Three 20-something women trying to figure out what it means to be lay, Catholic, and modern all at once.

August 31, 2010

What Kind of Woman is Miss Jean Brodie

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie was the first of Dame Muriel Spark’s work that I had picked up. I did so at the mention of this little novel by Julian. Agatha had given me Spark’s work Symposium (think Plato) a few years back, but I tried to pick it up, did not get it, and put it down again until recently. It, like most of Spark’s novels I have read, is darkly hilarious. I told Agatha recently that I always feel a strange sense of dark satisfaction when I finish a Spark novel. But PRIME is more serious. It has very subtly hysterical moments, but it treats something far more serious – the formation of human souls, life and death and Divine justice. When I first read it, (and I devoured in a day), I did not quite get it. In fact, I had to ask Agatha, who told me “Brodie actually tries to form them (rather than to educate--"from the latin, to draw out") in her image (or the image she's imagined for them). Still, in spite of Brodie's efforts, the girls turn out." Well, that remark required a second read – and a closer one. So I did. All the while, I had to ask myself – who is Jean Brodie? What is the vocation of the teacher? What are we capable of doing to one another?

Miss Jean Brodie is a bit of a mystery. We don’t know much about her. We know that she was a student in Edinburgh who had a silly land lady and that she travels the world to share it with her girls. She had a great love once, a young man who died in the first Great War. She is now a “progressive spinster,” one of the many “legions of her kind during the nineteen thirties” who had lost their loves to the War (p. 43). She is a new feminist of the age, the kind who “talked to men as man-to-man.” (p. 44)

In the traditional Marcia Blaine all girls school of Edinburgh, Miss Brodie is a bit of a brave rebel and not well liked by her co-workers. Indeed, the head mistress Miss Mackay constantly badgers the Brodie set for information she can use to fire Miss Brodie. In this way, the reader must admire Miss Brodie. She is bold, brilliant, and lovely with her “dark Roman profile” who declares that she will never the leave the school – “she would have to be assassinated.” (p. 6) *Spoiler* One of the last scenes in the movie version of Prime portrays Miss Brodie’s dramatic downfall as she screams “Assassin” when Miss Mackay finally obtains information to fire her.

But early on the in novel Spark leaves us with no doubt that all is not aright in the world of Miss Jean Brodie. In one breath, she utters that “Goodness, Truth, and Beauty come first,” and in the next breath, she teaches her girls that Mussolini’s fascisti will solve the world’s problems along with Hitler’s Nazis. And Miss Brodie could only admit after the war that “Hitler was rather naughty.” (p.131)

What follows is the tale of Miss Brodie’s romanticism that she can turn her little set of girls – Monica Douglas, famous for her mathematical brain; Rose Stanley, famous for sex simply by virtue of her Venus like demeanor; Eunice Gardiner, famous for athletics; Mary MacGregor, famous for her silence and for being “a nobody whom everybody could blame;” Jenny Gray, famous for her acting skills and best friend to Sandy Stranger, the girl who learns the most from Jean Brodie, famous for her insight – into an image of herself and mold them into whatever she desires – her very own “crème de la crème,” as she conceives herself to be, and in many ways both is and is not.

In my next post, I’ll recap the story of Miss Brodie’s prime and how she tries to form the girls into her own image – and why she fails and why, in my opinion, she ultimately must fail if justice is to be done. For now, enjoy this 30 minute BBC video interview with Muriel Spark that a friend of mine sent to me. I’ve not yet watched it all – but it looks to be promising for those who are interested in learning more about Spark.

August 30, 2010

Muriel Spark + Jean Brodie

Maggie Smith as Miss Jean Brodie

Dear readers, the Magdalene Sisters, are happy to host this week a "book club." Earlier this summer the three of us read (or re-read) The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark. Today I'll introduce the novel, and Spark, and then through the week we'll discuss both it and the 1968 film starring Maggie Smith.

Muriel Spark was born in Edinburgh of a upper-middle class family. Educated at a fine girls day school, she had the reputation from a young age of being a poet. Her path was, for the most part, set out for her by her love of books, words, literature, and learning. She didn't begin writing fiction till she was in her 30s. Her first novel,The Comforters, published when she was 39, was loved by critics (and Evelyn Waugh). But she didn't make it big in the public eye until 1961, when she published The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. It was adapted into a stage play, and then the highly successful film, which allowed her to live the glamorous literary life she was made for. She continued to write prolifically till her death, on Good Friday in 2006. (I had just discovered Dame Muriel then, which made the date all the more significant.) Graham Greene was a patron of hers in the early days, as he was with many struggling authors.

