Date(s) - 06/05/2020
10:30 AM - 12:00 PM
This month’s Carmelite Conversation is on Edith Stein. As we are unable to meet in person we are providing some reading material in preparation for a zoom conversation on Wednesday 6 May at 10:30am
View an introductory youtube video here.
This article Edith Stein: Transformation through relationship considers Edith’s world of relationships as the milieu for her development in the years prior to her conversion to Catholicism. It focuses on what she herself says about her own attitudes and her emerging self-awareness in relation to others, and gleans the underlying disposition that fostered her gradual transformation. In this it hopes to find encouragement for our own spiritual journey and uncover a potential message from Edith Stein for today’s world. [Written April 2019 by Bernadette Micallef for the UK Carmelite quarterly publication “Mount Carmel: A Review of the Spiritual Life” ]
Please book via the form below so we can send you the link to the zoom conversation.
You can make a donation here. Thank you.
For our reflection and zoom conversation
A few quotes from Edith about relationships:
“I had completely changed my attitude towards others as well as toward myself. Being right and getting the better of my opponent under any circumstances were no longer essential for me.”
“Though I still had as keen an eye for the human weaknesses of others, I no longer made it an instrument for striking them at their most vulnerable point, but, rather, for protecting them.”
“… one seldom reformed persons by “telling them the truth”. That could benefit them only if they themselves had an earnest desire to improve, and if they accorded one the right to be critical.”
“… my prime concern again was to get to know [them] better since their ways differed so much from ours.”
: My guiding principle was always: give in, in all that is not unjust.
[Quote from Life in a Jewish Family page 234 – 236]
Background: Edith’s life story
For some background read a handout that was prepared for a Carmelite Conversation in August 2018. It includes photos and brief descriptions to give an overview of her life.
For those who may not be able to read the entire article, here is the last two sections.
Open to the unknown
As Edith says “my prime concern again was to get to know [them] better since their ways differed so much from ours.” Seeking to get to know another acknowledges that there is more to know than what is currently known. To be open to this more, open to what is currently not known is essentially to be open to the unknown.
Being open to the unknown reduces the compelling need to be “right” and get “the better of my opponent under any circumstances.” Rather than a static, oppositional relationship, the relationship can have an ongoing dynamic which is always open to change as more becomes known about the other. With such an attitude to relationships, those whose ‘ways differ so much from ours’ are no longer the ‘opponent’ but rather an ‘other’ whose perspective deserves as much respect as our own.
As a child, Edith was open to the unknown perspective of her mother and eldest sister; as a student, she was open to the unknown perspective of those who lived in the world of faith; as a young adult, she was open to the unknown perspective of her future brother-in-law and his mother. This disposition of being open to the unknown may or may not have changed the other, but it allowed for her gradual transformation that happened “almost without noticing it” over the years prior to her conversion to Catholicism.
Message for today’s world
For me, an important issue for our world today is the issue of how we respond to diversity; how we respond to those whose “ways differ so much from ours”. Our responses to those who are ‘not like us’ in our families, communities, churches, and wider organizations, reveal underlying critical attitudes, the consequences of which are largely shaping our world today.
Edith’s attitude to those who are ‘not like us’ is to respectfully acknowledge their perspective and reflectively seek to understand. Being always open to further understanding is consistent with a Christian/Carmelite way of life. We do not already have the fullness of what we are attempting to grasp about the other – whether that other is another human being or the God in whom we profess to believe.
In fostering an attitude of openness to the other, and the Other, we will become open people who recognize there is always more to know than what is currently known. If we are open people, our day-to-day dealings with all others, regardless of their views and values, are likely to reflect a deep seated fundamental attitude of respect. The ground of this respect for others is, in fact, respect for the unknown, and the Unknown.
Taking Edith Stein as our guide, being Christians/Carmelites in our world today invites an underlying open disposition: open to further understanding, especially in relationship with those whose ways differ from our own. Through being open people, in our world of relationships, we can be transformed and together we can transform the world.
Another resource to read is by Ben Gibbs, ‘My long search for the true faith’ The Conversion of Edith Stein. http://www.carmelite.org/documents/Heritage/gibbsconversionofstein.pdf
Please join us in a zoom conversation on Wednesday 6 May at 10:30 am. Please book via the form below so we can send you the link.
You can make a donation here. Thank you.
The “Carmelite Conversations” program for 2020 is set out below. We will endeavour to provide some content each month and possibly a conversation via zoom while pandemic restrictions apply. Check the website on the first Wednesday of each month to see what is available.
Bookings are closed for this event.