'You didn't know? I am a masterpiece!' So Robert Madu told the participants of Flame about themselves, in a powerful and funny address on Saturday 2nd March, when 8,000 young people, with their priests and youth workers, gathered from across the UK in SSE Wembley Arena for a full day of music, talks, drama and, of course, prayer. Robert was one of a line-up of fantastic speakers, ranging from rappers to archbishops.
The theme of the day? Significance. Again and again these teenagers were told 'you are loved, you are precious to God, you are significant’. They were told they are called to holiness, they were told to keep their eyes fixed on Jesus. A thought provoking drama from Rise Theatre challenged us: are you tuned in? Can you hear Christ’s still small voice? Amidst the whirlwind of a thousand voices dragging us this way and that way, against the alluring appeal of defining your identity by your social media presence, is there space in your life to listen to the One who loves you?
The speakers’ line-up was punctuated by live worship music from Tim Hughes. But the summit of worship came towards the end, in silent adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. I’d never considered how much noise is made by 8,000 seats flipping up as in silence people knelt before their humble God of peace. Normally the buzz of conversation or roar of music masks the sound. But here no one was talking; we were listening.
Seven of us went to represent Catholic Voices, with the twofold aim of spreading the word about what we do, particularly encouraging priests or youth workers to invite us to their parishes, schools and chaplaincies, and engaging with teenagers on the question ‘Is the Catholic Church the most significant organisation in the 21st century?’
During the lunch and break-times we set off in pairs to mingle with the crowd, our red CV t-shirts marking us out as representatives of what everyone had seen advertised on the big screen. We tell the Church’s story and teach others to tell it too.
The responses we received from teenagers about the significance of the Church in the 21st century were overwhelmingly positive, to the extent that our reframing method was hardly needed! It was a joy to see all these young people so enthused by their faith and sharing it with each other.
More of the conversations we had were with priests and youth workers about the work of Catholic Voices. The importance of an informed, mature laity who are able to engage with non-Catholics on the ‘hot button’ topics, and the potential of CV workshops and talk series to equip them for this, were discussion points that resonated with many we engaged with. We hope invitations to parishes, schools and chaplaincies will arise from our encounters.
Personally I was struck by the goodness of being there as part of the wider Church, and, seeing the great spectrum of groups present, both in terms of parish groups from across the UK and the different Catholic charities and opportunities being presented, I came away with a strong sense of the distinctive value of what Catholic Voices contributes to this magnificent symphony of the Faith. I hope our time at Flame has helped spread the word about Catholic Voices in our country so that we can share more and more what we have been given; as ‘one beggar showing another beggar where to find bread.’
Catherine Fleischer has been a Catholic Voice since 2017