Fan the Flame Mass - 9th June 2016 - 10th Anniversary
June the 9th, the feast of Saint Columcille, promised gold from early morning, and didn't renege on its promise: soon the sun came glittering over the immaculately-kept grounds of Celtic Park, flooding the landscape with eye-dazzling light and heat.
It was the annual Fan the Flame Mass, the theme of which is taken from St Paul to Timothy, "Fan into flame the gift God gave you", and is celebrated for all the children of the diocese who have received the sacrament of Confirmation during the past year. This year, the 10th anniversary of the Mass, there were over two and a half thousand post- confirmation children involved, an impressive and joyful sight as they processed their way around the Park under their school banners. Generosity abounded. Over a hundred teenagers were on the field on marshalling duties; perfectly disciplined; wonderfully efficient. Around 30 adults willingly gave of their time and talents also. The post-confirmation children were involved in the liturgy of the Mass throughout, and their readings were strong and vibrant. The gospel reading was accompanied by a liturgical dance performed by a group of children from Nazareth House Primary School, dressed in flowing white, looking, for all the world, like graceful butterflies.
For the 10th anniversary of Fan the Flame, musicologist Brendan McGinn composed a special song which was performed by his daughter, Ava. The purity and clarity of Ava's voice did justice to her father's beautiful composition. The Psalm was sung by a pupil from St Anne's Primary School and the rest of the music was provided by the Long Tower Folk Group.
Fan the Flame is a glorious open celebration of the Eucharist; it is a celebration of young people united in faith; it is a celebration of promise, of hope in the future, of generosity and of love.
Each year there is a traditional unleashing of hundreds of balloons at the end of the ceremony symbolising the breath of the Spirit. This year the balloons behaved impeccably: they didn't meander; they floated right over the city in an elegant, stylish ballet, filling the skies with colour and the crowds below with delighted laughter.
Thanks be to God.