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Posted on Aug 19, 2015 |

Abide’s Nightfever Brings City and Christ Together

Abide’s Nightfever Brings City and Christ Together

Nightfever: Young people pray before the Eucharist enthroned on the altar at St. Louis Church (downtown Cincinnati), decorated with bolts of red and white cloth to symbolize Divine Mercy.

Nightfever: Young people pray before the Eucharist enthroned on the altar at St. Louis Church (downtown Cincinnati), decorated with bolts of red and white cloth to symbolize Divine Mercy.

Nightfever, an urban prayer event created after World Youth Day 2005 and held since at parishes all over the world, made a St. Louis Church debut this summer as part of the first-ever, five-day Abide Conference for Catholic young people.

An outgrowth of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati’s new youth praise festivals and other youth activities, Abide brought 75 Catholic high school youth together with 21 college-aged facilitators and a team of youth ministers and priests at Mount St. Joseph University (Delhi/Cincinnati) for an in-depth encounter with Christ through prayer, catechesis, Mass, workshops, and other activities. One seminarian who helped lead called it “like being at Pentecost” (see story here).

Sponsored by Encounter Cincinnati, Ruah Woods and the Archdiocese of Cincinnati’s Office of the New Evangelization, Abide also featured a Holy Hour with Bishop Joe Binzer and a thanksgiving ceremony with family. Among many highlights was the open Adoration event which opened the doors of St. Louis Church to anyone passing by.

Outside the church, as dusk falls, Friday night city life continues.

Outside the church, as dusk falls, Friday night city life continues.

The  church catty-corner to the Archdiocese of Cincinnati’s business offices has no functioning website. It doesn’t get much notice compared to nearby St. Xavier Church or Old St. Mary’s, both known for their architecture and their unique ministries, or St. Peter in Chains Cathedral. The home of a full-sized basement chapel as well as a beautiful but down-at-the-heels basilica-style main church, it’s now known as a place for homeless people to sleep during the day and a spot for downtown workers to attend noon Mass. But for one July evening it was a place of mystery and beauty, lit with candles and spotlights, open to all for prayer, rest, and an encounter with Christ through Eucharistic Adoration.

Decorated to recall Christ’s Divine Mercy, the altar in the darkened church was lit by spotlights and dimmed lanterns. Candles lined the main aisle and the marble communion rail was covered in silver foil, both to protect it from and magnify the light from tiny votive candles all were encouraged to light and place there.

Young people, priests, seminarians, Dominican sisters, and chaperones stood at the church doors, inviting all who passed to come in and pray for a few minutes, an hour, or the entire evening. Priests offered Confession and Bishop Binzer celebrated Benediction.

St. Louis Church, a little shabby by day, became a place of mystery and transcendent beauty filled with prayer.

St. Louis Church, a little shabby by day, became a place of mystery and transcendent beauty filled with prayer.

People came. Catholic, non-Catholic, no religion at all. They came in the open doors to light a candle and say a prayer, or simply looked at the church and spent a quiet few minutes before their evening out or their trip back home. Contemplative, contemporary music set hushed tone that was accompanied by a quiet but constant buzz of prayer and discussion. People knelt at the altar or in pews, reciting Catholic prayers or praying aloud in their own traditions. Some asked to speak with priests and huddled in the corners of pews, whispering and weeping.

benediction shadow

Bishop Joe Binzer’s shadow during Benediction.

Homeless people and people on their way to expensive restaurants mingled with the students and leaders. The air itself seemed heavy with prayer and joyful mystery, as strangers prayed together before Christ in the Eucharist. The clerestory windows glowed blue as the sun set, smoke from the candles rose in the shadows, and the space between the communion rail and the first pew filled with young people who wanted to even closer to the altar than the first seats.

By Benediction the pews were full. The songs and prayers rang through the shadows to the invisible ceiling. For a few hours, the doors between the life of faith and the life of the city had been open, and people had answered the invitation.

Nightfever ended, at least for this evening. But the invitation remains.

Votive candles left by people praying at the foil-covered communion rail.

Votive candles left by people praying at the foil-covered communion rail.

Photos © The Catholic Beat. For a gallery of photos, click here.

For more about Encounter Cincinnati, click here.

For more about the Abide Conference, click here.

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  1. Abide Conference: The Future of Youth Ministry in Catholic Cincinnati? | The Catholic Beat - […] For more about Nightfever, click here. […]