Monday, 8 August 2011

St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross: Patroness of Europe

9th August is the feast of St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein). It has the rank of Feast in the dioceses of Europe, since St Teresa is one of the patron saints of Europe. The UK and Ireland edition of Magnificat includes proper prayers and readings for the feast day - I suspect that only the most alert of parish clergy will realise to use them. The reading from the Book of Esther is particularly significant for the way in which St Teresa understood her own vocation. The "Meditation of the Day" is from Edith Stein's own writings on women and women's education:
The more clearly and distinctly the student understands the relation of the Creator and the creted, the facts concerning the fall of man and redemption, the deep mysteries of the divine inner life of the Trinity, the nature of Christ, the essence and the exalted calling of the Mother of God, the deeper will her union with divinity, the Redeemer, and the Queen of heaven.

One can see clearly in the lives of the saints that their advancement in personal sanctity and in a more profound insight into the truths of faith postulate and promote each other reciprocally. This is also precisely true of those saints without a scholarly education.
A good account of Edith Stein's life, and its meaning, can be found on the website of the Holy See, from the page devoted to beatifications and canonisations. The August 2011 issue of Bible Alive also has an article about Edith Stein, which reads her life alongside that of Cardinal John Henry Newman, beatified during Pope Benedict's visit to the UK last year. This article also draws on the account that Hedwig Conrad-Martius, Edith's closest friend, Godmother and philosophical colleague, gives of her life.

According to Hedwig Conrad-Martius, the essence of Edith Stein can be found in the beauty of a three-fold obedience to the real: that of the saint (the interior receptivity of the soul to the life of the Holy Spirit), that which she lived in a spirit of child-likeness (openness of personality), and that which she lived as a philosopher dedicated to the truth of things as they presented themselves to her (phenomenology). That is, obedience to the truth of things, the truth of persons and to the truth of God. This is the meaning of her life for us today.

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