· Vatican City ·


Reflections of a young laywoman including vocationality and praxis

I study Theology because
I live and love

 Studio Teologia  DCM-004
01 April 2023

If it is really necessary to ask a laywoman the question “Why do you study Theology?” once again, I think that many steps still need to be taken ecclesially, both at the level of a systematic reflection on theological vocationality and in terms of concrete praxis.

With regard to vocationality. First and foremost, to undertake theological studies is a possibility of human sequel: on the level of rational analysis, in fact, it is possible for every person to open their reasoning to the question of the divine. Furthermore - as far as Christian Theology is concerned - this vocationality is founded and grows, above all, on a sacramental foundation of the baptism too. To ask a laywoman why she studies Theology could ironically mean asking her why she lives and breathes. To be “called” to Theology one does not need cassocks, nor veils, nor founders or specific charisms, nor religious forms; instead, it is enough to be daughters and sons, adult Christians in an adult world “without God”, women and men of spirit and flesh.

In the vast panorama of the ecclesial and theological world, laymen and laywomen would therefore not be “welcomed guests” (with greater or lesser warmth, depending on the case), but actors together with other actors, all cooperating at the same time, around the one and only Protagonist of History. At least that is what the last of the Councils would secretly whisper in our ears. Buoyed up by the same Spirit we must (we should?) move, as in a symphony of breaths, on the tormented and vital stage of ecclesial history. I am a laywoman, I have green eyes, I wear my copper-red hair long, and when my muscular-skeletal pathology allows me to do so, I am happy to wear heels. I enjoy drinking a glass of ale as I approach the warm hearth of dear friends; I write theological poetry and literally lose myself in Sacred Scripture, which has been home to me since my earliest childhood memories; I look for God in the eyes of men, and my history is engraved with the signs of a life that is not obvious. I have a heart and a reason that burn indomitably, I suffer and offer for my wounded and pilgrim Church, I study Theology and no one has “graciously granted” me to do so. Instead, it is rather a historical consequence, a serene and sincere admission of represents clear baptismal coherence. Theology is the proprium of my human life first and Christian life later; it is part of my name.

Talking directly about praxis, it must be strongly and clearly admitted that there is still a very serious “vacuum” with regard to the support of the laity who set out for theological studies and, in the face of this vacuum, one experiences difficult, purely lay feelings - which the ordained clergy can hardly (even vaguely) savor. For the layman or laywoman to engage in Theological studies in Italy (especially specialised Theology) is, even today, only slightly less than madness. Generally, without support from the dioceses, without any ready meal on the table, amidst economic vicissitudes of all kinds and the vital and very real question that visits the inner self, being, “Will I make it [economically] to the end of the month?” The rigorous and ardent study absorbs body and soul and, in the meantime, one has to move between multiple applications for scholarships and continuous prayers addressed to the Father at night. The eyes of a lay person may glaze over with a sudden emotion (and sometimes this emotion may even occur during class) when that small financial resource threatens to no longer be there to provide bread for your days, or when God's historical Providence (often at the hands of other lay people) comes to embrace you and tell you, like the angel to Elijah: “Eat, for the way is still long” (First Book of Kings 19:7). Laymen and laywomen pay a very high price when they set out with ardent love on the path of theological study, a path that is usually eminently vocational for them (which, on the other hand, can easily not be the case when theology risks becoming an instrumental necessity for the attainment of order). Lay people pay - I say this with David Maria Turoldo - in coins of life (and kilos lost), between the rigour of study and the worry of how to get by until the end of their studies. All this because, having been baptised, they feel called to this specific way of following. In it they recognise the Kyrios of their life, and the need to form a solid Christian competence that in turn is performative to their Church. Are we not still largely deaf to an important post-conciliar call? Are not the local Churches seriously called upon to provide targeted and prompt support (not only moral, but also financial and in many concrete ways) where “vocations to the subject of theology” arise among the “children of the people?” (Book of Numbers 11:25-29). Until this happens, a fundamental voice will be missing from the narrative of this millennial ecclesial history of ours. Laymen and laywomen who feel viscerally called to the study of the subject know this all too well.  Nevertheless, some of them heedlessly perpetuate the loving “waste” to the utmost point of their gift. I study (we study) Theology because we live and love: we find ourselves secularly squandering our lives like nard by pouring it on the head of Rabbi Yeshua while waiting for the sun of the Church's Passover to rise one day (Gospel according to Mark 14:3-8).

Theology student, Pontifical Lateran University