After a four year wait, the showpiece Catholic Youth Event Flame returned with 8,000 young people gathering inside Wembley Arena celebrating their shared faith. With a line up of inspiring speakers and captivating Christian musicians a group from St Gregory’s departed from Bath at 7.15am full of energy. On arrival at the OVO Arena, we quickly took our seats ready for the event to begin at noon with an opening liturgy.

What makes an event such as this so special and captures our young people is the diverse way in which faith is presented and celebrated. This year’s theme was Rise Up, taken from the scriptural theme of World Youth Day 23 “Mary arose and went with haste” (Luke 1:39). This theme was explored in great depth and imaginatively throughout the day, beginning with David Wells and students performing a moving dramatization in the opening liturgy after the statue of Our Lady of Walsingham was processed into the arena.

Visiting speakers from Australia and Rome, Archbishop Costolloe and Cardinal Tagle respectively, reflected on the shared experience of God’s love in our lives. Cardinal Tagle in particular almost brought the entire arena to tears with his moving reflection on the angels in our lives who inspire us to rise up and follow God’s plan for us. He recalled the stories of his grandparents and parents who had been so instrumental in his life, and encouraged each of us to listen as it is through these angels that God often communicates with us.

There were testimonies from Adenike, who both performed and spoke about how she had sat in the same venue four years early and been inspired to follow her vocation. Four years later and being mentored by on The Voice, here she was after allowing God to work through her. The first speaker of the day had travelled over from America, a corporate attorney, David Billot, who shared his story of taking on a giant chemical company over a 30 year period to support the dignity of what began as a single farmer. His campaign was made into a film Dark Waters staring Mark Ruffalo and Anne Hathaway and is currently available on iPlayer to stream.

One of the other real highlights of the day was the power of music. Whilst there were 8,000 young people in attendance, there were also a good number of older people leading groups and priests/nuns/Bishops who were able to embrace the diverse performances. One Hope Project led much of the music in liturgies and performed, Faith Child and Adenike added variety of musical tastes, but it was Guvna B who stole the show with renditions of hits such as Nothing but the blood, Everyday and some from his new album. Our students and Mrs West were bouncing along to the energy he created.

What is truly special about this event though is how we can go from maximum noise and jumping around to stillness and silent prayer. Many of our young people from St Gregory’s commented on how moving it was to see the change and join in as the day ended with Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament – complete silence for 10 minutes from all who were present.

With a couple of hours to spare in the evening before our coach back we hit some of London’s tourist spots. Including the most unexpected request (but we are super proud about it!) to go to the biggest Waterstones in the country. Two days after World Book Day, we willingly obliged.

The students we took along represented St Gregory’s with great enthusiasm and respect, hopefully next time round we can take many more to experience how alive the Church really is. There is an excellent article in The Tablet all about the event –

Special thanks must go to the Catenians who generously subsidised the day for our young people.

Mr M Robinson
Lay Chaplain

Photographs used with kind permission:
© Flame 2023
© Siân TC
© Mazur/CBCEW