Edith Stein on the Woman’s Soul

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“Just so, woman’s soul is designed to be subordinate to man in obedience and support; it is also fashioned to be shelter in which other souls may unfold.”

“The soul of woman must therefore be expansive and open to all human beings; it must be quiet so that no small weak flame will be extinguished by stormy winds; warm so as to not benumb fragile buds; clear, so that no vermin will settle in dark corners and recesses; self-contained, so that no invasions from without can imperil the inner life; empty of itself, in order that extraneous life may have room in it; finally, mistress of itself and also of its body, so that the entire person is readily at the disposal of every call.”

-Edith Stein, Fundamental Principles of Women’s Education

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Embracing Edith Stein: A Review

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Anne Costa’s book, Embracing Edith Stein, was my traveling companion on my recent trip to MO. I wish I had spent more than a few hours with her. I fully intend to revisit her someday when I have several days to digest her teachings.

Anyone who has followed this blog for any length of time knows that I love Edith Stein. I think that she is the mother of the New Feminism whose writings are largely untapped gold. Her teachings currently lives primarily though the voice of John Paul II. As Costa says herself:

Edith’s Essays on Women seem to be so directly foundational to the writings and works of Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body that the two are like inseparable companions. Together, these two intellectual and spiritual powerhouses have transformed our understanding of human dignity in the context of a worldwide culture that is hell-bent on self-destruction. They are, in the fullest sense of the words, prophets of life who have provided us with a body of knowledge that can lead to a rich and transcendent self-understanding that calls upon women to embrace our potential and exercise our responsibility to “aid humanity in not falling.” – pg. 81

Someday, I hope and pray that her teachings live and breathe through their own right.

This book is an admirable attempt to do just that. Costa makes Edith Stein’s work on the dignity of women digestible for a non-academic audience. She introduces you to Edith Stein’s life and thought. She then breaks down for you the four traits that are part of the feminine genius according to Edith Stein. Each chapter concludes with reflective questions which makes this book ideal for personal or group study.

But enough about the mechanics, Edith Stein, through Anne Costa’s book, points us to the way to become holier, more Christ-like women fulfilling our vocations in this fallen world. First in foremost, we need to be open to God and His will. If we are open to God, God will do all of the rest. We are to be like Mary:

Women are uniquely called to receive Christ and bring him into the world, as Mary did.- pg. 51

If you are like me, you may not initially like that example. Like the lyrics of the hymn, “Gentle woman, quiet light…” You think Mary and you think of the weak, meek woman who is a doormat, the stereotypical docile Marianismo (the female counterpart to machismo). But Mary wasn’t weak. Think about it: Mary could have been stoned to death for being pregnant out-of-wedlock. Mary followed her Son, who everyone thought was crazy, all the way to His death. She watched her Son die. This is not the story of a meek woman. Yes, she was humble in following her Lord, but she was nobody’s doormat.

Why do we need Edith Stein in today’s world? Just as Mary was a woman from 2000 years ago in Palestine, Stein was a woman 70 years ago in Nazi Germany. What does either of them have to say for women in the United States in 2014?

Simply put: We need her wisdom and example. The world is in desperate need of women who understand their inherent value and dignity; faith-filled women who are prepared to shape the world and influence the direction of humanity by who they are. As Edith states, “[God] has called women in all times to the most intimate union with Him: they are to be emissaries of his love, proclaimers of His will to kings and popes, and forerunners of His Kingdom in the hearts of men…[It] is the most sublime vocation which has been given, and whoever sees this way open before her will yearn for no other way.” -pg. 93

Yup, that pretty much covers it.

Edith Stein on the Proper Relationship with God

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“All of the defects in a man’s nature which cause him to fail in his original vocation are rooted in a perverted relationship to God. Man can fulfill his most noble vocation which is to be the image of God only if he seeks to develop his powers by subordinating himself humbly to God’s guidance.”

– Edith Stein, The Separate Vocations of Man and Woman According to Nature and Grace

Edith Stein and Women and Joy

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“Of the threefold attitude towards the world–to know it, to enjoy it, to form it creatively–it is the second which concerns her [woman] most directly: she seems more capable than man of feeling a more reverent joy in creatures; moreover, such joy requires a particular kind of perception of the good, different from rational perception in being an inherent spiritual function and a singularly feminine one.”

– Edith Stein, The Separate Vocations of Man and Woman According to Nature and Grace

Edith Stein on Women in the Workforce

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“One could say that in case of need, every normal and healthy woman is able to hold a position. And there is no profession which cannot be practiced by a woman.”

“Thus the participation of women in the most diverse professional disciplines could be a blessing for the entire society, private or public, precisely if the specifically feminine ethos would be preserved…Let her be conscious of where there is a want and where help is needed, intervening and regulating as far as it is possible in her power in a discreet way. Then will she like a good spirit spread blessing everywhere.”

