Rita Lengyel, from Hungary, studied law at Pázmány Péter Catholic University and is currently finishing her degree in psychology at Eötvös Loránd University. An Erasmus scholarship offered an opportunity to come to Rome for two months. In this interview, she tells us about herself and her Roman experience.
What brought you to Rome?
I received an Erasmus scholarship to spend two months in Rome to carry out research in church history at the Pontifical Gregorian University, which is one of the most important European centres for teaching and researching theology, church history and canon law. The library has a collection of about 500,000 volumes and aims to contribute to the mission of the university.
I chose the library of the Pontifical Gregorian University as my host institution. During these two months, I was able to access materials that are essential to my topic of research, namely on the history of the early Christian Church and the law of the late Roman Empire during the reign of Constantine. The time spent in the library and the processing and interpretation of the resources, as well as the visits to the sites necessary for the topic, such as the historical archives, the library and museums, were very useful for my studies. Also, the Institute of Psychology of the Gregorian University is the most significant European centre of religious psychology today, which is why the university library’s collection of religious psychology books is extremely rich.
This was very useful for my psychology studies, I was able to complete a study on the psychology of religious experience, based on the work of William James.
I also took part in an internship at the Hungarian Embassy to the Holy See, which helped me gain useful experience in religious diplomacy.
Would you recommend this kind of experience?
Of course! Rome is the Eternal City, after all! There are plenty of things to see here. I have spent the majority of my time discovering the wonders of the city. I have visited the most important parts of the classical heritage: Roman Forum, Domus Aurea, Catacombs of St. Peter’s, etc. I also have a keen interest in church architecture, and I managed to discover not only the grand basilicas, but also the “hidden,” less famous churches of the city.
One of my most treasured experiences was to “meet” the pope. Thanks to The Lay Centre’s generosity, I was able attend the Easter liturgies at St. Peter’s Basilica. I also very much enjoyed visiting St. Peter’s Square on Sundays to listen to the Regina Caeli and the Angelus in person.
Have you enjoyed your stay at The Lay Centre?
I can honestly say that one of the greatest experiences of being here was the time I spent at The Lay Centre. Luckily for me, I had the opportunity to meet other scholars at pontifical universities — fantastic people with whom I had a wonderful time during these two months. I believe I have acquired lifelong experiences as a member of this community. It was a great pleasure to get to know members of a community with an interest similar to mine, but with completely different backgrounds and views on life.
I especially loved the events, shared meals, when we had the opportunity to have long meaningful conversations with each other. I think these intellectual conversations did not only serve my personal growth, but — since the members of the community are from many parts of the world — they broadened my point of view on ecclesiastical matters as well.
The Lay Centre is also a perfect place for a spiritual retreat. Taking long walks in the garden and meditating was a wonderful opportunity for self-reflection. Also, the quiet surroundings of the residence create a very peaceful environment that encourage calm and academic study.
What are your plans for the future?
My dream is to become a scholar. I believe this experience was an important step toward pursuing an academic path. I am looking forward to starting my doctorate in Roman law. According to my plans, my future thesis would focus on the relationship between Roman law and the early Christian Church. I would also like to start a new degree in classical philology next year.
I have a lifelong passion for travelling, which is something I would like to continue in the years to come. I have yet to see Jerusalem and Cape Town, but exploring South America is high on my bucket list, too.
Last, but not least, one of my future plans is to stay in touch with The Lay Centre community.
Photo courtesy Rita Lengyel