Today I’m thankful for Edith Stein.
I’ve mentioned that I’m not religious. I am culturally Anglican (the musical church, bar none) but that’s really all. Why then, did I choose a saint for this day? I could make a long list of reasons but I’ll stick with the two that speak to me. First, Edith Stein was a bad ass. Second, her writings make me examine my own life and try to make it a better one.
The short version is that Edith was born into a Polish Jewish family. She studied philosophy, became an atheist, converted to Roman Catholicism, was denied an academic job because of her Jewish heritage under Nazi laws, and finally became a cloistered Carmelite nun. She and her sister died at Auschwitz in 1942. She was only 50 when she was murdered but did more with her time than some people do with 80 years. I’m aware that the conversion narrative can be problematic – I’m more interested in her as a person. I am not making any religious statements.
She was a bad ass on a couple of levels. She studied, and was successful in, philosophy at a time when women were still fighting simply to be admitted as full university students. She specialized in phenomenology. She butted heads with Martin Heidegger, who later joined the Nazi party. She wasn’t a feminist, being more of a complementarian in the Catholic tradition, but she wrote extensively about the need of women for equality in education.
Her major works deal with human empathy. I don’t think anyone can deny that we could all be more empathetic. Her writing gives practical advice about being more patient and understanding in one’s own life. I have a short temper on the best of days. Remembering that everyone has a story, and trying to get outside of my head, help me rein it in. I have Edith Stein to thank for that perspective.
See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons