Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Edith Stein: Christian witness

Today is the Memorial of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, perhaps better known by her given name, Edith Stein. She was Jewish by birth and converted to Christianity as an adult. She was a student of Edmund Husserl, the father of phenomenology, a school of philosophy that also included Martin Heidegger, Max Scheler, and several luminaries. She was a brilliant philosopher. In 2007 philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre wrote a very good on her philosophy, Edith Stein: A Philosophical Prologue: 1913-1922, which is a good, albeit very serious introduction to her writings and her phenomenological method.

I have what might be called my own constellation of saints, my own heavenly calling circle. St. Teresa Benedicta belongs to this group, along with St. Gianna Molla, St. Stephen, St. Martin of Tours, St. Mary Magdalene, St. Joseph, Bl. Pope John Paul II, along with few others who occupy the periphery.

As with most saints, we are all too eager to reduce the witness of Edith Stein, to make her story something sad and sentimental, when, in fact, hers is a story of glorious triumph! Because she was and remains Christ's, she overcame the world in the way all Christians are called to overcome it. This explains our eagerness to reduce her: it alleviates our call to experience the paradox so central to being a Christian disciple- dying in order to live.

I'll end with this injunction by St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross:

"Every true prayer is a prayer of the Church; by means of that prayer the Church prays, since it is the Holy Spirit living in the Church, Who in every single soul 'prays in us with unspeakable groanings'."

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