Sunday, August 09, 2020

Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

Today is the feast of St. Edith Stein, Martyr. She was a student of Edmund Husserl. Unable to get a university position because she was a woman, she became a teacher at a girl's school until her Jewish background made that impossible as the Nazis came to power. She was baptized a Catholic in January of 1922, a conversion brought on by reading St. Teresa of Avila's Autobiography. She eventually became, like Teresa, a Discalced Carmelite, and took the name Teresia Benedicta a Cruce. Soon afterward she wrote her major philosophical work, Finite and Eternal Being. The order transferred her to the Netherlands in an attempt to protect her from the increasing Nazi threat to all people with Jewish background, but the Nazis invaded the Netherlands in 1940, and after the Dutch bishops issued a statement against Nazism in July 1942, the Nazis began arresting all Jewish Catholics. Stein and her sister Rose were arrested on August 2 and deported to Auschwitz on August 7. It's not clear when exactly she died, but she was probably killed in a mass execution on August 9. She was beatified in 1987 and canonized in 1998, and was declared one of the patron saints of Europe.

Association demands of its components only this, that they undertake a function which contributes to achieving its constitutive purpose. Association lays no claim upon their entire inner being. But matters are otherwise with the genuine community. Within the community, and thus within the individuals that belong to it, there lives an inclination to reach out beyond themselves toward a complete unification. Before it stands the image of a complete community that can't be achieved by any earthly community -- can't in principle, not just accidentally. However, the possibility of complete community becomes insightfully given, on the basis of what can be achieved in the midst of the earthly community toward overcoming absolute loneliness. Consequently, an inner incompleteness clings to every earthly community, and an inclination beyond itself.

[Edith Stein, "Individual and Community", Philosophy of Psychology and the Humanities, Baseheart & Sawicki, trs., OCS Publications (Washington, DC: 2000), pp. 285-286.]