We Are Betting on Him
One of the organizers of New York Encounter takes us inside the history of the Encounter and the "continuing miracle" that it is.
Editor's note: the following is an exerpt from a 2020 interview.
New York Encounter has its origins in the early 2000’s, when there was a push to have a public moment during the Diaconia (the national meeting of community leaders) to which we could invite people who were not of the Movement of Communion and Liberation. In 2008, the first time we had the Diaconia with Father Carrón in New York, we presented one of Father Giussani’s books, and we went to the Skirball Center, a beautiful, huge venue at New York University with 900 seats. It was packed. We realized how we could risk to do something very public in New York.
The following year, at the apex of the financial crisis, we decided to have a book presentation with Father Carrón on Saturday, another public event on the financial crisis on Sunday, and a concert on Saturday night—although not all in one location. We linked the three events and called it “New York Encounter.”. .
In 2010, we went super-public and rented a floor of the Mariott Marquis in Times Square. We had the very first exhibit and some booths that would speak about the life of the Movement. People were rushing from the Diakonia in New Jersey to the Mariott in Times Square. We started to have our first volunteers. The following year we went even bigger. The financial risk was increasing, but also the awareness of carrying something very valuable. When that venue no longer permitted us to use our own volunteers, we found, miraculously, the Metropolitan Pavilion, where we are now.
The point is, the development and growth of NYE was based on two things: the desire of the hearts of the people putting it together to offer the life that we had met to the world, and in doing so, to verify the value of the life that we received and to look for Christ in reality.
The answer was progressively positive. The more we were offering, the more reality--in terms of people and speakers and the experience of people building this thing--was positive. We grew organically in dialogue with these two things: our desire and the answer of reality. And we obeyed the circumstances. . . .
From the very beginning, there was a huge disproportion between our desire and the outcome.
I personally am very attached to what my friend Maria Teresa told me when we started years ago. I was working and involved in Crossroads, as I still am now, and this thing was asking some crazy hours of me. I admitted to her that I felt completely overwhelmed and inadequate. “You know,” she told me, “The Gospel today was the multiplication of the seven loaves. We are like that kid. We give what we have, and what we have is seven loaves, and there is a crowd of five thousand people. But we give it, really, to Jesus. Then he will do whatever he wants with it.” I was very moved, and even now when I go into panic, I go back to that and say, “Jesus, I give you everything that I have. You do what you can, what you need.”
Jesus cannot do the miracle of the Encounter if we do not give him what we have—our time, our energy, our resources, our anxieties, our creativity. He needs it. If we don’t do it, this is not going to happen. But we are surprised, astonished by the disproportion between what we put in and the outcome--because we do not generate the experience that people have coming to the Encounter. We can only serve the work of Another.
I found peace in my crazy life because I have a sense that I am obeying; this is not my project. I am obeying the will of Christ and the desire Christ puts in my heart.
What I have in exchange for this is amazing. It has been a confirmation, a growth in the certainty of my faith, of the relevance of Christ in life, of the relevance of that particular experience we live, our charism, in the time in which we live. For me--and I believe all of us—it is a giant work of verification. We ask, Is Christ still interesting for me and for the world?—let’s see!
You cannot imagine what happens when we receive signs of this, how beautiful and moving is the jolt we have in our hearts. We know we are betting on Him, asking Christ to come--and when He comes, it is always a surprise.
Angelo, New York, New York