When I first moved to New York City, I wondered if I could find a good Catholic community, just as I had in Chicago. Luckily, I found so many groups and ways to celebrate this side of me in this great city. The first Saturday of every month, I am always at Catholic Underground. I actually tend to schedule everything around going to it because I love it that much. It gives me so much strength to meditate for that hour with the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal. To look around and see a fully packed church with 600-700 young adults all praying, meditating before the Eucharist is one of the most incredible experiences I have had and get to have each time I go.
To give you a brief rundown, outside the church, you see a lot of monks, nuns, priests and young adults gathered around and chatting before the evening starts. If you don’t know who the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal are, there is a great article written about them in the New York Times entitled, “Monks Who Play Punk.” After you enter Our Lady of Good Counsel (located on 90th between 2nd and 3rd), a Franciscan Friar of the Renewal gives you a booklet, filled with evening prayers or vespers. At 7:30PM, the evening begins with hundreds of young adults chanting the prayers from the booklet, which are directly from the psalms in the Bible.
As one brother told me, “The psalms give you a way to communicate with God. They let you express every emotion you have–from joy to anger to love to any other emotion you have in your heart.” Soon after, all the lights go out and candles light the altar, while a whole host of monks play music and an Irish monk sings and leads the way through the meditation hour. Every person I’ve talked to, who has experienced this form of prayer, has told me that it was surprise after surprise and a great emotional experience.
After the meditation portion is over, everyone goes outside and downstairs into the basement of the church to hear a musical group play. There are always people who want to go out afterward to grab something to eat or go sing karaoke. No one comes away from Catholic Underground’s meditation without enjoying it immensely. I highly, highly recommend this experience.