“Would you like to light a candle in the cathedral?” was the simple question asked of people passing St. Patrick’s Cathedral on a crisp November night.
With the doors to the darkened cathedral opened wide, many people responded, “Yes.”
It was all part of an event called “Nightfever.” Volunteers stood outside on the streets of Manhattan inviting people to take a candle to light at the altar of St. Patrick’s.
Eighty volunteers handed out 1,500 candles.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral and the St. Patrick’s Cathedral Young Adults sponsored the Nov. 1 event. Spawned by a grassroots movement started in Germany, Nightfever was held for the first time in New York on All Saints Day.
Even though the number of people who lit candles was impressive, that’s not what the night was all about.
Mario Bruschi, director of the St. Patrick’s Cathedral Young Adults, told CNY, “We wanted to get one person. We are doing all this for that one soul to come back to God. It’s not about numbers. It’s not about hoping a big crowd is coming to the party. It was all about that one person.”
Nevertheless, the sight was one to behold. Hundreds of candles lit the altar, upon which stood the monstrance before banners of red and white symbolizing the blood and water that flowed from Christ’s side.
Small cards handed out to participants thanked them for coming. Each contained the beautiful quote from Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
Everything about the night said, “Welcome.”
Once inside, all along the main aisle luminaries glowed, inviting people to come forward toward the monstrance.
Father Bob Bubel, spiritual director of the CSPYA, said he hoped the volunteers saw “their role as apostles which is so central to our self-understanding; it’s so central that we go out and share Christ.”
He noted that many of the people the street missionaries encountered were tourists. “We wanted to surprise them with a religious experience,” he said. “Everyone has a desire to worship God, to love God, but in most cases they don’t know how or what to do. We provided them a way to satisfy that longing within their heart.”
Throughout the night, prayerful music from the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal and New Name Ministry added to the cathedral’s ambiance, encouraging personal encounters with Christ.
The friars, along with the Sisters of Life and the lay volunteers, stood outside of the cathedral as missionaries inviting people in.
Confession was available throughout the evening, with seven priests administering the sacrament. And for that, lines were long.
Volunteer Eva Greitemann has been involved in Nightfever in Cologne, Germany; Valencia, Spain; and London. She volunteered in Manhattan as a street missionary. “I see Nightfever as a great way to be an outgoing church that is inviting and approachable to everyone, no matter of someone’s background,” she said.
“I got involved, because I directly could see the results of this evening as many people were moved, often to tears, and we often got the feedback that God did something big in their lives.”
She said she had two large motivators for wanting to become involved, saying, “The desire to tell others about the love of God, not by using many words, but by inviting them to encounter Him in a personal way, certainly motivated me.”
As she was explaining the night, she passionately told how people’s faces would undergo a change from before they entered the cathedral to after they left. That was her second motivator. “They often look much more peaceful and happy—and I know that it’s not from a materialistic thing but because they have been in the divine presence of God,” she said.
Ms. Greitemann said Nightfever was a success even when passersby turned down the volunteers. “Even the people who did not enter the cathedral made an experience of a church that is young, lively and hospitable.”
Bruschi said, “I love what we did, and God-willing, we will keep doing this.”