The summer holidays got off to a prayerful start in the Birmingham Archdiocese with Exult, a brand new worship event organised by young people for young people and held at St Thomas Aquinas Catholic School in Birmingham.
Following a joyful, unifying morning of praise and worship, lunchtime came with an opportunity to pass messages of peace to those living in conflict by taking part in CAFOD’s Olympic solidarity action, Pass It On.
At the early Olympic Games, a 100-day truce was declared to enable atheletes to travel safely. Pass It On revives this tradition with a giant online relay, passing on messages of peace to people around the world who are living in conflict during 2012, and those who are working to bring peace to their communities.
These are people like César López from Colombia. César is a member of the Battalion of Immediate Artistic Reaction, a group of musicians and activists seeking alternatives to violence in Colombia’s capital, Bogotá. Using a guitar made from a modified AK47 gun, César heads out to the streets with his colleagues whenever there is violence in the city to play music about peace.
Pass It On involves being filmed moving from left to right as creatively as possible – and creativity was the word at Exult. There were somersaults, piggybacks – and one young person managed to fly past the camera in a single leap, worthy of an Olympic long jump. After making their films, the young people wrote messages of peace to be passed to CAFOD’s partners around the world who are working for an end to conflict in their communities. These were truly inspiring and included:
‘Peace to me is the freedom to listen to that small and still quiet voice and recognising my neighbour and their needs.’ – Adrian.
‘Keep going and living in hope because God is with you in all your work.’ – Ciara
‘Peace to me is the fountain of goodness, greatness and everything amazing!’ – John.
‘Don’t stop, never give up, hold your head high and reach the top! If you are working through the love of God you can never fail!’ – Emily.
‘Peace to me is loving your neighbour and working to get along with everyone. It is being at one with yourself and the world around you.’ – Gemma.
The creative juices continued to flow as the young people designed symbols of hope to add to a giant mural, based on a peace mural created by the CAFOD-supported Association for the Victims of Violence in Colombia and inspired by Matthew 5:16: ‘You are the light of the world… Let your light shine before others.’ The Association for the Victims of Violence brings together people who have lost loves ones during the conflict in Colombia to help them express their grief and remember those who have died, as well as promoting peace and creating hope for the future. Symbols of hope for the young people at Exult included a beautiful sunset, a dove, candles, music, and images of the world.
After lunch, the young people retired to the chapel for adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, accompanied by quieter, more reflective music. The day culminated in Mass celebrated by the Most Reverend Archbishop Bernard Longley, fresh from welcoming the Jamaican and US Olympic teams to Birmingham. His Grace confessed that, as soon as he heard about the event from the organisers, he knew Exult was where he wanted to be even if other pressures had ended up calling him elsewhere.
Exult was organised by a team of eight young people, many of whom have experience working at retreat centres like Soli House and Alton Castle. It was a brilliantly organised, inspiring event which is sure to go from strength to strength – if you live in the Birmingham Archdiocese and missed out, make sure you don’t make the same mistake next year!
Huge thanks to the team for inviting CAFOD to take part, and a massive thanks also to CAFOD volunteers Jack and Joe, without whom our participation would simply not have been possible.