I missed this a few days ago - in the NYTimes, an article about the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal:
(which oddly, doesn't mention Fr. Groeschel, profiled in the Times a couple of months ago)
IT was 9 o’clock on a wintry Saturday night, and in the dimly lighted basement of Our Lady of Good Counsel, a Roman Catholic church on 90th Street and Second Avenue, the chatter of more than 400 young people competed with the din of a rock band. Those not shouting in one another’s ears were dancing, singing, laughing and jumping up and down while trying not to spill their cups of coffee.
“Who has ever heard of a monk playing funk music?” shouted Brother Agostino Torres, a 30-year-old friar wearing sandals and a hooded gray robe. Hands shot into the air.
“O.K., all right, but I’ll bet you never heard of this one,” Brother Agostino went on. “Because tonight, we’re going to have some monks play some punk!” Half a dozen other bushy-bearded, gray-frocked friars broke into a cacophony of drums, bass, saxophone and electric guitar.
Upstairs, 100 more young people lingered in the quiet, candle-lighted sanctuary after an hour of prayer and song in front of the Eucharist. Brother Columba Jordan strummed his guitar and sang in a soft voice: “At the cross you beckon me, draw me gently to my knees, and I am lost for words, so lost in love.” Two friars with heads bowed sat on either side of the altar, listening to the confessions of the men and women waiting patiently in line.
The monthly holy hour of prayer and song and ensuing music festival are part of an event called Catholic Underground, the creation of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, a religious order founded two decades ago this year in the Melrose section of the Bronx. Members own no personal possessions and beg even for their food. Nonetheless, the order’s 10 friaries are bursting with recruits at a moment when many Roman Catholic religious orders are struggling simply to maintain their current numbers.
Their audience this night was primarily students and young professionals. Among the group was a 31-year-old mechanical engineer named Dennis Iglesias, who had driven from Boston after hearing about the event from a friend and then checking it out on YouTube. “It’s amazing when you get a crowd of a lot of young adults together,” Mr. Iglesias shouted over the crowd. “That just amazes me, the fact that there are so many young people who believe.”
After more than two hours of song, laughter and fellowship, Brother Agostino quieted the crowd. “We’re going to finish the night the way we began it — with prayer,” he said. The audience settled down as Brother Columba led them in a collection of psalms and Latin chants.
“Thank you, God bless you, safe home,” Brother Agostino said after a final hymn. “Remember, do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your minds. Peace. God bless you.”
On a frigid January afternoon, the postulants and brothers crowded into the warm kitchen at St. Joseph’s to watch a master chef. Gino Barbaro, a friend of the friars, had traveled from his restaurant near Peekskill to help them cook a special meal for the weekly luncheon they serve to the needy in the neighborhood.
Mr. Barbaro showed them how to make pizza with zucchini, spaghetti with meatballs, sausages, lentil soup and sautéed potatoes. The smell of garlic perfumed the air.
Each of the 40-odd guests who showed up had an individual struggle.
Audrey Murdock, who lived down the block, said that she used to illegally sell steroids to bodybuilders, but that after spending time in jail, she was studying nursing. She said she appreciated the friars’ warm food and spiritual guidance. “When you’re running on an empty tank,” she added, “they’re pretty much there to fill up that tank.”
Rochelle Cummings, who lost her left leg when she was hit by a fire truck seven years ago, maneuvered her wheelchair up to one of the tables. “Did I miss the prayer already?” she asked. With her hands outstretched in front of her, she prayed her own blessing, then dug into her soup.
“Ever since I started coming here, I feel better about myself,” Ms. Cummings said as she ate. “I want to live again. Everything I eat here is spiritual.”