Saturday, August 9, 2014

Edith Stein: Light in the Darkness of the World

Today the Roman calendar observes the memorial of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, known in the world as Edith Stein (1891-1942). Hers is a great story, from her Jewish roots, through atheism, to the search for truth in philosophy, to conversion to Christ in the Catholic Church, to teaching and advocating the dignity and vocation of women, to the cloister of Carmel where she continued to write philosophical and spiritual works, and finally to Auschwitz where she gave her life.

Edith Stein is a special saint and helper for the world we live in today. Her death in the Holocaust links her forever to her own Jewish people, whose endurance through all of history remains a mysterious sign of the irrevocable faithfulness of the gifts and the call of God (see Romans 11:29). She is also a martyr of charity, a witness to God's love for the human person, and to the fact that no state or society or human idea has the right to build itself on the dead bodies of other innocent human beings.

And especially, she is one of the children of Carmel, who wear the mantle of Elijah and listen for the still, small voice of the Lord, who know the hunger for God and the fire that comes from heaven. She knows what it means to search, and to find. She also knows the darkness -- the terrible affliction in this past century of a world that cannot find God and cannot find satisfaction or hope in anything else, a world that protests against its own nothingness by an endless spiral of violence.

She knows the darkness, and she knows that God is present there, not to be grasped by our human powers, but to reveal Himself as the companion of our weakness who leads us on hidden pathways through faith, hope, and love.

She knows human life in its frailty, summoned by the Mystery of God infinitely beyond itself, but also carried by Him day by day in the conquest of fear and the promise of hope. Her prayer speaks to everyone who travels the path of life:
"O my God, fill my soul with holy joy, courage and strength to serve You. Enkindle Your love in me and then walk with me along the next stretch of road before me. I do not see very far ahead, but when I have arrived where the horizon now closes down, a new prospect will open before me, and I shall meet it with peace" (Edith Stein [St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross]).