Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Edith Stein: a woman for our time

Edith holding her cousin's son, 1921

Edith the philosophy student

Like Christians in the early centuries, I was confirmed at the same time that I was baptized. Although in my case, it all happened on my way home from the hospital--a mere three days after I was born in the city of Pinar del Río.

As my parents explained, everything was so uncertain and chaotic in 1960 Cuba that our pastor and family friend suggested it. Castro’s communist government had already shipped, literally, hundreds of priests out the country on a boat, and no one could predict how long, or if any, priests would be allowed by the government to stay behind.

After moving to the United States as a teenager and seeing how confirmations here are done, I felt a bit cheated that I never got to pick a patron saint.

Fast forward to my early forties. Writer and dear friend Colleen Smith contacted me with a book idea, one that had been offered to her fist—but that she discerned would be a better fit for me: a biography of a Jewish convert, Carmelite nun, and soon to be saint.

When I first began reading about Edith Stein, I was more than a little freaked out.  She was a gifted, renowned philosopher, a brilliant writer and speaker—and I was entrusted with the task of writing a popular biography introducing readers to this phenomenal woman.

I began by ordering all of her books that have been translated into English by ICS Publications (Institute of Carmelite Studies), which of course, did nothing to appease my anxiety.  Stein was a prolific author and her texts were rich, academic, and spiritually profound.

I looked at how others told her story and found out that there had been a number of biographies already published by people much better versed in both philosophy and Carmelite spirituality. 


Everything changed when I picked up Vol 5 of Edith Stein’s Collected Works: “Self Portrait In Letters 1916-1942,” translated by Josephine Koeppel, O.C.D.

In her letters I met a young woman who loved God so deeply, so profoundly that, like the original apostles, dropped everything she had and knew, to follow Him completely.

I fell in love with Edith, my self-adopted patron saint, reading her letters.

If you want to read my biography of this beautiful saint, whose feast day is today, August 9click here.
[I]t is always a small, simple truth that I have to express: How to go about living at the Lord’s hand.”  
~letter by Edith, 1931
I do not use extraordinary means to prolong my workday. I do as much as I can. The 
ability to accomplish increases noticeably in proportion to the number of things that 
must be done. When there’s nothing urgent at hand, it ceases much sooner. 
Heaven is expert at economy.”  
~letter by Edith, 1930







[this blog post was first published here, under a different title, on August 9, 2013]