Yesterday I met with Dan Schreck, Director of Young Adult Outreach for the Archdiocese of New York, at the big clock in the center of Grand Central Station. We were there to talk about Catholic Thrive , the new revolution connecting young adults and singles of all ages to each other and to the Church. I was a few minutes late because I walked by a free piano concert, Chopin and Beethoven, in the lobby of one of the skyscrapers and I had to go in and listen — right off the sidewalk and into another world of tenderness and majesty and the power of the human spirit leaping out from the hearts of the great composers through the fingers of this anonymous, to me, pianist in the heart of this great city. Then I was at the clock with Dan, and we went to eat.
The restaurant had a sign out front claiming to be the busiest breakfast place in Manhattan. It was probably the loudest. I asked Dan if he thought it was possible for us to have a productive meeting there and he seemed surprised at the question.
“Oh, yeah, sure, no problem.” And we did. In just a few minutes my brain had adjusted to filter out the great cacophony of surrounding sounds and it was just Dan and me talking about our passion for reaching this world around us with the great good news of what Christ and his Church have to offer us all right here, right now, just as we are and where we are in this moment.
Dan sits atop (near the top, anyway) a great structure of ministry and programming for Catholic New Yorkers. Literally, he has an office that sits atop it (well, close to the top). From there he sees so much of what the Church is and does and his conclusion is that, “Many people wonder if it really is possible to be Catholic in New York City. They feel alone, as if no one else is doing it. What they need most is a chance to make friends with other Catholics. A true Christian friendship is priceless and should be the goal of all the events and programs we organize. Those friends connect them to parishes and Sacraments and ministries and their lives are changed and they have found what they were looking for all along. We have to help them find their friends.”
We talked about how we spread the Catholic Thrive message so that everyone who hears about Thrive , whether or not they can come to our conferences, gets the chance to plug into this whole movement and get connected to others who share the same longing which God has planted in our souls, the longing that makes us seek him and his Church, and our friends.
Then we went for a walk through the city to go see the Grand Ballroom of the Manhattan Center, where the next Thrive conference will be. On the way we talked about the wildness of our pasts. Dan told me about concerts he performed when he was at Steubenville and how hundreds came out to party in the streets and have a big celebration of what it means to be alive and I told him about the theater, story-telling and poetry I used to do before I got all caught up in evangelizing and mission trips. And we ran into a waif, a wasted raver whom I will call Raven. She wanted money and/or food. She had the same story they all give about needing money for bus fare home. We offered to get her some food if she would walk with us to find some and she did. We came to a deli and told her to get what she wanted.
“Can I get something hot?”
“Wow! Oh, man, this is so cool. I’m so hungry you can’t imagine how much this means to me this is the best thing that ever happened to me are you sure it’s okay, man, wow!”
She got her food to go and we went outside and I asked her if she was religious at all.
“Yeah yeah yeah I’m Christian I believe in God I’ve always believed in God.”
“Can I say a prayer for us?” I asked her.
“Please please please that would be great I would love that that would be so great.”
So I did. We three held hands and prayed there in middle of the hustle and bustle and she was very happy. Raven was the happiest person in Manhattan.
Dan and I walked (people kept checking out the big CatholicThrive.com logo on my t-shirt as we walked – there’s something about that logo that draws them in) and talked about what it’s like to try to help people like Raven when you get the chance to really help them and how the problem is that they have problems. Even their problems have problems. That scares some people away and keeps them from getting involved because they think that’s a problem. The key is to realize the problems are not the person. The person is much more than their problems. The key is to shift the focus on a regular basis away from the problems and to the person. If we find out something about who the person really is, what they care about, what they love and what thy look forward to, then we find reasons and ways to be the person’s friend and then . . . . (By the way, the Catholic Thrive conferences give you lots of chances to help people like Raven.)
Dan and I made it to the Manhattan Center Grand Ballroom and he got excited. “Oh yeah, I’ll perform here! I’ll definitely be part of the concert here. Oh yeah, we can do an incredible show here, with this sound system and the lights and the whole setup. This is a great opportunity. My band, we’ll rock this place I guarantee it. And the other bands we’re bringing in, and Fr Stan and his band – everyone will sound great here. This will be the best Catholic Conference ever; I mean that. I’ve never even heard of any Catholic conference that can compare with what we’re going to do here. The speakers who are lined up and the music and the venue and all of it, wow, oh yeah. Let me call my drummer; I have to make sure he can be here for this.”
We talked for two more hours about Thrive and life and how excited Dan is to be married and to be a new dad and about our fine Catholic friend who can’t find any Catholic women he wants to date — whussup wid dat? — and walked through the city some more and people kept looking at my CatholicThrive.com T-shirt. It’s pretty cool. These people here in Manhattan are highly inured to sensory input, but they seem to like this big CatholicThrive.com logo. And I like wearing it as I walk the streets of Manhattan with someone as fired up about being Catholic as is Dan Schreck. Go visit his website . It’s called CatholicNYC.com . You’ll find friends and learn that you really can be Catholic in NYC. And come to CatholicThrive.com to see the video of Dan in the middle of the Manhattan Center Grand Ballroom proclaiming our motto, “Thrive here, thrive now, thrive forever.”