Sandals and sweater

Publish date 07-05-2022

by Arsenale della Speranza - S.Paolo

Last Friday it really happened: I graduated in theology!
I finished my studies and after graduating in philosophy, now I have also completed the theology at the faculty of the Monastery of San Benedetto in San Paolo in Brazil. Years and years.

Studying while living at the Arsenale della Speranza, in Brazil, was an enormous experience of great beauty.
Every day I went out early in the morning, to arrive at the university and attend courses in the history of Christianity, systematics, morals ... I was able to listen to lectures by great professors who passed on their knowledge and experience to me: Domingos Zamagna, Sergio Alejandro Ribaric, Magno Vilela, Antonio Bogaz ...
They introduced me to the lines of thought of great theologians, thinkers and scholars who have dedicated years of their life to try to analyze and deepen every fragment of Sacred Scripture.
Every day, after class, I went back to the Arsenal. Many times it happened to me that, when I arrived at the door, still with my head trying to retrace the arguments and theses just heard of Thomas Aquinas or Aristotle, someone suddenly reached me, often one of the men welcomed, who stopped me complaining of a pain in his teeth that made him not sleep, a health problem or, looking at my shoes, he asked me for a pair of sandals or at least a sweater to protect himself from the cold.

Each of these episodes, how much it helped me to understand what I was studying for, what my real motivations were; for who I was studying.
Otherwise, I would have run the risk of spending hours and hours, even days, in an endless discussion about the meaning of a word or the correct translation of a sentence. Forgetting everything and taking care of reading and rereading academic treatises. Studying to ... study.
Had I not had the Arsenal, I would have run the risk of treating a person's request for help or someone's problem, only as a nuisance, an obstacle. Just a waste of time, because they are small demands: without any of the intellectual sophistication of magazine articles.

Living in the Arsenale instead obliges me, every day, to look at the many forms of poverty of our world, at the people who are experiencing great suffering and sadness. This is what helps me each time to choose what I am studying for, for what reasons.
Without the Arsenale, the studio could also have become a vice for me. Yes, a vice. Forgetting that studying can instead be a way to love. To love those people who need it most.

I was able to graduate thanks to many friends who replaced me in the different tasks that are needed to carry out the welcome of a house like the Arsenale.
Many had to work more in the bazaar, welcoming groups.
Great efforts to make sure that I had time to attend classes, without sleeping, and then studying to pass the exams of these years. It is touching to know that you are studying in the name of many friends. Not just for a personal interest, but in the name of a community. For this I live by giving thanks, continuously.

Arsenal of Hope - San Paolo - Brazil
Marco Vitale
NP January 2022

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