- This week's post is by my friend Megan Miller. She is a student at The Liturgical Institute at St. Mary of the Lake Seminary in Mundelein, Illinois.
What comes to mind when you read that word?
A night club? Yeah, that's what I thought of. That, and Saturday Night Live’s “more cowbell!” Others thought of being awake in the middle of the night, clammy and puking. Only one person told me he thought of John Travolta, and upon further research I think that’s where the name technically comes from, although I’m still not sure. Another person sent me a link to the Bee Gees song.
Whatever you thought of, my guess is that it wasn't "a night of adoration and evangelization during which hearts are touched by Christ in the Eucharist and the volunteers are transformed as much as those invited in from the street."
Or maybe it was, I don't know. But I'm guessing not.
Nightfever was actually started by two university students who had attended World Youth Day in Cologne and wanted to keep the fire of evangelization alive in their hearts after WYD had ended. The idea behind Nightfever is simple: Find a church in an area where there are lots of people walking around on a Friday or Saturday night. Expose the Eucharist. Then open the church, invite people in, and let Christ work.
Sounds too easy, right?
Well, back in August, someone mentioned to me the idea of doing “this thing called Nightfever” at the Cathedral on October 5th. Somehow, in ways still unknown to me, I ended up one of the coordinators. At the time, I had no idea what we were doing. And I'll be real, my heart really was not in it for a long time. I was sort of doing it because I had the time, needed things to do, and had somehow ended up partly in charge of it (still not entirely sure how that happened).
The night of the event, I didn’t have very high expectations. Honestly, I was mostly concerned that if the event flopped, I would look and feel like a failure. I mean, of course I wanted to reach people and save souls and all of that, but I wasn't setting the bar very high. I just wasn't sure it would work, you know? Adoration, priests for confession, music, candles - your typical Catholic population would be all over that, but was that really going to be enough to bring in the masses? If I'm being perfectly honest, I had my doubts.
But God quickly showed me that what was about to happen was not about me at all; that His version of success was much better and more complete than my version of success; and once again that His love and mercy are extravagant, beyond measure, and far exceeding any expectations I could ever dream of having.
In short, He was about to blow my mind.
Here’s what happened. We opened Holy Name Cathedral from 9pm-midnight. With the Eucharist exposed, priests available, and quiet music playing, young adults stood on the streets around the Cathedral and invited people passing by to come inside and simply light a candle before going on their way for the evening. Everyone was welcome to stay for as long or as short as they like, and to come and go as they please.
Person after person came into the Cathedral that night. Some lit a candle and left, some stayed for over an hour. Some spoke with priests - some were Catholic and went to confession, some were not and just needed someone to talk with them and pray with them. I saw all of them come in - from those dressed in evening gowns to tourists to possible gangs and prostitutes. The stories are endless - I wish I could tell all of them, and I don't even know half of them. Hearts were touched, and healed, and transformed – not only in those invited in but also in the volunteers themselves.
That night, over 400 people came into the Cathedral to pray before going on their way.
On February 22nd, we braved the cold and held Nightfever for a second time at the Cathedral; again we had over 400 people come in from the street, and this time in addition to a few other hundred Catholics who had come to pray.
My fear at the beginning of it all had been that the event wouldn't be enough to bring people in, to touch their hearts. Underneath all of that was really a fear that the Eucharist wasn't enough. And perhaps that fear extended into my own life; to quote a friend, it was a prayer I didn't really even know I had.
But I watched the Holy Spirit take over that night, and God answered my unknown prayer in ways I couldn't have imagined. I watched my friends, all the volunteers, being instruments of Christ's love; I felt my own self be used by the Holy Spirit; and I watched people praying in front of the Blessed Sacrament, encountering God and finding themselves deeply and truly loved by Him. And I saw clearly that He is more than enough.
One of the most profound experiences I had either of these nights was the first night in October when I stopped and spent a few moments singing to give the music team a break. I couldn't see the Blessed Sacrament anymore but I could see the faces of those praying in front of Him - and it blew my mind and utterly overwhelmed my heart.
Christ was meeting each of these people exactly where they were at. He knew their hearts, and His love and mercy touched each one of them - I could see it in their faces when they prayed. Their heads may not have been able to explain transubstantiation to me, but their souls recognized God in the Eucharist - and they were moved. I was watching people encounter Love. What are my doubts, in the face of such Love?
The Eucharist is more than enough. Christ's love is more than enough. His mercy is more than enough. His grace is more than enough. He is more than enough.
I’ve been thinking that maybe the challenge of “going out to the peripheries” isn’t that I’m afraid of the peripheries, but that I’m afraid of my own doubt. Because out there, on the peripheries, evangelization can’t be about hot-button issues or whether the person I am speaking with is rich or poor, drunk or sober, Catholic or Muslim or Atheist. It’s a “field hospital”; it’s about the love of Christ, and I have to experience it for myself and believe it in my own heart… and then bring that love to others and believe it will be enough for them, too.
So, I’ve definitely “caught the fever”, so to speak. Because for me, Nightfever is a place where this call to the New Evangelization really comes alive, where the love Christ has for His people – tangible in His presence on the altar and in the work of His Church – is renewed in my own heart. And I’m reminded that He is enough – for me and for the world.
For more information:
Christian Today write-up