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placeholder March 9, 2015   •   VOL. 53, NO.5   •   Oakland, CA

Musicians fill the stage at Catholic Underground.

Jesus is in the house, with a lot of young people

The lights are turned so low at St. Mary Magdalen Church, one can see just the outlines of the stunning signature stained glass windows depicting St. Dominic, St. Mary Magdalen and Jesus with angels at his feet above the altar.

Silence is broken by the softest of Christian folk music. Candelabras illuminate the altar.
Jesus is in the house.

So are young people, filling all the pews and with lines snaking down both side aisles purposefully toward confession.

Welcome to Catholic Underground. For upward of 200 young people this night in Berkeley, it is a quarterly opportunity to gather in prayer that speaks to them.

Catholic Underground is a cultural apostolate of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, a New York order. The evening begins with vespers, or evening prayer, and includes Eucharistic Adoration, ending with Benediction.

"Chanting keeps you focused at the same time allowing the voice of Christ to penetrate your heart," said Patti Collyer, who has coordinated youth and young adult ministries in the diocese.

Even the silence is purposeful, she said. "Be silent and communicate with Christ in the silence."

This hour is followed by an opportunity to socialize, and hear music.

In the Diocese of Oakland, Catholic Underground debuted almost three years ago at St. Augustine Church in Oakland. Not long after, it moved to St. Mary Magdalen, there the "underground" portion takes place in the parish hall beneath the church.

After Benediction, David Flores, one of the coordinators, reminded the participants to please keep reverent silence departing the church.

In the subterranean parish hall, strings of clear lights and paper flowers span the room, setting a festive mood.

Among the younger participants was Kieran Murphy, 17, of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Brentwood. The evening provides the opportunity, he said, for "people our age who love the faith can meet up and talk about it."

They also go for entertainment — Celli@Berkeley, which features a quartet of college-age musicians, was on the bill.

"One of its greatest strengths is so many young people get to see and meet each other," said Father Dominic David Maichrowicz, parochial vicar at St. Mary Magdalen Parish.

Even the "underground" notion harkens back to St. Pope John Paul II, who as a young man in Poland participated in underground.

Catholic Underground offers "an escape from the crazy life," said Chico resident Adriane O'Neill, 30. "To be with young people, day to day, loving God," she said. A gathering like this one, she said, "is not something I ever imagined."

The young audience gave its most cordial applause to Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, who joined them for the social portion after a long day at the Walk for Life in San Francisco.

He acknowledged the many in the room who had walked the walk earlier in the day with him. He told the gathering that he had spent the evening before with African American pro-life pastors.

He also put in a word for the sacrament many of them had experienced this evening. "If you want to know Jesus better, go to confession," he said.

Confession, he told them, is "where you really get to know the intimacy of the Lord."
He chose the first words of the prayer of absolution as his motto: "God the father of mercies."

"I put that on my motto," he said. "The last words I want to hear," he said, "are God the Father of Mercies."

He ended his short talk with appreciation. "Thank you for your witness to Christ, the presence of your joy and reaching out to other people," he said. "God bless you. I love you all."

In the concert that followed, some of the visiting Franciscan Friars of the Renewal joined Capuchin Franciscan Brother Vincent in a rap. They pressed the kitchen's biggest soup pots into service as drums.

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