Janel shares her experience of giving a witness for the NYE exhibit on the life of Fr. Giussani
Last winter, I received an email from a friend, Marcia, asking, “How are you? I am happy to share that the work on the centennial exhibit, The Journey to the Truth, is coming together almost miraculously. We are planning to close the exhibit with a live exhibit, that is, a friend who could give a brief witness on how following the journey proposed by Fr. Giussani has influenced your life. Are you willing?”
What impressed upon me in that moment was not only that the exhibit was coming together miraculously, but the miracle that I, a woman from central Minnesota, had been asked by a Brazilian friend from Houston, whom I had met at the New York Encounter almost a decade earlier (the encounter became a friendship), to stand in Manhattan, and share about my experience of a priest from Italy! There is no other explanation for this than our encounter with Christ.
My experience preparing for the live exhibit was gratitude and awe. Gratitude and awe of how Christ, over the last almost twenty years, has pursued me in particular ways through concrete faces. Even though, in the beginning, I did not understand this, over time I recognized something was different.
One of my first encounters with the Movement was with three women (Bunny, Karrie, and Melissa from Woodbury, MN) who came to visit me after the birth of my second child. I was surprised and fascinated, asking myself, “Who are these people who drive across the city to bring us meals? We only met a few weeks ago, and they hardly know us. Why are they interested in a friendship even though we are moving away in a few months? Why are they so much more alive and free than most people I know?”
I was happy to share my experience at the New York Encounter because of that initial encounter that fascinated me so many years ago. As Davide Prosperi succinctly shared in the introduction to the Spiritual Exercises, “I am here because I had an encounter many years ago. In the beginning, it was nothing more than an experience of fascination with humanity charged with promise, the promise of meaning for life, the promise of a task, of an ideal capable of making life a hundred times fuller, an ideal capable of explaining the joys and sufferings, the justice and injustice, the happiness and unhappiness that inexorably mark my life and everyone’s.”
Preparing for the exhibit allowed me to reflect on God’s great mercy and faithfulness in my life. Through physical moves, following, wandering from, and returning to the Movement, and all the calculations about where and how to live, I see God has been incredibly faithful, giving me many people to walk with my family and me along the journey.
So when Marcia asked me to share at the exhibit, my resulting “yes” showed me how much my life had changed. Twenty years ago, I would have offered all sorts of protestations, reasons why she should ask someone else. Now, I have learned to say “yes” and watch and wait on Him. This expectant waiting has filled my life with many surprises beyond what I could have hoped for. I am grateful for Giussani, the man, and his method, who helps me to grow and give myself more to Christ.
Janel, Crosby, MN