Edith Stein

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The motive, principle, and end of the religious life is to make an absolute gift of self to God in a self-forgetting love, to end one's own life in order to make room for God's life.

Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (October 12 1891August 9 1942), born Edith Stein, was a German Saint, philosopher, a Carmelite nun, and martyr who died at Auschwitz.

Quotes[edit]

We have seen deeds perpetrated in Germany which mock any sense of justice and humanity, not to mention love of neighbor.
We can consider the Savior's great commandment of love, which he says includes the whole Law and the Prophets, as the Law of the New Covenant.
  • As a child of the Jewish people who, by the grace of God, for the past eleven years has also been a child of the Catholic Church, I dare to speak to the Father of Christianity about that which oppresses millions of Germans. For weeks we have seen deeds perpetrated in Germany which mock any sense of justice and humanity, not to mention love of neighbor. For years the leaders of National Socialism have been preaching hatred of the Jews. But the responsibility must fall, after all, on those who brought them to this point and it also falls on those who keep silent in the face of such happenings.
    Everything that happened and continues to happen on a daily basis originates with a government that calls itself "Christian." For weeks not only Jews but also thousands of faithful Catholics in Germany, and, I believe, all over the world, have been waiting and hoping for the Church of Christ to raise its voice to put a stop to this abuse of Christ’s name.
    • Letter to Pope Pius XI (1933) as translated in Inside the Vatican (2003), p. 27
  • What is meant by "the Law of the Lord"? Psalm 118 which we pray every Sunday and on solemnities at Prime, is entirely filled with the command to know the Law and to be led by it through life. The Psalmist was certainly thinking of the Law of the Old Covenant. Knowing it actually did require life-long study and fulfilling it, life-long exertion of the will. But the Lord has freed us from the yoke of this Law. We can consider the Savior's great commandment of love, which he says includes the whole Law and the Prophets, as the Law of the New Covenant. Perfect love of God and of neighbor can certainly be a subject worthy of an entire lifetime of meditation. But we understand the Law of the New Covenant, even better, to be the Lord himself, since he has in fact lived as an example for us of the life we should live. We thus fulfill our Rule when we hold the image of the Lord continually before our eyes in order to make ourselves like him. We can never finish studying the Gospels.

Essays on Woman (1996)[edit]

A Collection of St. Edith Stein's essays on women. Part of the series The Collected Works of Edith Stein, as translated by Freda Mary Oben.

The Ethos of Woman's Professions (1930)[edit]

Everything abstract is ultimately part of the concrete. Everything inanimate finally serves the living. That is why every activity dealing in abstraction stands in ultimate service to a living whole.
  • Only the person blinded by the passion of controversy could deny that woman in soul and body is formed for a particular purpose. The clear and irrevocable world of Scripture declares what daily experience teaches from the beginning of the world: woman is destined to be wife and mother.
  • Everything abstract is ultimately part of the concrete. Everything inanimate finally serves the living. That is why every activity dealing in abstraction stands in ultimate service to a living whole.
  • The motive, principle, and end of the religious life is to make an absolute gift of self to God in a self-forgetting love, to end one's own life in order to make room for God's life.
  • Every profession in which woman's soul comes into its own and which can be formed by woman's soul is an authentic woman's profession.
  • For a wholesome collaboration of the sexes in professional life will be possible only if both achieve a calm and objective awareness of their nature and draw practical conclusions from it.

The Separate Vocations of Man and Woman According to Nature and Grace (1932)[edit]

Christ embodies the ideal of human perfection: in Him all bias and defects are removed, and the masculine and feminine virtues are united and their weaknesses redeemed.
  • As woman was the first to be tempted, so did God's message of grace come first to a woman, and each time woman's assent determined the destiny of humanity as a whole.
  • The distinction of the female sex is that a woman was the person who was permitted to help establish God's new kingdom; the distinction of the male sex is that redemption came through the Son of Man, the new Adam.
  • Because the sin which she encouraged him to commit was in all likelihood a sin of sensuality, woman is more intensely exposed to the danger of descent into stark carnality. And when this happens, she always becomes once again the evil seductress, whereas, paradoxically, God has specifically enjoined her to combat evil.
  • If we consider the attitude of the Lord Himself, we understand that He accepted the free loving services of women for Himself and His Apostles and that women were among His disciples and most intimate confidants. Yet He did not grant them the priesthood, not even to His mother, Queen of Apostles, who was exalted above all humanity in human perfection and fullness of grace.
  • Christ embodies the ideal of human perfection: in Him all bias and defects are removed, and the masculine and feminine virtues are united and their weaknesses redeemed; therefore, His true followers will be progressively exalted over their natural limitations. That is why we see in holy men a tenderness and a truly maternal solicitude for the souls entrusted to them while in holy women there is manly boldness, proficiency, and determination.

Spirituality of the Christian Woman (1932)[edit]

Each woman who lives in the light of eternity can fulfill her vocation, no matter if it is in marriage, in a religious order, or in a worldly profession.
  • We are being obliged to consider the significance of woman and her existence as a problem. We cannot evade the question as to what we are and what we should be.
  • The deepest feminine yearning is to achieve a loving union which, in its development, validates this maturation and simultaneously stimulates and furthers the desire for perfection in others.
  • Woman's soul is present and lives more intensely in all parts of the body, and it is inwardly affected by that which happens to the body; whereas, with men, the body has more pronoucedly the character of an instrument which serves them in their work and which is accompanied by a certain detachment.
  • Each woman who lives in the light of eternity can fulfill her vocation, no matter if it is in marriage, in a religious order, or in a worldly profession.

