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Flames of youth faith rising up at Wembley

A 150-strong group from the Diocese of East Anglia have attended the largest Catholic gathering of young people in England and Wales at the OVO Arena, Wembley.

Large groups from Peterborough, Cambridge, Ipswich and Norwich as well as individuals from Dereham, Thetford and Haverhill parishes were among the attendees who joined the Flame Congress on Saturday March 4.

“Rise up” was the theme and musicians Guvna B, Adeniké and One Hope Project were much appreciated for their lively and participatory worship style.

The principal speaker was Cardinal Luis Tagle (formerly Archbishop of Manila and now based at the Vatican). Pope Francis sent a message, as did TV presenters Ant and Dec.

Further inspirational speakers included Archbishop Timothy Costelloe of Perth, US attorney Robert Bilott and the day was drawn to a close with a quiet time of Adoration led by Cardinal Vincent Nichols.

Below, Ignite team members Sophie Pereira and Elliott Cannon share their experiences of Flame.

Sophie’s experience of Flame

Looking around Wembley arena and seeing so many young people turning their hearts toward Jesus in a day of prayer can be summed up in just one word. Beautiful.

Being able to look all around you and seeing a fellow brother or sister in Christ. Beautiful.

8000 young people singing and praising God. Beautiful. 

My first experience of Flame can just be described as “sheer beauty”.

Flame is a gathering of Catholic young people for a day of music, prayer and talks at Wembley arena. Flame has been the spark of many people’s journey in Christ, as described by one of the speakers, Adeniké – a passionate youth leader at her local parish, Our Lady of the Crays Church in Orpington.

Her testimony was one of the highlights of my day as it all began with Flame. She describes how she didn’t know how to pray but during the time of Adoration, made a simple prayer to God – ‘Use me’. This prayer led her on to becoming a youth leader in her church and performing on the stage she once just looked at. 

Her prayer of ‘Use me’ is such a simple but powerful prayer, and seems to me to be a prayer a lot of us could do with using. A lot of the time, we could just go about our lives doing things just for ourselves without thinking about ‘What could I do in my life that would give glory to God and not just myself?’.

Sometimes, what we desire ourselves isn’t always the best way to glorify God through our lives. So simply praying two simple words allows God to work through us and to ‘use us’ in ways that we don’t fully understand, in order to further spread and glorify his Kingdom.

The beauty of Flame is that young people have the opportunity to hear talks such as these, talks which many wouldn’t hear otherwise in their normal settings. Hearing testimonies from people who were literally sitting where we were, is such a powerful thing as it shows young people that we can have experiences just like Adeniké.

In addition, having young people talk about prayer in a casual yet profound way shows that prayer isn’t just for our grandparents, it is something that we can actively engage in and love ourselves.

This reassurance that being devout and praying isn’t just for older people or priests. It is something that I feel can be deeply significant in bringing faith to young people in a secular world where having a strong faith may be looked down on or seen as weird by others.

Flame helped remind me that exposure to people and events such as these and to other young Catholics, is something that is greatly needed in order to foster faith in our young people.

Elliott’s experience of Flame

My experience at Wembley was certainly unique. Each diocese was asked to volunteer one young person to go on the stage of Wembley arena and I had the privilege of being the diocesan representative for East Anglia.

We all met up at an arranged meeting point within the arena where we were quietly ushered into the VIP section of Wembley followed by a 30-minute wait. While waiting I chatted with some Carmelite brothers I knew, getting to know more about that the life of a brother. The habits were on point as they brought out the full regalia for the procession!

I also had the opportunity to chat briefly with other diocesan representatives, finding out what other young Catholics get on with across the country. Then the time came for the procession led by the youth and followed by the bishops and cardinals.

On the stage I sat only 15 feet away from the likes of Cardinal Vincent Nichols and Cardinal Tagle but most importantly I sat only three feet away from Christ, exposed in radiance upon the altar in front of 8000 young Catholics.

At events like these it’s easy to get lost among big names and great experiences forgetting who it’s all about and therefore I want the end of this article to be about Jesus – all things are small next to such a great name.

Pictured above are most of the East Anglia group outside the Wembley Arena and, below some inside the venue.