|Guest Lecture: The Journey to Faith Through Beauty and Culture|
For the month of March, 2012, Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy was honoured to host literature professor Dr. Edoardo Rialti from Florence, Italy. Dr. Rialti translates into Italian the works of local author and artist Michael O’Brien, through whom he heard about the Academy and offered to teach a four-week, intensive course on major themes in European literature. Dr. Rialti grew up reading the works of great European authors who profoundly influenced his life and led him to a deep religious devotion. He is passionate about sharing this journey with others and Friday, March 30th, the professor gave a lecture about his journey to God through the help of his favourite authors, for the benefit of the Academy and the Barry’s Bay community.
“C.S. Lewis has been my Virgil,” said Dr. Rialti, comparing himself with Dante who was led to Christ through Virgil’s Aeneid. He grew up in a Catholic household but around the age of ten he began to drift away from the Church. He began asking questions – who am I? where can I find happiness? But at that point the Church did not seem to have the answers. There were many books which he read which brought him further away from God but he also realized that there were many beautiful things in life including his friends and his family. By his mid-teenage years, he had left the Church in favour of the life of a “happy pagan”.
Even though he was living a comfortable life, there was, at the same time, sadness. “Everything was going well,” he said. “But I was missing the feeling that I was looking for.” He began having a feeling of “dark desperation” which only grew as he got further away from God without finding what he was looking for. However, in C.S. Lewis’ work, Surprised by Joy, Dr. Rialti said that he too was surprised to find that Lewis, who had also left Christ, came back to him because he discovered Him to be the very thing he was looking for and loving. From that moment on, the Church no longer appeared strict and structured. Other works of literature such as The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien made more sense as to why they “pierced his heart”. The message of authors such as Tolkien was that of the “mysterious longing for Christ”. Dr. Rialti drew the title of his talk, “So It Was You All Along”, from Screwtape Letters, saying that all along it was God who had been drawing him towards Himself without him knowing it.
Dr. Rialti then read some passages from some of his favourite works, Screwtape Letters and The Problem of Pain by Lewis, Purgatorio by Dante, and The Ballad of the White Horse by G.K. Chesterton, pointing out examples of how God moves each man towards Himself through the things he loves. “We are saved by the people and things we love the most” said Dr. Rialti, who has made the journey to God through his favourite pieces of literature. “I have the feeling that I am travelling with the people I love the most.”
Dr. Rialti’s lecture drew a large crowd from Barry’s Bay and the surrounding community. The speech was well-received and the audience thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated the gift of Dr. Rialti’s own experience, wisdom, and passion. OLSWA extends their deep gratitude to Dr. Rialti for bringing a new perspective on literature and a breath of Tuscany to the Madawaska Valley.