A message to postmodernity. The intersection of the life story of an Italian student with ancient historical events

1. Alberto Rocchini.1I, Alberto Rocchini, come from Pavia, where I studied literature and history. During my study stay in Mainz, Germany, I became passionate about the Reformation, and after returning to Italy, I enrolled in the Waldensian Church.

This small church (now with about 50,000 members throughout Italy) was able to expand from the original alpine center on the border of Italy and France after the Tolerance Edict of King Albert of Piedmont in 1848. The Waldensian Church is a successor to the medieval movement led by Peter Valdes of Lyon. As early as 1532, with the decision of the Chanforan Synod, they joined the Geneva Reformation. In the spirit of mutual enrichment, they also cultivated contacts with the Czech Brethren.

After various work and life experiences, I went from Vienna via Brno to Prague, where I worked as a teacher of Italian and German. I got to know the Hussite Reformation in Bohemia and found that it is also part of the so-called “first Reformation”, which includes the Waldensian movement. In 2013, I applied to study theology at the Hussite Theological Faculty of Charles University, where this autumn I will complete my master’s degree in the Waldensian Church, its history, thinking and organization.

I am a member of the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren, and if God leaves me in the Czech Republic, I would like to serve as a pastor here. I would like to contribute to the awareness and deepening of mutual historical and theological relations between the Czech and Italian Churches. Both bear the legacy of the first Reformation and, despite different sociological contexts, speak boldly and confidently to postmodern people with the gospel of God’s grace.

Some ideas from the conclusion of Albert Rocchini’s master’s thesis:

I tried to follow and outline the key events of a historical nature that led to the birth of the Waldensian movement at the end of the 12th century. Typical among these are the close relationship to the Helvetic Reformation in the 16th century, the emancipation of the Savoy and then Italian states, and the diasporal spread of the Gospel that characterizes the Waldensian Church to the present day. I wanted to show the ongoing Waldensian movement, which during nine centuries of evangelical witness and fierce persecution spread in Europe an alternative secular “non-Constantine” church model of men and women zealous for the gospel of the “servant Christ”, which, like the Apostle Paul, encourages if I do not preach the gospel.” (1 Corinthians 9:16)

My resolve was to show the deep links between the Waldensian and Hussite movements and their mutual enrichment: how the Waldensian movement affected and may have even paved the way for the Hussite revolution in Bohemia, and how later the Waldensian could rely on academic theological reflection situation.

At the same time, I wanted to present the current Waldensian Church with its reformed faith, its structures and ideas that permeate Italian society. But I also wanted to show a model of “integration” between the Waldensian and Methodist churches that has been in place since 1975. Perhaps it could be a model for other small European churches, such as the Czechoslovak Hussite Church and the Czech Brethren Evangelical Church.

For an Italian critical Catholic who is looking for his spiritual home or some alternative way to be a Christian in a pluralistic society, the small Waldensian Church is a simple light, such as light coming from a candle or from an open Bible on the Lord’s table. This heritage, based on the Reformation – sola fide, sola gratia, sola scriptura (faith alone, grace alone, Scripture alone) – is liberating and at the same time leads to responsibility. And our postmodern society, characterized by individualism and relativism, is in dire need of that.

Alberto Rocchini