In early November four of our team went to Liverpool to attend a Catholic Youth conference called ‘Embrace’ at Liverpool Cathedral. The event consisted of music, Adoration, a Reconciliation Service, some fun group games and some really interesting speakers, ending the day with the celebration of Mass. The slogan for Embrace, which was repeated several times that day, succinctly summed up what our faith is about: Embrace the Church, Embrace the World, Embrace the Cross. We heard some fantastic talks, one in particular stood out from John Pridmore, an ex-East End gangster. We found his story absolutely incredible. He told us how he had used to carry machetes and beat people up but one night he felt God’s love and power in his life and now he carries rosaries everywhere he goes! He was nice enough to pose for a picture with us which you can see here!
I was also really inspired by a workshop that I went to from Lord David Alton. Only 24 hours prior to giving us his talk, he had been in North Korea. He spoke very strongly for the persecuted church, asking us to pray for those who were suffering and to raise awareness of the situation in places like Iraq and Syria. The way he spoke about the treatment of Christian’s in Mosel likened very chillingly to the Holocaust in Nazi Germany. I realized with a shock that although I had always believed that I would never have stood by had I been living at the time of the Holocaust, here I was in a situation where people were being systematically persecuted and killed for their faith and I did nothing more than say an occasional prayer for the situation and a cursory read of the news online. David Alton encouraged us to write letters; letters to our MPs, to governments, to Ambassadors of countries, stressing that although it is a small act, enough people sending enough letters can indeed help change the course of history.
Overall, the day at Embrace was a faith-affirming day. It was great to meet up with old friends, make new ones, and celebrate being a young Catholic in the Church today. Moreover, it was good to go away feeling inspired and encouraged. We do exist not just to talk about our faith, but to embrace it and to embrace the world in that and in the cross so that we all join in each other’s suffering and hopefully find healing through Christ.