Where to begin, there is so much good stuff.
Yesterday I attended, with a group of chaps from school, Flame2. The original Flame happened in 2012 to reflect on the success of the papal visit while looking forward to the use of God-given gifts and talents in the London Olympics. It had it’s detractors, many of them apparently, although the vast majority of negative commentators were anonymous (would y’ever b’lievit!). I understand that after knocking the Church’s initiative there was not one single solitary offer of help from any of murmurers. But then, Satan would not have wanted Flame2 to be a success.
His messengers tried it again this time with comments about some of the speakers, I am afraid all I can say is ‘hah!’.
I had told the chaps in my party that one thing they’d enjoy about the day was meeting other people whom they know, but wouldn’t expect to see. This started when we got to East Croydon Station. There were people from their primary schools, friends who had moved away, people they met at Confirmation classes who go to different Masses, it really was like Platform 9 ¾.
As we got off the train at Wembley Central one of the lads was surrounded by friends from the Vocations Centre in Whitstable, the day was a joy before we even got to Wembley. When we got in, there was pre-show fun happening on stage but then the show began in earnest.
Double Grammy winning Matt Redman started the show with a bang. Our hosts for the day were Alfie and Gilly who work for the BBC in the North East of England. Our first speaker was Cardinal Tagle of the Philippines. He took our breath away. At one point he had us take our phones out and text “blessed are the merciful” to two people we know. I admit I copped out and sent it two two people in the arena, but then I received similar from others there too.
David Wells is a sublime speaker, the love of Christ oozes from him, he really is the one and only person I have ever met who has left me starstruck, he popped in and out often, each time leaving us with a reminder of Christ’s love and a smile.
Lunch was just a big party, we all had so many people there that we knew we could still be there now, 18 hours later. After lunch we had a chat show style sofa moment, Baroness Hollins, Matt Redman and three Cafod gap year students were all interviewed by Alfie and Jilly. But the best speakers from the sofas were Father Dan Fitzpatrick and Fr Marc Lyden Smith. The priests spoke about their time on the programme Pointless, their Podfather podcasts and their mission taking the Church to where the ordinary folk go, to the pub.
More music was followed by a break (I’m not a Pharrell Williams fan so I shall gloss over) and more socialising but then came the important part of the day, a focus on we as Catholics are all about. Fr Timothy Radcliffe bought us all back to our focus, Christ and his Church
I wish I had counted how many bishops processed to the stage but I can say the vast majority of the conference were there. Cardinal Nichols presided at Adoration, there were some beautiful readings, among them one of my favourites, Newman’s Some Definite Service.
I cannot remember if it was Cardinal Tagle or David Wells but during the day we were set a task, ask ourselves at bedtime “what did God say to me today?” and “How will I respond” God said so much to me yesterday, and he sent a few people in the arena to say it too, not least the Faith Society priest who lauded my stance on the Catholic press and pornography, and the lady who berated me for not looking where I was going and falling down the stairs. I was lucky I didn’t hurt anyone.
On the way home I asked the boys what their highlights were, being part of a community of 8,000 people, many of whom they knew, and adoration were the two answers. Is that not a bit like what Church is all about?
One last thing, at lunch I heard a lad say to an adult “Maria, I want to be a cardinal” she replied “I want you to be one too Ryan.” Ryan; remember that name.
(H/T to Kathleen for pointing out the bad punctuation)