10 Sep 2011

Edith Stein and John Henry Newman

An article about Edith Stein was published in the August issue of the magazine Bible Alive. This monthly magazine provides a reflection on the Scripture readings at Mass each day, along with one or two feature articles. The article on Edith Stein was published to coincide with her feast day which is celebrated on 9th August.

The proximity of its appearance to the anniversary of the beatification of John Henry Newman prompts the comparison drawn in the article to the life of Cardinal Newman. The article has been posted to the website of Alive Publishing, publishers of Bible Alive, and can be read here.

A little note on the sources used for the writing of the article. Hedwig Conrad-Martius and Edith Stein first met through the group of philosphy students and teachers at Gottingen University, and she was Edith's closest friend. In the late 1950's, Hedwig gave a talk about Edith to a group dedicated to Jewish-Christian dialogue. The text of that talk was published in a German journal called Hochland in 1958, and in French in a journal called Archives de Philosophie in 1959. It gives a very personal account of Edith Stein, and is the source for Edith's expression "Secretum meum mihi" and of the summary of her vocation in the last paragraph of the Bible Alive article. The idea that Edith's vocation was that of "preferring Carmel" even during her time as a lay Catholic is taken from the account of Edith's prayer in Adrienne von Speyr's Book of All Saints. This is more a charismatic source than a strictly historical one.

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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