Before she began writing fiction, she converted to the Roman Catholic faith. I don't mention this because this is a Catholic blog, but because it is actually the key to understanding much of her work. In her auto-biography, Curriculum Vitae, she says very little about the personal side of her conversion. It made sense out of the world, and so she became Catholic, essentially. But she does speak of its import with regards to her writing fiction. It gave her a sense of the whole-ness of life; men are part of a much larger story, controlled by another but still acting freely. The New York Times obit describes her work further:
In her writing, evil is never far away, violence is a regular visitor and death is a constant companion. Her themes were generally serious but nearly always handled with a feather-light touch. ...Some accused her of coolness and even cruelty toward the characters she invented and then sent — sometimes quite merrily — to terrible deaths.

"People say my novels are cruel because cruel things happen and I keep this even tone," she said in an interview in The New Yorker. "I'm often very deadpan, but there's a moral statement too, and what it's saying is that there's a life beyond this, and these events are not the most important things. They're not important in the long run."

Her stories play with the rules of narrative. She rarely tells a story chronologically, but rather plays with flashbacks and divination of the future in a detached all-knowing voice. In her 1970 novel The Driver's Seat we learn in the second chapter that the main character is found the next morning with her wrists tied in silk, and her throat cut. With the ending told, Spark had the freedom to explore questions of will, freedom, providence, and psychology, as well as supernatural themes (some of her stories are downright creepy).

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie is about a magnetic teacher and her "set"--six girls she dotes on and confides in and treats with a barely cloaked favoritism. Told in the third person, the novel centers on the "dependable" member of the set, Sandy, who, perceptive and detached, sees the subtle interplay between Brodie, her girls, and the two male teachers in love with her. We meet these girls when they are in upper form (highschool), still clearly marked from the time when they were twelve, as "Brodie's set". But soon we are in the classroom, wide-eyed and wondrous, as Miss Brodie is describing her philosophy of life:
"Safety does not come first. Goodness, Truth and Beauty come first. Follow me."

"You girls are my vocation. If I were to receive a proposal of marriage tomorrow from the Lord Lyon King-of-Arms I would decline it. I am dedicated to you in my prime."

"Art is greater than science... Art and religion first; then philosophy; lastly science. That is the order of the great subjects of life, that's their order of importance."

There is so much to tell about this great novel, and we'll be dedicating our posts this week to it and its intricacies. I also highly recommend the film, which condenses a few of the characters, of course, but is about as good a production one could imagine. The only failing is that it cannot play with narrative they way a narrator/novelist can. Still, I hope you'll find a copy and join in our conversation.

August 26, 2010

Deal or No (Big) Deal

Agatha and I had a conversation the other night over dinner about what to do when single friends freely talk about their sex lives. Essentially, if you're friends with either of us, and you're confiding in us about intimacy, chances are you know what we think about the body, sex, love, marriage, God, well-being, et. al. While Agatha's friend was recounting her recent sexual escapades with men after recently getting out of a long-term relationship, my friend was seeking advice about whether or not to have sex with her new boyfriend after 25 years of virginity. Her rationale was that she had never really made up her mind about when she wanted to save sex for, and that now at the age of 25, she had found someone she was reasonably attracted to, was reasonably attracted to her, and someone whom she got along with in a decent way. Tonight she confessed that the "deed was done," last night and that it "was no big deal." However, as she continued to talk, she started to back track in her confidence saying, "I mean I'm still processing it all. I mean, I have to think about what I think about it."

I didn't really know what to say. I could see her trying to convince herself (and me), that it really was no big deal. But shouldn't one want it to be a big deal? What ever happened to the emotional gravity wrapped up in being with someone? Don't we distinguish between making love and having sex? I mean, anyone can have sex, but don't you want to be in love (and I mean the forever-kind of love) with a man when it happens? Look, I know about temptation. I know about the crazy, mixed-up feelings. I've lived it. But at some point, one has to acknowledge that it's not just body parts, not just the next step, and that it is a heck of a huge deal to allow someone to be with you in that way.

What is a friend to say?

