David Wells and Matt Redman.
After a dramatic interpretation of St John's Gospel and opening prayer, with music from double Grammy winner Matt Redman, accompanied by light, colour and images, a message from Pope Francis was read out (See: ICN 7 March 2015 Pope Francis Message to Flame 2 www.indcatholicnews.com/news.php?viewStory=26911 ) Cardinal Luis Tagle from the Philippines, gave an inspiring talk: in which he focused on sharing "something of the mercy of God and the joy of the Gospel".
He urged his young audience to notice and marvel at the many signs of mercy they must see in their homes and parish communities, and to be alert to the lack of mercy in the world today amidst such issues as hunger, conflict, migrant tensions. "Why is God merciful?" he asked. Then he explained that God has made a covenant relationship with his people. "I am your God and you are my people." "God is faithful to us and God's mercy is extravagant." ... "The Gospel is really the Gospel of mercy" he said.
"The disciples were Jesus' students. he taught them for three years and then he sent the Holy Spirit." "My dear young people of England and Wales, be the living sign in our world of God's mercy," he said. "Be God's ears and eyes of mercy - visit the sick and prisoners, feed the hungry and thirsty, be good Samaritans". Spread the flame of God's mercy and heal the wounded world." At this point, the Cardinal asked the audience to get out their mobile phone and switch on their torches. For a few moments, the entire arena became a sea of light.
Cardinal Tagle went on to tell a story about a young boy he met who lived in a shelter for street children. The boy asked him to sign a tee shirt for him. When he met him again months later , the boy told him the tee-shirt had never been washed. Instead he kept it under his pillow. "I have not seen my father in years, but with that tee-shirt I know that I belong to a family and that is the Church," he said. Cardinal Tagle concluded with: "Let us ask the Lord to bless the young people of England and Wales".
The fast-paced programme was interspersed with dance, film and music. There were lunchtime workshops run by Pax Christi, the Salesians, Columbans and CAFOD. David Wells gave a moving account of his faith journey. Baroness Hollins spoke of her dedication to campaigning for mental health. Three CAFOD gap year volunteers showed a film and described their work overseas, including projects with street children in Zimbabwe and peace and reconciliation work with Jewish and Palestinian groups in Israel and Palestine. Father Dan Fitzpatrick and Fr Marc Lyden Smith. described their time on the programme Pointless, their Podfather podcasts and their mission taking the Church to the pub.
Things came to crescendo with a flashdance to Pharrel Williams' 'Happy' song. The day moved to a calmer time with Fr Timothy Radcliffe before s time of Adoration. "We need the music and dancing to wake us up" he said. "We need the exultant joy. But we also need that quiet joy when we look at the Host at the Body of Christ" - "..thats a time when God also looks at us too" he said.
"Adoration is a bit like sunbathing but more than that. The monstrance looks like the sun. You feel the warmth of God's love." We say "Let your face shine on us" . God knows all the worst things that you have done and he still delights in us. You are His. And he is yours.. We let God look at us and he sees the immense capacity for goodness and holiness that everyone of us has - and he may invite us to do something crazy. In Adoration we look at the Lord and the Lord looks at us. God's smile dares us to give away out lives - because this is the greatest joy that can ever be. This is the joy we were made for... "Last week Pope Frances said 'have the courage to seek happiness' ..." To fall in love with God is the greatest of romances. To seek God is the greatest adventure. Let's do it."
Cardinal Vincent Nichols presided at Adoration. Archbishop Bernard Longley, Archbishop Patrick Kelly, Bishop John Arnold and many more clergy took part in the procession. Among the reading was Blessed John Henry Newman's Some Definite Service: "God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another, I have my mission - I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good; I shall do His work...."
At the end of the day, CYMFed chair, Fr Dermott Donelly told ICN: "Its been an inspirational day. For me, one beautiful moment was when everyone brought out their phones and the arena was full of lights."
There was a one thousand strong contingent from Westminster, but many young people had travelled long distances to attend the day - some leaving as early as 4 in morning from the north of England, to reach Wembley in time.
One group were CAFOD volunteers from Portsmouth: Nathaniel Fernandes, Sarah Davis, Akshata Malankar. Sarah said: "Its really inspiring to be here and to see so many young people sharing their faith." Akshata commented: "Its been incredible to see such a diverse variety of people from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds." and Nathanial said: "I've never felt so enriched. To be around around so many people of all ages and backgrounds, There's a really powerful vibe here."
More reports from #Flame 2 to come later this week.
Visit ICN's Facebook to see more pictures from the day. www.facebook.com/pages/Independent-Catholic-News-ICN/195368037167900 For more information visit the CYMFed site here: http://cymfed.org.uk/
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