By Heather Walker
ROME — The Lay Centre organized an online Bible study for the Vatican Ambassadorial Women’s Association (VAWA) May 12. For the past three years, the group’s monthly Bible study has been held at The Lay Centre, but the meetings were put on hold since March due to the coronavirus lockdown. Group members kept in touch in the weeks that followed and enthusiastically supported the initiative of Lay Centre Director Donna Orsuto to hold a meeting online.
In the spirit of The Lay Centre mission, the Bible study brought together six VAWA members, each representing a different nationality. Though most connected to the meeting from their residences in Rome, one connected from as far as Honduras. They reflected on the passage in the Acts of the Apostles that narrates Paul’s second missionary journey to Philippi and his encounter with a group of women, including Lydia, an entrepreneur who revered God (16:11-15).
The VAWA members greeted each other and then listened to the hymn “Nada te Turbe,” following along with a Taizé video. Immediately after the Bible study, one of the participants shared a video of Cardinal Óscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, leading his priests and laypeople in the same hymn (watch and listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b1gY0I11MNk.)
Orsuto gave the historical context for the biblical passage and Monica Prandi, a Lay Centre Leadership Scholar and student at the Pontifical Biblical Institute, connected from her hometown near Novara in northern Italy to speak of the customs of the early Christians. Participants read the passage aloud in Italian, French, Spanish and English. Time for personal reflection and sharing followed.
The passage speaks of Lydia’s powerful conversion and the creation of a new community of Christians in a Roman colony. Paul shares the Word of God with them, and Lydia, who is among them and who already “revered God,” is listening eagerly. She has no hesitation and she, along with her whole household, is baptised.
Lydia was no ordinary woman; as “a dealer in purple cloth,” she had means. After her baptism, Lydia insists that Paul and his companions “come and stay” at her house, and they do. She was not one who would easily take no for an answer.
Paul must have had great respect, love and affection for her and the community, which eventually gathered at her house. We learn further, in Chapter 16, that Paul’s first stop after being miraculously released from prison was to “Lydia’s house.” This brief passage gives a glimpse into the importance of community and of women as co-workers in the Lord.
The Bible study ended with a moment of silent prayer, remembering all VAWA members and their families, and the promise to meet again soon, if not in person at The Lay Centre, then virtually.
The hymn, Nada te turbe (in English: Let nothing disturb you), is taken from the words of St. Teresa of Ávila (Carmelite nun, prominent Spanish mystic, religious reformer, author, theologian of the contemplative life and mental prayer, who was declared a Doctor of the Church over four centuries after her death.)
Let nothing disturb you.
Let nothing make you afraid.
All things are passing.
God alone never changes.
Patience gains all things.
If you have God you will want for nothing.
God alone suffices.
Nada te turbe,
nada te espante,
todo se pasa,
Dios no se muda,
todo lo alcanza;
quien a Dios tiene
nada le falta.
Solo Dios basta.