I had been meaning to go deeper into the life of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Edith Stein. I knew the basic biographical details of her life and of her martyrdom. Some of the details of her family life and how her sister Rosa followed here into the Church and Carmel. I just had never really gone deep into her writings. So I decided to read through her Collected Works as published by the Institute of Carmelite Studies.
I know that this will not be the easiest task or just light reading. I will probably have to learn along the way much more about phenomenology, of which I only have the barest intellectual sketch.
First up is her autobiography as published in Life in a Jewish Family.
The first thing to know about this autobiography is that it mostly covers the time from her childhood to becoming an assistant to professor Husserl. There is some foreshadowing in regards to her later years before her martyrdom, but nothing substantiative.
Still, I found this to give a valuable insight into her formative years. I really enjoyed reading about her mother, her family, acquaintances, and friends. Usually background information I have read concentrated about how difficult it was for her mother when she became Catholic. While that aspect is certainly true, her mother was really quite a wonderful person making the best of the early death of her husband and taking care of her family. Her mother gave her a lot of free reign in making choices in regards to directing her life, despite the fact that they were not choices her mother would have always thought best.
I also enjoyed seeing how she grew in virtue. She is very honest about her shortfalls and that while she was never cruel to others, she could be not understanding and dismissive. She details her attraction to the intellectual life and philosophy, but there is a lot along the way that sets this path. You get a palpable sense of the hard work this entailed and how little she was certain in following this goal.
Her relatively short time as a Nurse in WWI was also a very interesting chapter of her life. I get the feeling that some of this was very transformative for her, especially considering her writing a thesis on empathy.
Since this autobiography was never finished, it ends abruptly, so a chronology is placed at the end to fill out some of the details up to her and her sister being taken to Auschwitz. This barely goes into the details of her conversion, years of teaching at a Dominican nuns’ school, and entering Carmel.
I am very glad to have read this as it helps me to enter more into the life of this great saint.