Our Lady of Czestochowa

Today is the feast of Our Lady of Czestochowa, the Black Madonna, patroness and protector of Poland, beloved of Pope John Paul II. She also happens to hang over my desk. (Sometimes I talk to her. Really, I ought to talk to her much more.)

And, recently, I discovered this prayer on a holy card:

HOLY MOTHER of Czestochowa, Thou are full of grace, goodness and mercy. I consecrate to Thee all my thoughts, words and actions--my soul and body. I beseech Thy blessings and especially prayers for my salvation.

Today I consecrate myself to Thee, Good Mother, totally--with body and soul amid joy and sufferings to obtain for myself and others Thy blessings on this earth and eternal life in Heaven. Amen.

Amen. Amen!

August 25, 2010

God's Sense of Humor

Had a date scheduled for tonight. Woke up with both of my eyes completely (well, there's enough room for me to write this) swollen shut.

I'm going to take this opportunity today and tonight to pray for you, readers and sisters. Sometimes God shuts our eyes to everything in the world (literally), so we can just turn into the quiet of our soul and find Him there. :)

August 23, 2010

What a Ride

Thanks for your prayers, sisters and readers, as I drove across the country from Washington, D.C. to Denver, Colorado, and for my safe flight home. I am back at my desk safe and sound and invigorated by my cross-country adventure.

My friend, who I was helping to move to Denver, is one of the holiest, most beautiful women that I know. We talked for 12 hours straight on the first leg of the drive, and only put on music (which we naturally discussed, too!) to keep us awake before our one and only overnight (I know, I know...we drove 31 hours in two days). It is such a blessing to be able to share that much conversation -- ranging from silliness to holiness -- with another person. It should be obvious to our readers that when the Magdalene Sisters are all at the same table, this same thing transpires.

What I learned on the drive is that Iowa is deceptively long and Nebraska is incredibly flat. In all seriousness, seeing the expanses of God's creation and the varied landscapes and people made me appreciate His handiwork so much. I can't believe how many things glorify Him in their diversity and richness. I had this feeling on Friday, too, when we hiked to the summit of a 12,000 ft. peak in the Rockies. As we ate lunch overlooking the enormous horizon, three of us ladies had an amazing conversation about atheism, specifically how sad it must be to look at the scene we saw and think that there was no meaning to it besides tectonic plates shifting around under the earth's surface. It was just so clear that we have a Creator, and what more, that He loves what He creates. I mean, just look at that cute little duck!

I just loved everything about Colorado: the weather, the landscape, the people, and the very active Catholic population. Also, it's the #1 gluten-free-friendly city in the nation...between these things and the sign above that I saw on a walk, I think it may be my next destination! All in God's time though, and only if He wills. What He wills right now is that I head back to the classroom tomorrow in preparation for the upcoming school year. Amen!

August 21, 2010

Latest Discovery for the iPod: The Music of Audrey Assad

I fell upon this talented Catholic singer courtesy of Modestia blog. She's a twenty-seven year old convert from Protestantism and she has a gorgeous voice! Read her conversion story here and a great interview here. Also, check out her latest album The House You're Building and this youtube video where she explains her inspiration of the title track. I'm hooked.

August 20, 2010

An Eat Pray Love Kind of Day

I'll admit, I've never read the book Eat, Pray, Love, nor am I sure I can really endorse it at all. I have no real desire to see the film, if it's anything like all the other fluffy, predictable "I-have-had-a-rough-go-at-it-so-I-need-to-go-somewhere-and-find-myself" kind of films. Yet, I have to admit I've had an Eat, Pray, Love kind of day today. I did not get the job I was desperately praying for (instinct, I want to eat, preferably some nice, smooth, extra dark chocolate and LOTS of it. Maybe add some nice smooth peanut butter to that. And oh! How about a few glasses of some expensive white wine. Oh, wait. I'm broke.) Next move, pray (seriously, God, seriously? What am I this year, a punching bag??? Be shocked, that is what I said.) After declaring to Him that I was getting quite sick of His will (mostly because it does not quite seem to be disclosed to me), I have to remind myself to love. To love Him, because really, He owes me nothing and gives me everything. To love my family because they still encourage me despite my manifold failings. To love myself (and have confidence too), because it is really easy to lose that and wallow in what seems like endless darkness and disappointment.

