By Samantha Lin
ROME — Lay Centre alumnus David Angeles Garnica came to Rome in early October to defend his doctoral thesis in philosophy titled, “El caballo negro del Phaedrus. Demostrar, mostrar y armonizar el conflicto del alma” (“The Black Horse of Phaedrus. Demonstrate, Show and Harmonize the Conflict of the Soul”) at the Pontifical Gregorian University.
David lived at The Lay Centre for six years as a scholarship student. His wife, Janette, who also lived at The Lay Centre during her studies in Rome, was present for his defense.
David’s thesis on Plato’s The Phaedo explores the ways in which one could “seduce” the horses of the chariot of one’s soul into following the temperate path, balancing desires and needs.
At his defense, David engaged his moderators, so that the defense was more of a discussion among philosophers. After the defense, 40 friends and Lay Centre community members gathered to celebrate.
Both David and Janette said David’s doctorate is a shared achievement, as both had to make their share of sacrifices.
David’s journey toward his doctorate began in 2009, immediately after he finished medical school. The couple met in medical school, but when David moved to Rome, Janette stayed behind to complete her specialization in psychiatry and begin working in her field. She counseled patients facing serious illnesses or transplants.
They married in 2011, after which David again returned to Rome. Of course, it was difficult for David to leave Janette. However, Janette would remind him that he wanted to study philosophy and that he was capable of doing it, and this would give him the strength to return.
David’s call to philosophy started from a young age when he would tell his sister that, when he grew up, he wanted to be a “wise man.” As a medical student, David would study Greek for fun, ostensibly to help with his medical studies, but really it was because of this deeper call. It wasn’t until he came to Rome that he found the formation he had longed for.
Over some time, Janette experienced a crisis at work and felt she needed to find a new perspective to better treat her patients. Lay Centre director Donna Orsuto suggested studying spirituality at the Pontifical Gregorian University. Janette agreed and, in 2013, she moved to Rome and reunited with David while she completed a two year diploma in Spirituality. They both resided at The Lay Centre until 2015.
After David’s defense, the couple returned to Mexico City, where David will teach and do research and Janette will continue with her psychiatric practice.
Both David and Janette leave The Lay Centre a better place than when they first arrived. Their dedication to building community left an indelible mark on The Lay Centre. Their advice to students, who are starting their studies, is Ignatian-inspired.
“Fall in love with life, with somebody, with the things you do,” said Janette. “Sometimes (the journey) is going to be difficult and sometimes people won’t be happy with what you do, but don’t be afraid to explore new ways and new paths.”
David was honest about the difficult journey, but was confident that students can persevere.
“You have to be durable,” he said. “It isn’t easy and it hurts. You will bleed, but you will discover some beauty on the path. What helped me that was really important but I didn’t know at that time, was to find a companion on the path.
“Find someone who is with you. That means so many things at different levels. The companions who are with you are the people who believe in you. When you want to give up they say ‘you wanted that, you keep going,’ like Janette did for me,” he said. “You endure not because of you, but because of the people who are with you.”
“I can see the faces of my companions who were with me on my journey: Donna, who believed in me when nobody else believed in me, friends and benefactors of The Lay Centre who made it possible for me to stay in Rome; the dean of philosophy, who knew that I would come back and finish; a Jesuit at the Gesù Church who prayed with me,” he said.