This Urge for the Truth
The New York Encounter organizers share their experience
The New York Encounter, an annual cultural event held in New York City at the Metropolitan Pavilion that has become a precious moment for many of us, was born out of a friendship and has been growing since the early 2000’s. The Newsletter connected with the seven NYE organizers to better understand the proposal of such an event as well as the particular theme for this year: This Urge for the Truth.
In a previous interview with the Newsletter, Angelo Sala shared the history of the NYE, explaining how in 2010 the organizers took a big risk, renting a floor of the Marriott Marquis in Times Square with the desire to share the life of Communion and Liberation. Since then, the NYE has continued to grow, with the last in-person edition attracting thousands of people. As Angelo shared, this growth is a fruit of the dialogue that occurs between “our desire and the answer of reality.” Echoing this, Olivetta Danese shared that each person contributes in their own way, giving their time and energy for the work of Another. She highlighted that the work done for the NYE is at the service of charity, culture, and mission, because these three dimensions constitute the very substance of the Movement.
Riro Maniscalco shared that for him, “the Encounter is the experience of somebody who is aware of having received a lot and is aware of his call to try and give back. At the core of what I have received is the encounter with the Mystery that took flesh in the face of friends at the age of nineteen and then, through the encounter with Fr. Giussani, this encounter has accompanied me in my adulthood.” The Word became flesh, reminded Olivetta, and “this is visible through gestures–through very fleshy things.” Our desire is “that people meet Christ in the flesh” and this desire compels one to do difficult or uncomfortable things, like asking people for help or money, or to spend long hours planning and painstakingly organizing each detail from who will speak to who will assemble coat racks.
Riro added that, by encountering people from all walks of life, we “want to open up the door of curiosity to discover more about what is out there in the world and deepen our understanding of the magnitude of what we have encountered. What we have encountered in our companionship is like a magnifying glass; when you look at things happening in the world you can see and understand a little more—you can rejoice a little more or suffer a little more, it is an experience of more life.” For Maria Teresa Landi, the beauty of preparing for the NYE is the constant reminder that “life is good and there is a meaning” and that “there is a possibility of beauty in everything.” Her passion for this work coincides with her curiosity to see more the greatness of the human being: “I am a scientist and it is easy to stay preoccupied with my little piece of reality, but at the Encounter, there is always someone different. Different even in the sense of far from how I think or understand things. The other person, with all her complexity and richness attracts me, there is always something great, mysterious in it. I need this encounter to broaden the way I see, to broaden my own humanity.”
Sometimes we can mistakenly think that art and science are for “intellectuals,” but as Carlo Lancellotti insists, “culture is not elitist.” Rather, it is a fundamental human desire. “Everyone can appreciate a well thought-out argument, or an intelligent presentation on something someone is passionate about.” The proposal of Communion and Liberation that always fascinated Carlo was the claim that faith makes you more passionate about all of reality because reality is a sign of Christ. “When you share this desire to discover more of reality with others, you begin to walk a path of verifying the faith in culture. The friendship among us who have been sharing such desire and work is really a community, an expression of fraternity.” Maria Teresa said that doing this work with friends is essential: “And then there is our friendship: I really love to work together to bring this gaze to the world. If these friends were to leave for any reason, I would not be able to do it by myself: I would seek other friends to do it with me.”
Patrick Tommasi discovered his particular love for the Encounter a few years ago while preparing an exhibit on The Risk of Education with other educators in the US. This experience revealed to him that to give time to the NYE is not simply to put on an event for the Movement but becomes “the desire to grow in your own work, in your own life.” Mark Painter’s experience this year has been the same: preparing an exhibit on the immune system, he has discovered that this work has “made something [he] already loved much richer.”
Both Patrick and Mark shared their experience of helping to determine the theme of the 2022 NYE: This Urge for the Truth. In this moment when we all experience the temptation to reduce ourselves and each other to various “positions,” when “reality no longer surprises us,” the impetus of this year’s theme is to provoke all of us to “look at the truth of the person in a new way.” And it is precisely in an encounter with a new reality—a reality of people who gather together as family, who work long hours of volunteering freely and with gladness, who risk engaging and re-opening questions that are sensitive—that one is able to begin to look in a new way. This urge for the truth points to the heart of what each of us is looking for: the Truth Himself. “The point of the presentations and the exhibits is not to offer the best analysis; it is to help each other to begin again to be surprised by reality.”
As we read in Is there Hope?, “[T]he hope promised to those who follow Him must—I insist—be verified in the comparison with circumstances, none excluded.” Mark added, “If we want to make a sincere comparison, we need to look at these circumstances with clarity. The goal of the Encounter is to help each other to look at the thing itself with clarity.”
This year we are all praying that the Encounter can happen in person as planned. The organizers are taking a big risk, planning everything within all of the uncertainties of COVID and possible NYC restrictions. As Riro said, “You have to live the present as if it is forever. If something changes, we change accordingly.”
The organizers invite everyone to come in person or to watch it live streamed February 18-20. You can find more details about the 2022 program and exhibits here.