The search for truth in a polarized, pandemic-stricken world will be at the center of myriad conversations and artistic events at this year’s New York Gathering, to be held later this month in New York. York.
cultural commentators, New York Times columnists and medical experts will join artists, musicians, poets and everyday people to examine questions about trust in science, truth in journalism, political polarization and what we can learn from a Japanese husband and wife who endured the stresses and horrors of World War II.
The theme of this year’s New York Gathering is “This Desire for Truth”. The event will be held in person February 18-20 at the Metropolitan Pavilion in New York City, with many major panels streamed live on YouTube.
Attendance is free and no registration is required, although attendees must follow New York City Covid-19 restrictions on indoor events.
“Coming to the Encounter is opening the door to those questions that we too often tend to stifle,” Maurizio Maniscalco, president of New York Encounter, told CNA on February 1.
“You find people from all walks of life, all ages, you find hundreds of volunteers,” he said. “And all of this forces you to ask yourself: what is this life? What’s behind all this?
The New York Encounter is a cultural event that features panel discussions on a variety of topics, artist exhibits, musical and poetic performances, and other special exhibits. It was born with members of Communion and Liberation, a lay Catholic movement, but it is not an official project of the movement, Maniscalco said.
Maniscalco said the New York meeting is “an attempt to publicly play our faith, trying to understand and judge what surrounds us, what is happening around us.”
“It’s a ‘Catholic event,’ in a real sense: it’s ‘universal,'” he said. “We want to follow in the footsteps of Saint Paul when he invites us to ‘test everything and retain what is good’.”
“And there is good in this world, because there are people of good will, of all faiths and beliefs,” Maniscalco said. “By meeting them, we learn more about the gift of our own faith and the unquenchable thirst for happiness of which we are made.”
The round tables will include New York Times columnist David Brooks and former director of the National Institutes of Health Francis Collins, who will hold a conversation about the erosion of trust in science and its consequences. Former Tennessee Gov. William Haslam, a Republican, and former U.S. Representative Dan Lipinski, a Democrat from Illinois, will discuss whether politics is a zero-sum game and how to bridge ideological divides.
Other topics include truth and reconciliation in the US prison system; gender theory and its implications for society; the changing role of the United States in world affairs; the challenges of capitalism; Haiti’s humanitarian crisis and its possible futures; health care; and the human immune system and the Covid-19 virus.
Sunday Mass will be celebrated by Bishop Christophe Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States. The choir will be conducted by Sebastian Modarelli, music director of St. John’s Co-Cathedral in Rochester, Minn.
Among the latest events is a Sunday evening presentation on Dr. Takashi Nagai and his wife Midori Mirayama, who lived in Japan in the mid-20th century.
Nagai was a staunch atheist, but his reading of the French thinker Blaise Pascal led him to seek Catholicism. Her experience of mass and her encounter with Midori’s example of faith and purity of heart led to her conversion to Catholicism, despite her father’s opposition and other social pressures, according to their biography on the site. the association Friends of Takashi and Midori Nagai. .
In the late 1930s, he displayed surprising bravery and charity as a Japanese army doctor in Manchuria, though he was shocked at the brutality his fellow soldiers sometimes committed. He put his life on the line to get medical supplies for his patients and even rescued injured Chinese soldiers and secured them supplies.
“Nagai’s story is the story of a man found by Christ through meeting a girl: Midori, who eventually became his wife,” Maniscalco told CNA. “It is the story of his devotion to Christ through his work as a doctor in a bleeding Japan, his tireless work and his testimony of faith, hope and love.”
Midori was a teacher and community leader, descended from the “hidden Christians” who preserved Catholic Christianity in Nagasaki. She wrote to Takashi and sent him a catechism during his military service. She married him knowing the health risks of his career as a radiologist, and indeed he developed cancer in early 1945. They had four children together, two of whom died in infancy.
Takashi survived the atomic explosion of the August 9, 1945 American attack on Nagasaki and worked for two days caring for the survivors. Midori was not among them. Her husband returned home to find their home devastated. He found only a few charred bones of his wife, next to her twisted and broken metal rosary beads.
He continued to help survivors and survived a serious injury after praying to Saint Maximilian Kolbe, whom he had known from the Polish priest’s time in Japan. The doctor sought to live in hope and faith, encouraging survivors to “walk the path of beatitudes”. Despite his lingering cancer, he worked to rebuild Nagasaki and planted 1,000 cherry trees. He lived a life of poverty and prayer, writing books and letters when his declining health prevented him from working.
Takashi Nagai died on May 1, 1951, admired by the people of Nagasaki and by many personalities around the world as “the saint of Urakami”.
For Maniscalco, the life of this married couple helps people know “that holy people exist, that the gift of faith brings hope and love even when an atomic bomb brings incredible devastation”.
Their lives will be presented at the New York Encounter by Gabriele di Comite, president of Friends of Takahishi and Midori Nagai; Chad Diehl, historian at the University of Virginia; and director Dominic Higgins.
“We always try to conclude the Meeting with a powerful testimony of holiness,” Maniscalco said. The 2019 event included testimonies from Chiara Corbella’s husband and doctor Petrillo, whose cause for canonization is under investigation. She was an Italian wife and mother of three who died of cancer in 2012 at the age of 28, after living a life known for joy, faith and love.
“A testimony of holiness is an invitation to our own conversion and also to a closer look at those around us,” Maniscalco continued. “We are all limited human beings, but the testimony of a changed life is stronger than all weaknesses and limitations.”
The pandemic has prompted “radical questions” about suffering, death, meaning and how people should answer these questions, Encounter organizers said in a statement.
Efforts to respond to the pandemic also prompted politically polarized responses that urged people “to toe the party line rather than a search for truth.” This situation added to other polarizations on political issues and encouraged the temptation to distort reality to fit our interpretations.
“It seems like we live in different worlds, each with their own ‘truths’ that often save us the hard work of finding the truth. But at what cost?” asked the organizers.