Holy Family

Holy Family

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Feast of Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

Good morning. Today we celebrate the feast day of someone I have for the longest time been enthralled with. Today is the feast day of Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, or likely known better as Edith Stein. She was proclaimed a saint by Blessed Pope John Paul II on 11 October 1998 amidst some controversy due to her having been put to death as a result of her Jewish heritage, not due to her being Roman Catholic. There were protests at the time of her beatification and canonization. Much of my attraction to this woman raised Jewish turned atheist, turned Catholic Carmelite nun is her life’s work with phenomenology and her pursuit of trying to better understand our relationship or experience of God and of each other. 

Today’s first reading from the Book of Jeremiah offers a very poetic understanding of our relationship with God. “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD. I will place my law within them, and write it upon their hearts; I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer will they have need to teach their friends and kinsmen how to know the LORD. All, from least to greatest, shall know me, says the LORD.” He will “write it upon their hearts;” this same sense of knowing is again seen in the Gospel reading for today with Peter proclaiming "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God." If we respond to God’s calling in our life we then come to know Him in the same way Peter came to know Jesus and in the same manner described in the Book of Jeremiah, we will know Him with all our senses; we will feel His presence. 

This coming to be aware of our feeling of connectedness witnessed in today’s readings has a great deal to do with my fascination with Edith Stein; her doctoral thesis was On The Problem With Empathy. Her thesis was a philosophical pursuit of better understanding how we come to know other people as beings like ourselves. She concluded that through empathy, we can come to know the thoughts and feelings of others but that such experiences are fleeting. Stein’s first-hand experiences with dying soldiers during World War I along with her philosophical studies on empathy no doubt led to her conversion and eventual vocation as a Carmelite. This study of discovering how we feel into and feel within the understanding of others, or what we call empathy, offers considerable understanding of the complexity and struggles we all experience in our relationships with God and with each other. We know God, because He is written in our hearts, but our relationship with each other, particularly in marriage is often a challenge, yet as Stein notes it does occur. The difficulty we run into in connecting in our marriage and other relationships is a result of our humanness, our sinfulness. As a result of our humanness our connectedness with one another tends to be fleeting, but when it occurs, it is the thing that writes love songs. It too becomes written in our hearts.

It is in allowing for Christ’s active presence in our marriage that we are able to better enjoy and appreciate one another. For we are indeed transformed in His presence, much as at the Wedding Feast of Cana the water was transformed into wine, our lives are transformed to reflect the ways of Christ. With Christ in our marriage we can overcome our fears and come to love and trust one another like Christ, without reservation. Make a great day! 

Today we recall the good life, gifts, and work of Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross.

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