Lay student spotlight: Jonathan Liedl, National Catholic Register editor


Jonathan Liedl, a writer and editor for the National Catholic Register and a master’s lay student at The Saint Paul Seminary, discusses his work as a Catholic journalist, his upbringing and why he chose to pursue a Master’s degree in theology at The Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity.

Can you tell us about your upbringing?

I appreciated that my upbringing included a lot of apparent opposites: for instance, I spent most of my formative years in rural Minnesota (Pequot Lakes), hunting, being on the lake, etc. But my mom is from abroad (UK) and we were encouraged to take an interest in world cultures and geography; likewise, sports and athletics were emphasized, but so were academics and the arts. Perhaps the pairing that best sums this up is that in high school I was both co-captain of the football team, and my favorite movie was Pride and Prejudice (KK version). I appreciated that my upbringing was so multi-faceted.

Who makes up your family?

My mom and dad, and then my four brothers, their wives, and a growing army of nieces and nephews: Noah, Sadie, Hazel, Elizabeth, Ireland, Thomas Joseph, Ilias, Luca, Iezekiel, and two more on the way. I also have two half-sisters: Patricia and Isabel.

What led you to the study of theology at The Saint Paul Seminary?

I spent three years in seminary, and while it didn’t confirm a vocation to the diocesan priesthood, it did confirm a desire to pursue deeper theological studies. The MAT program was right in my backyard, and I already had good relationships with The SPSSOD community, so it seemed like a no-brainer. The night classes also make it easy to continue working while in the program.

What has captured your interest most profoundly in the study of theology?

I’m perhaps most intrigued by how enriching our understanding of God enhances our understanding of humanity, society, and all of creation. I’m especially interested in how the fact that God is Trinitarian—a community of Persons giving Themselves in love—and also how understanding that He made us in His image and likeness can shed light on who we are as human persons: what our true identity is, what we’re made for, and how we flourish. For my thesis, I’d like to explore how/if we can think of the human person as a gift given between the Persons of the Trinity.

Why do you think it is important to study theology today?

I’ve been inspired by a description of theology that St. Thomas Aquinas provides at the beginning of his Summa Theologiae. Thomas tells us that theology treats God as its formal object—in other words, theology looks through the lens of God and His self-revelation at all of reality. So theology isn’t just a niche subject that concerns itself with abstractions disconnected from everyday life and experience. Theology considers everything, through the only lens capable of providing an ultimate explanation: God, the foundation of being. Additionally, I’ve found that theology incorporates all the other disciplines—like biology, philosophy, or even linguistics—in its pursuit of truth; it uses everything. So, if you’re looking for answers to some of the most challenging questions of our day, and you want to answer them as thoroughly as possible, you should consider studying theology. It also doesn’t hurt that through theology you’re growing in your understanding of the God who you were made to know and love, so theological studies can really contribute to your spiritual life.

How have your studies at The SPSSOD influenced your career?

As a journalist, my work involves looking at the events, currents, and trends of the world through a Catholic lens, and communicating that in a way that is theologically sound and informative. Deepening my theological vision helps me do that. Actually, there have been several instances this year when I took something I was learning in class, especially related to ecclesiology and the development of doctrine, and incorporated it into articles I was writing about issues in the Church. I’ll probably continue working in the Catholic world in education and/or communication, so having a demonstrated commitment to and knowledge of theology will always be a plus.

What advice do you have for prospective or current lay graduate students?

I’d say have an idea of what you want to get out of the program, and tailor your experience accordingly. For instance, if you’re looking to simply enhance your knowledge of the faith while juggling a busy schedule, maybe take one course a semester. On the other hand, if you’re looking to the MAT program as possible preparation for doctoral studies, take multiple classes and try to give yourself plenty of time outside of the classroom to not just get through the assigned readings, but to really soak in the material and make cross-topical connections. I think there are great resources and faculty at The SPSSOD and the program is really what you make of it.

Scroll to Top