NY Encounter: "...felt like an absolute feast"

Although I had been introduced to CL in bits through friends who have been part of the movement and a few visits to the local school of community, the NY Encounter felt like my first real introduction to the movement and to Giussani....

Although I had been introduced to CL in bits through friends who have been part of the movement and a few visits to the local school of community, the NY Encounter felt like my first real introduction to the movement and to Giussani.

Back in October, my friend in Washington mentioned the upcoming Encounter's theme, "Reality Has Never Betrayed Me". From the moment she phrased this theme's bold claim, I was completely struck by what it was proposing and deeply desired to sift through my automatic doubts of its truth and find out what inside of me was so struck by it. For weeks, I could not get that theme out of my head; it was as if the phrase just played on repeat in me as I went about my days. One night, I couldn't sleep and was mulling over the theme again and decided to book a flight to New York (which was thrilling in and of itself because I'd never spent time in NY and it's exciting to book a spontaneous flight at 2 am). The theme was speaking so deeply to me already, in a way that had no words or even coherent thought - but I was so, so drawn to it and spent my advent reflecting on it. As time got closer, I started doubting that I'd actually go because of some passport complications and a hectic work schedule. Two days before the Encounter, I was on the brink of deciding to stay home, when I remembered just how deeply I was drawn to the theme and was reminded by a close friend that Christ moves profoundly in what intrigues our deepest selves, and that I "HAVE to go". In the two days of reorganizing my work schedule and resolving the passport issues, I had no time to formulate any expectations for the weekend. What a gift that was in that it allowed me to have a complete openness in front of the entire weekend.

It's hard to describe what the entire weekend meant to me or which exact thing struck me the most. The moment the trailer began on Friday night, I teared up and was overwhelmed by the fact that I had even come at all. I knew so deeply that Christ had drawn me there through my desire and my hope that reality would not betray me; He drew me there through my deepest questions and in a sense, some of my deepest aches. As I watched the opening trailer, all I could think of was that this space even existed—a space where people were daring to ask the same questions, daring to seek what their hearts longed for and daring to be honest enough with their initial reaction to the theme's claim. That alone felt like the journey had already been worth it.

As the weekend continued on from those early opening moments, my wonder and awe only grew. I've attended hundreds of retreats both as an attendee and a speaker but I had never experienced a space quite like the Encounter. There was a freedom and an honesty in the presentations and the people I met, that I really hadn't quite experienced before. Every presentation felt like an absolute feast. I could not get enough! I was completely taken with the genuine and authentic expressions of the speakers, the way in which the fascinating topics were honestly and openly discussed on stage and the humility with which each presentation unfolded. There was something immensely beautiful about having been brought to this place out of a deep questioning within me, only to discover that no one was trying to answer that question for me.

For me, what I received instead of answers, was a sincere and beautiful encouragement to be faithful to my experience, to the questions themselves and to the ache in me for more. It's hard to name a favourite part, when it all worked together to make it what it was, but if I had to choose the presentation I was most struck by, and have given the most thought to since, it was Saturday afternoon with John Waters. I was completely taken with him and at one point he said (maybe quoting Giussani?) "Thank God the pain never stops." There was something about that one line that struck me and continues to resonate in me—and maybe that's an entirely new story for another time (I'm sure you don't have time to read an entire novel on my life!). In short, I knew it was a certain pain that lead me to the Encounter, a certain pain that kept telling me that there is a way to live more honestly, more authentically, more open and more like Christ—the pain in me had in fact been so faithful to reality and it has indeed lead me to reality and the reality it has lead me to truly hasn't betrayed. That one line spoken by John Waters lead to a meeting point of many experiences and realizations in me.

I also had a beautiful experience of going through the exhibit of Giussani's life. The woman who brought me through was a student of his and not only was it a gift to hear personal stories of him, but I truly felt like she personally introduced me to him and bore his spirit in her presence to me. I felt truly like I'd met him and that he took me under his (huge) wing where many others are also! I will never forget the poster with his face on it and the words "My wish for me and for you is that you never be tranquil. Never tranquil." Again, I teared up at this as it spoke to the angst that lead me to the Encounter in the first place. I've been reading his books since returning home.

I feel like 'stumbling' upon the Encounter just opened up my life to a community where my recurring experiences of life and faith and love and being human finally make sense. That is no small gift... I'm daily thanking God for that Encounter—it was truly in its deepest sense, a profound encounter.

In the context of my life as a whole, it makes so much sense and it's so clear to see Christ's providential hand in all of it. I am so grateful to have had such an introduction to the CL Movement and am so looking forward to getting to know the community here in Canada a little better.

Thanks again for inviting me to email you; I'm grateful to connect with CL members, especially in Canada. I sometimes fly through or stop in Toronto—I'd love to meet the community next time I am there.