quinta-feira, 19 de maio de 2011

Edith Stein

Edith Stein
Living Faith: Mind, Body & Soul September 16, 2006
Edith Stein (1891-1942), a brilliant philosopher and prolific writer on spirituality, feminism and philosophy, was born in what is now Warsaw, Poland to a large and prominent Jewish family. She abandoned Judaism as a teen and proclaimed herself an atheist. But Stein’s doctoral work led her to explore Christian thought.

She converted to Catholicism and was baptized in 1922 at the age of 30. Twelve years later she became a Carmelite nun, taking the name Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. Stein’s work was well known in Europe, but being a woman and having Jewish roots kept her from advancing
in Nazi Germany’s universities. She moved to the Netherlands in 1938. When bishops there protested the forced deportation of Dutch Jews in July 1942, Hitler retaliated by also requiring Jewish Catholics to leave.

Stein and her sister Rosa, also a convert, were sent to Auschwitz and died in the gas chamber there on August 9. Stein fearlessly pursued truth, no matter where it took her, and she remained faithful to her Jewish roots. “In some ways, she was never converted at all. She was simply transmuted from one measure of the spiritual to another,” writes Benedictine Joan Chittister. It might be tempting to view Stein’s life as tragic: her academic work was stymied, she struggled with her religious identity, some of her personal relationships were isappointments, and she died a horrible death. Terrible and unfair things can happen to good people, but Stein quietly proved that their lives can be fulfilling and full of beauty if they don’t ask “why me.” Despite her suffering, Stein didn’t see her life as a tragedy. We do her an injustice if we do.

“Whatever did not fit in with my plan did lie within the plan of God. I have an ever deeper and firmer belief that nothing is merely an accident when seen in the light of God, that my whole life down to the smallest details has been marked out for me in the plan of Divine Providence and has a completely coherent meaning in God's all-seeing eyes. And so I am beginning to rejoice in the light of glory wherein this meaning will be unveiled to me. “
“Whoever searches for truth is searching for God, even without realizing it.”
Edith Stein, letter to a friend “Why should I be spared? Is it not right that I should gain no advantage from my baptism? If I cannot share the lot of my brothers and sisters, my life, in a certain sense, is destroyed.”

Stein, when asked about being rescued from deportation to Auschwitz “She was a woman in a man's world, and she was a Jew in Germany. But given her fundamental commitment to the possibility of understanding, she was refusing to accept the opacity, the finality of the twin hatreds deployed against her: sexism and racism. She was trying to understand them, to find the intelligibility in them, precisely insofar as they were perversions and refusals of something basically good about human being: its intrinsic motivation toward community. If you will, she was trying to understand the boot that was kicking her
and crushing her. … She came to regard the hatred of Jews as a hatred of the humanity of Jesus — which is
none other than our own common humanity, our common dependence upon our very onnectivity for the life energy that we need.”
Stein scholar Marianne Sawicki
Teresa Benedicta’s feast day is August 9; she was canonized in 1998 by Pope John Paul II.
Stein’s theory of community
EdithStein’s early philosophical writings explore human individuality, connectedness and empathy. It’s not hard to imagine how she developed an interest in Christian thought. Marianne Sawicki, a Stein scholar and translator, explains one of Stein’s central theories:
“The human individual is built as an energy exchanger, to receive lifeforce by means of those [social and political] structures, to contribute lifeforce to those structures, and to create and maintain the structures themselves. All of which is to say: individuals are not literally individual. We are radically and constitutively connected along the power circuit that runs through the realm of meaning and value….
“The state is not a person, she shows, because it does not work like a person: constituting value, transferring energy, and engaging with matter as persons do. … This approach directly overturns ‘social contract theory,’ which held that the state is founded in the free decision of individuals to band together to gain certain protections by renouncing certain liberties. Stein demonstrates that the concept ‘individual person’ is oxymoronic — an unreal and unrealizable abstraction — and that multipersonal community is the necessary condition for personhood, not a mere option open to persons.”

“Teresa … says to us all: Do not
accept anything as the truth if it
lacks love. And do not accept
anything as love which lacks truth.
One without the other becomes a
destructive lie.”
Pope John Paul II
at Stein’s canonization
“When night comes, and retrospect shows that everything was patchwork and much that one had planned left undone, when so many things rouse shame and regret, then take all as is, lay it in God's hands, and offer it up to Him. In this way we will be able to rest in Him, actually to rest and to begin the new day like a new life.”
Prayer written by Stein
Edith, at right, with her sister Erna
“Edith Stein saw always what was in front of her and she said what she saw; leaving the chips to fall where they would. She is a sign to a new generation because of her ability to accept life and death with equal confidence. Edith Stein was a brilliant and successful person for whom brilliance and success were not enough. Edith Stein is a tribute to loyalty, to honesty in the face of dulling barbarity, to the spiritual in the face of a world that worshiped the material, to brave virtue in a world that cultivated lies.”
Joan Chittister, A Passion for Life
Questions for contemplation
1. Sister Teresa Benedicta’s canonization raised questions about whether she was martyred as a Jew or
Christian — or both. What do you think?
2. Given the chance, should Stein have tried to flee the Netherlands?
More information
The Baltimore Carmel’s Stein links:
A Carmelite biography:
Marianne Sawicki’s Stein site:
Carmelite Steven Payne’s essay on Stein at her canonization:

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