“Man is consumed by ‘his enterprise,’ and he expects others will be interested and helpful; generally, it is difficult for him to become involved in other beings and their concerns. On the contrary, it is natural for woman, and she has the faculty to interest herself empathetically in areas of knowledge far from her own concern and to which she would not pay heed if it were not that a personal interest drew her into contact with them. This endowment is bound closely to her maternal gift.”

-Edith Stein, The Ethos of Women’s Professions

Edith Stein on Women in the Priesthood

To lead is to serve and to love.

To lead is to serve and to love.

“This can, perhaps, lead us to the mysterious fact that God has not called women to the priesthood. On the one hand, this may be understood as punishment inasmuch as it was woman who first resisted the divine will. However, on the other hand, this can be considered as a special privilege of grace: that the Lord will never allow His consecrated bride stray from His side; that all power in His kingdom be due her, not through a delegated authority but through a loving union with Him. This is a symbol of that most intimate community of love into which He entered with a human being, union with His Mother.”

-Edith Stein, Spirituality of the Christian Woman

7 Quick Takes: New Feminism Edition

So, life has been busy lately. Where to begin?

— 1 —

In a little over two weeks, the Blessed Pope John Paul II will be canonized. Here at the JPII Center for Women, we are excited! One of John Paul II’s most important contributions to the Church and society at large is his Theology of the Body. His writings and speeches about the dignity of the human person have been instrumental in helping countless lay people to understand why the Church teaches what it does.

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— 2 —

An important part of John Paul II Center for Women is our Gianna Health Care Centers. They are a place for women to get pro-life OBGYN care. We are still working on opening a center in Syracuse, NY. We have been in communication with groups who are seeking to open centers all over the country! It’s really exciting!

[Correction: The Gianna Center in Syracuse does not currently do OB care. For more information about the Syracuse location, visit the doctor’s site here. An official site for it will be made soon.]

Fertility is not a disease that needs to be regulated with pills and devices, it is a gift to be cherished and respected. I think men (yesmen) invented birth control and abortions just because they’re jealous.

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— 3 —

Over 50 women gathered on Monday to hear Anne Costa talk about the genius who is Edith Stein. I got a copy of her book and I will write a review as soon as I’m done. Look in the menu above under Nerdy Stuff -> Books to find quotes from Edith Stein.

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— 4 —

Speaking of books, I went on an interesting research tangent today. Thinking about birth control made me think about Margaret Sanger. Thinking about Margaret Sanger made me think about all of the horrible things I’ve heard about her and I wonder how pro-choice people defend her. I looked her up and what I found was interesting. Like all historical figures, she was neither the satan-incarnate that some pro-lifers think she is nor was she the saint some pro-choicers think she is. She was a card-carrying eugenicist, who condemned Hitler. (She was a proponent of “negative eugenics,” meaning basically sterilizing anyone she deemed unfit, not killing them outright.) She dedicated her whole life to promoting birth control, but condemned abortion. As much as we wish to, you cannot depict anyone with simple brush strokes.

Only one problem...well, really two: 1) When a child is conceived, it's not just the woman's body anymore and 2) the woman doesn't need to control her fertility in order to be equal. A woman does not need to become a man in order to be equal.

Only one problem…well, really two: 1) When a child is conceived, it’s not just the woman’s body anymore and 2) the woman doesn’t need to control her fertility in order to be equal. A woman does not need to become a man in order to be equal.

— 5 —

Then, it dawns on me, that she was a contemporary of Dorothy Day and for a significant period of time, they lived in the same part of New York City. They were both socialists. They were both part of the Greenwich Village bohemian crowd. They were both trained as nurses. I wondered if they had ever crossed paths. Yes, they did! We have proof of at least two instances. Once when Sanger was released from prison, Day was the only journalist who was able to interview her when she got home. Later (and this was before Day became a Catholic) Day wrote to Sanger asking for a job. Now, it needs to be noted that Dorothy Day condemned Margaret Sanger directly in some of her writings later on in life.

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I love Dorothy Day!

— 6 —

It fascinates me how two people can come from so similar roots with such different results. Yes, Dorothy Day discovered Jesus Christ and that probably does explain a lot of it, but I still want to look at all of this deeper. Maybe even write a book. Would you read it?

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— 7 —

I am a pro-life feminist. I have some personal reasons why. I’ve always been a feminist. I’ve always thought women and our reproductive powers were pretty stinking cool. I’ve always been pro-life. I’ve been anti-abortion since I’ve been old enough to have an opinion on the issue (Long before I became a Christian, by the way). For me, it’s always been a seamless garment. I’m against abortion, war, death penalty, euthanasia, and anything that discriminates against the disadvantaged. It’s only been in recent years that these two views of mine have come together and come alive in dedicated activism. Women don’t need to “earn” their equality off the blood of our children. We’re already freaking awesome, we just need our awesomeness to be recognized and respected.

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For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!