FLAME 2023

“Rise Up” was the theme for the event, from Luke 1: 39 “Mary arose and went in haste.” Flame was organised by the Catholic Youth Ministry Federation in the UK. It was well attended, about 8,000 young people from different parts of England and Wales.

It was wonderful to start an event of this kind with a message from the Holy Father Pope Francis for Flame 2023. “Sending heartfelt good wishes and the assurance of his spiritual closeness to all taking part”

There was an atmosphere of excitement, flashing lights and loud cheering at intervals during and after each performance. Yet my experience was that of the “Church” in a different style of Fellowship. From the beginning when the statue of Our Lady of Walsingham was brought inside the arena, I knew it was going to be an awesome experience. She was ushered in with so much reverence and taking her place on stage as the Queen Mother, was edifying.

The opening liturgy was mind blowing with music by One Hope Project and drama by Pupils from St. Angela’s and St. Bonaventure’s schools in East London.

It was a six hours event that featured a wholistic presentation and performance. From the different artist that performed on stage to the giving of testimonies of lived faith experience and the delivery of yet another inspirational talks by Cardinal Luis Tagle and Archbishop Timothy Costelloe of Perth (Australia). Both speakers spoke in the language that were familiar to the young, yet invitational for them to rise up to the challenges of simple ordinary daily life situations. Cardinal Tagle spoke in his usual captivating manner, about some significant “angles” in his life who inspired him to “rise up” and in that sense invited all present to reflect and recognise those people whom God sends to us as “angels” urging us then to respond by “rising up.” In like manner, Archbishop Costelloe, urged the young people to build bridges not walls and to be active in the Church and the world. He said “on the way home from Flame, ask yourself, what do I need to do?”

Another remarkable presence was that of Robert Bilott, an attorney from Cincinnati in the United States, who stood up for communities that were badly affected by chemical poisoning as a result of production waste from a huge chemical company. A situation that he described as David taking on Goliath but it was the right thing to do. He remarked that it was a journey that took 24 years, but it was worth it. A clip of the film ‘Dark Water’ about his life was shown.

Jenny Garzon Saavedra from Colombia, a CAFOD partner talked about her work with youth and parish groups in areas of caring for creation.

After all the presentations, then came the time for adoration in absolute silence. Cardinal Vincent Nichols who presided over the closing liturgy, spoke of “how much we have to thank God for today, the music, testimonies and moments to treasure and draw encouragement.”

“This is Church as you have never seen it before or been it before, but this is Church” Fr. Dominic Howarth (CYMFED chair) No wonder the Irish students who attended Flame but studying in the UK expressed their desire on how they would love to have a similar event in Ireland.