Wednesday, August 8, 2018

may I introduce you to my friend Edith? today is her feast day...

"Thy will be done," in its full extent, must be the guideline for the Christian life. It must regulate the day from morning to evening, the course of the year and the entire life. Only then will it be the sole concern of the Christian. All other concerns the Lord takes over. This one alone, however, remains ours as long as we live... And sooner or later, we begin to realize this. In the childhood of the spiritual life, when we have just begun to allow ourselves to be directed by God, then we feel his guiding hand quite firmly and surely. But it doesn't always stay that way. Whoever belongs to Christ, must go the whole way with him. He must mature to adulthood: he must one day or other walk the way of the cross to Gethsemane and Golgotha."
                                   ~Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Edith Stein
[Link to my biography of Edith]

“[O]nly in daily, confidential relationships with the Lord in the tabernacle can one forget self, become free of all one’s own wished and pretensions, and have a heart open to all the needs and wants of others.”

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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 – and just a mere three days after I was born in the city of Pinar del Río, Cuba.

As my parents explained, everything was so uncertain and chaotic in 1960 Cuba that our pastor and family friend suggested it. Castro’s 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 communists 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 a few decades. 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.  Edith was a gifted, renowned philosopher, a brilliant writer and speaker—and I was entrusted with the task of writing her story and 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 Volume 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, she dropped everything she had and knew in order to follow Him completely.

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

Today is the feast day of this beautiful woman, a saint who continues to teach me that everything, down to the smallest detail, has coherent meaning in God’s all-seeing eyes.

I invite you to come to know more about her in my biography, Edith Stein: the Life and Legacy of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. 

I guarantee that you will fall in love with her, too!

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