It’s not hard to think of a myriad of reasons why people today might be afraid.
Terrorists at home and abroad choose seemingly random cultural and civil events at which to gun down the innocent and incite fear in the rest of the world. Economic instability and political uncertainty have brought the United States to a point where presidential candidates are campaigning on the fears of their constituents.
But fear is not a new human emotion, it is one that has been experienced throughout history.
That’s why the New York Encounter, a cultural event hosted by the Communion and Liberation movement, will aim to explore the universal feelings of fear and desire, and whether fear can be overcome for a greater good.
“We long to sail on the sea of life and yet we are afraid of leaving our safe harbor,” the event’s introduction reads. “What is the final word on man’s desire? Is there an attraction capable of overcoming our fears and drawing us out to the open waters that our hearts yearn for?”
The Encounter, an event that has grown and evolved over the past seven years, is set to take place next week at the Metropolitan Pavilion in New York City, Jan. 15-17. The entire event is free and open to the public, and requires no registration.
The event will include speakers and performances from people of various fields and walks of life — artists, medical professionals, priests, architects, astronauts and businessmen. It will also feature exhibits on persecuted Iraqi and Syrian Christians, the life of newly-canonized St. Junipero Serra, outer space, and international development.
“What we try to do is to find people who have been facing this challenge between fear and desire, taking their risks, trying to build something, trying to give this desire more room than their fear,” said Maurizio Maniscalco, the event’s president.
Of the speakers, Maniscalo said is most excited to hear from Archbishop Amel Nona, an exiled Chaldean Catholic bishop of Mosul, Iraq, and Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, a priest from the Holy Land.
The idea of an “encounter” of faith is also central to the event, and is something that Pope Francis has often spoken about during his papacy — the need for people to experience a real and living faith in their everyday lives. Pope Benedict XVI also said that "the intelligence of faith has to become the intelligence of reality."
The Encounter event therefore seeks to be an example of a faith that is incarnate and alive in various aspects of people’s lives.
“Yes, there are spoken words, but there are human beings, there are faces, there are testimonies, there are witnesses,” he said. “And possibly, when you return home, this flesh has become like a little seed in your own conscience, in your own heart, that reignites your desire and allows it to prevail over the many fears that haunt you.”
The program is packed with simultaneous speakers and events in order to give attendees a variety of options and to decide which events will most speak to them, Maniscalo said.
Although put on by a Catholic lay movement, Masicalo said the event is open to people of all faiths and traditions, and is a chance for imperfect people to witness to the Gospel in the public square.
“I think that’s the beauty of it,” he said. “We’re ordinary, screwed up, passionate people, and all ordinary and screwed up people are invited to the encounter, and I’m certain that they will feel at home.”
“But we’re screwed up ordinary people, used as servants who try to bring that testimony to the public square. And in the public square you can run into anybody, all kinds of people.”
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