Fundamental Principles of Women's Education (1931)[edit]

  • The soul of woman must therefore be expansive and open to all human beings; it must be quiet so that no small weak flame will be extinguished by stormy winds; warm so as not to benumb fragile buds; clear, so that no vermin will settle in dark corners and recesses; self-contained, so that no invasions from without can imperil the inner life; empty of self, in order that extraneous life may have room in it; finally, mistress of itself and also of its body, so that the entire person is readily at the disposal of every call.
  • We can do nothing ourselves; God must do it. To speak to Him thus is easier by nature for woman than for man because a natural desire lives in her to give herself completely to someone.
  • The singular mission of the working woman is to fuse her feminine calling with her vocational calling and, by means of that fusion, to give a feminine quality to her vocational calling.

Problems of Women's Education (1932)[edit]

The imperturbability of the Church resides in her ability to harmonize the unconditional preservation of eternal truths with an unmatchable elasticity of adjustment to the circumstances and challenges of changing times.
  • The spiritual nature of woman is as little considered as the principles of her historical development. Not only is violence being done to the spirit by a biological misinterpretation and by today's economic trends, but also by the materialistic and fundamental point of view of opposing groups.
It would be naive to disregard that the Church has a history; the Church is a human institution and like all things human, was destined to change and evolve...
  • The imperturbability of the Church resides in her ability to harmonize the unconditional preservation of eternal truths with an unmatchable elasticity of adjustment to the circumstances and challenges of changing times.
  • Helene Lange throughout her life insisted that the dissimiliarity of the sexes must be emphasized in order that the feminine nature be freely developed and properly formed. Only then might this nature achieve its own cultural fulfillment, an achievement indeed necessary in our time as a suitable compensation for the obvious effects of our masculine Western culture; then feminine nature might be capable of authentic human formation and an activity of helping love.
  • The concept which assumes that everything in the Church is irrevocably set for all times appears to me to be a false one. It would be naive to disregard that the Church has a history; the Church is a human institution and like all things human, was destined to change and evolve; likewise, its development takes place often in the form of struggles. Most of the definitions of dogma are conclusive results of preceding intellectual conflicts lasting for decades and even centuries. The same is true of ecclesiastical law, liturgical forms — especially all objective forms reflecting our spiritual life.
  • I am convinced that the species humanity embraces the double species man and woman; that the essence of the complete human being is characterized by this duality; and that the entire structure of the essence demonstrates the specific character. There is a difference, not only in body structure and in particular physiological functions, but also in the entire corporeal life.
  • The relationship of soul and body is different in man and woman; the relationship of soul to body differs in their psychic life as well as that of the spiritual faculties to each other. The feminine species expresses a unity and wholeness of the toal psychosomatic personality and a harmonious development of faculties. The masculine species strives to enhance individual abilities in order that they may attain their highest achievements.
  • The true Christian is not obliged to renounce the things of this world or to lessen his natural abilities. On the contrary, inasmuch as he incorporates them into his normal life in a disciplined manner, he develops and perfects them; he thereby ennobles the natural life itself, supplying efficacious values to it not only of the spiritual and eternal world but also of the material and earthly world.
  • And who would deny the intellect and will of girls? That would be questioning their full humanity. On the average, abstract and mere intellectual activity is not suitable for them; they want to understand reality completely, and they want to comprehend not merely with the intellect but also with the heart.

The Significance of Woman's Intrinsic Value in National Life (1928)[edit]

  • To be a mother is to nourish and protect true humanity and bring it to development. But again, this necessitates that she possess true humanity herself, and that she is clear as to what it means; otherwise, she cannot lead others to it. One can become suitable for this double duty if one has the correct personal attitude.
  • Excess of interest in both her own and in the stranger’s personality merge in feminine surrender, the urge to lose herself completely in a human being; but in so doing, she does justice neither to self nor to the humanity of another, and, at the same time, becomes unfit for exercising other duties.
    Also connected to the false pursuit of prestige is a perverted desire for totality and inclusiveness, a mania to know everything and thereby to skim the surface of everything and to plunge deeply into nothing. However, such superficiality can never be true humanity.
  • The intrinsic value of woman consists essentially in exceptional receptivity for God's work in the soul, and this value comes to unalloyed development if we abandon ourselves confidently and unresistingly to this work.
  • The teacher thus needs a basic education in dogma and asceticism. Apologetics is certainly also good, but the former seems more important to me: ready arguments, as right as they may be, often do not have penetrating force. But she whose soul is formed through the truths of faith — and I call this ascetic formation — finds words which are proper for this human being and for this moment respectively.
  • Everywhere the need exists for maternal sympathy and help, and thus we are able to recapitulate in the one word motherliness that which we have developed as the characteristic value of woman. Only, the motherliness must be that which does not remain within the narrow circle of blood relations or of personal friends; but in accordance with the model of the Mother of Mercy, it must have its root in universal divine love for all who are there, belabored and burdened.

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