[Knowledge and Understanding]

Our parish is privileged to have such a close relationship with the sisters of the Carmelite Order. An insight into this religious order’s character comes from the life story and writings of Edith Stein (now St. Theresa Benedicta of the Cross). Importantly, she provides an example of authentic feminism and courage.

Born to a devout Jewish family in Wroclaw, Poland in 1891 she entered a world poised to endure the horrors of two world wars. A brilliant student, she read and questioned everything she could. Moving from the Jewish faith of her parents to atheism as a teen. Her brilliance and fortitude opened academic doors rarely entered by women. She encountered a philosophy professor, Edmund Hursserl, at 22. Under his influence, despite the turmoil of WWI, she worked to a doctorate in philosophy at 25.

Still searching spiritually at 30, she read the autobiography of St. Theresa of Ávila, a Carmelite nun whose leadership reformed the Order and whose writings forever enriched the Church. Edith Stein was never the same. She converted to Catholicism that year.

Over the next several weeks, I’ll relay more of Edith Stein’s story as it leads to her martyrdom at Auschwitz and her writings that have become spiritual and philosophical classics.

Lawrence Rust