Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Retreat begins on Friday

Yesterday was the memorial of one of the saints to whom I have a particular devotion, St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross known more commonly as Edith Stein.  I’d hoped to post this sooner but had multiple interruptions yesterday which slowed everything down.   

As I’ve continued editing photos the ones here are more or less random. 

We begin an end-of-tertianship retreat Friday to Wednesday and then it is time to travel. 

Memorial of St. Edith Stein
9 August 2011
Ez 1:2, 24-28c
Ps 148
Matt 17:22-27

The train arrived on August 6, 1942.  Among the thousand or so passengers who disembarked after a long uncomfortable trip from Holland was a woman clad in the habit of a Discalced Carmelite nun.  The station was Auschwitz.  The Carmelite’s name was Sr. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, who was born Edith Stein on Oct 12, 1891 in Breslau, Poland.  She was the youngest of 11 children welcomed into a devoutly observant Jewish household. 

Her academic brilliance was obvious at an early age. She wrote that at 14 she,  “consciously and deliberately stopped praying” so as to rely exclusively on herself; so as to make all decisions about her life in freedom.   She received a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Freiborg summa cum laude with a dissertation entitled, “On the Problem of Empathy.” She later worked with her mentor Edmund Husserl, the founder of phenomenology.  It was during her studies that she embraced Catholicism.

Two episodes stand out in her move from the perceived freedom of self-dependence to the radical freedom of those who live under the Cross of Christ.  The first was when she visited the young widow of a colleague and friend killed in World War I.  Though bereaved the widow’s faith was such that she consoled those who came to console her. 

Recalling the incident later, Stein wrote, “It was my first encounter with the cross and the divine power that it bestows on those who carry it.  For the first time I was seeing with my own eyes the Church born from its redeemer’s sufferings triumphant over the sting of death.  That was the moment my unbelief collapsed and Christ shone forth—in the mystery of his cross.” 

A second episode was her encounter with the autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila.  Upon closing the book, which she read in one sitting she said, “This is the truth.”  Her remaining years were marked by carrying and living under the shadow of the cross.  She had difficulty gaining admission to Carmel but was finally able to enter in Cologne in 1933.  The pain her conversion and entry into religious life caused her family could not be described. 

Because of the increasing persecution of Jews in Germany she was secretly sent to the Carmel in Echt, Holland in 1938.  At Echt she wrote her last work, fittingly titled, The Science of the Cross.”   On 2 August 1942 she was taken from the Carmel, along with her sister Rosa who had become a Catholic though not a nun.  A few days earlier, when questions of a possible rescue were raised Stein dismissed them. “Do not do it.  Why should I be spared?  Is it not right that I should gain no advantage from my Baptism?  If I cannot share the lot of my brothers and sisters; my life, in a certain sense, is destroyed.”  She climbed Calvary 69 years ago today. 

She left behind over 17 volumes of writing, ranging from difficult philosophical works and papers on educational theory to a huge trove of letters among a diverse group of correspondents.  The letters are her most accessible writing and the best way to come to know her. 

Released from the shackles of atheistic freedom she found radical freedom in the science and shadow of the cross. Moses’ words to Joshua in today’s first reading were inscribed on her heart:  It is the LORD who marches before you;
he will be with you and will never fail you or forsake you.
So do not fear or be dismayed.
Sometimes a small detail makes a good photo.  The first is the statue of the Blessed Mother in a grotto at Sevenhill at some distance from the church.  The second photo is a detail of the rose in the fold of her robe. 

The next is the IHS on the side door to the church at Sevenhill.  Frosted glass can be a challenge to photograph.
This next is the Jesuit Cemetery in Changhwa, Taiwan on the grounds of the retreat house.  
The next two were taken hours apart on the day we went to Coffin Bay.  The first is antique glass in the store.  The second is an arrangement of containers that caught my eye at a house at which we stopped to retrieve something. 

The last is the community in the house at Pymble, the tertians and the retired fathers.  This was taken with my camera from the choir loft after another series of photos was taken by John The from the aisle. 
More to come. 
+Fr. Jack, SJ

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