August 19, 2010

New Dress A Day Blog

Just imagine how much fun it would be to be able to wear (and afford to do so) a new dress every single day for whole year. And the kicker?? You'd only have to pay a dollar a day to so! Sound too good to be true? Not for this savvy young lady from California. I might be a little slow on the discovery of this, but you MUST check out what this young lady does with a sewing machine and a 1 dollar thrift store find on the New Dress A Day blog. This girl can turn any hopeless time piece into a wearable and more often than not, very cute look! She's got me inspired!

August 18, 2010

Edith the (Hopefully) Teacher

Dear Readers and Sisters,
Please keep praying for me!! I am still waiting to hear back from the teaching job I applied for - the one that I really want! The only word I received about it is that there is still no word about it...but school starts on August 30th!! I am going crazy and I am stressed - never a good combination :-) So, please keep me in your prayers!!

Photo Credit

August 17, 2010

How to Be Alone

August 16, 2010

Safe Travels Jules!

Julian is driving cross country right now (and I, for one, am SO jealous!). Here's a little tune to help her on the way. (It is my personal favorite driving song!)

Our lady of the highways, pray for us!

August 14, 2010

St. Maximilian Kolbe, Pray for Us!

I never realized the importance of where St. Maximilian's feast day close to the Assumption of the Blessed Mother, to whom He was consecrated and from whom he took the crown of martyrdom. What a gift our liturgical calendar is, to draw us evermore into the light of Christ.

“May the life of the Immaculate take possession of us ever more, day by day, hour by hour, moment by moment, and this without any limitation, growing, in the same way, in every soul that exists and will exist for all time: behold our beloved ideal.” (cf. SK #1210) -- St. Maximilian Kolbe

August 13, 2010

Road Trip Soundtrack

Next week I'll be driving west to Denver to help a friend move. I've already learned how to drive a stick shift car, so now I'm moving onto the less practical, but more fun, task of creating several soundtracks for various parts of our journey. I've divided the music into three categories: 1) "Fist pump" music/first leg; 2) "Mellow/the middle of the country is very flat"; and 3) "We're sleepy and need some R&B hits."

The first category is very easy for me. I have 7 hours worth of songs right now, ranging from CCR to Springsteen to The Killers to Regina Spektor. Safe to say, the first leg of our journey is going to be incredibly fun.

The second category is a little more difficult for me. I have some Rosie Thomas, Ingrid Michaelson, Nickel Creek, and some music from a dear colleague (which, by the way, you should all check out!), but I could use suggestions. Agatha has worn me down enough to accept bluegrass suggestions. Really Agatha, this is a triumph.

The third leg is proving to be even more difficult! Don't get me wrong; I do enjoy the beats of hip hop and R&B. But I also want songs with decent lyrics. Beyonce is proving to be about 75% helpful, but I'm still seriously lacking in selection. I think this is a serious problem though, since this genre of music is so influential on culture. Look, I know this isn't a new hypothesis or anything, but I really do think we could use some of these amazing beats paired with better lyrics. It's time, people. Anyway, suggestions are welcome.

August 12, 2010

Meeting People

Julian and I were recently talking about how we'd like to meet people other than the young single catholic crowd in our city (which is great, but can be stifling). The conversation went something like this:
A: I want to meet people.
J: so do I. how do we do that?
A: I don't know. join a class or something.
J: or go to bars.
A: yeah, but then comes the question "what do you do" and you answer, I teach theology. And then you end up talking about theology anyway.

Obviously this is a bit of a witness, but its not exactly what we're looking for. All the same, the conversation reminded me of a great Mary Tyler Moore episode where Rhoda hits on the brilliant idea to join a divorce group so she can meet single men...and possibly win a trip to Paris. Mary ends up being vice-president of the club. Watch it:

August 11, 2010

Thank You!

Thanks, readers, for your prayers. Our family friend did (miraculously!) make it out of surgery, but the doctors were unable to fix the entire problem...meaning, we think the worst is inevitable. I will keep you posted on her status, but thank you for your prayers. What a gift for her to see her children and husband another day!

August 10, 2010

Urgent Prayer Request

A family friend is having surgery tomorrow, but there is only a 15-20% chance of survival. She will pass if she doesn't have the surgery. Thank you for prayers, sweet readers.

-- Julian

You'll Never Believe It....

So, this morning I went to daily Mass at a parish about a mile from my home, and who did I see but the same man and his wife that I saw the previous day completely across the city...actually outside the city limits! I was stunned when I saw his wife going into Mass, and when I looked for the gentleman, he was up against the brick wall, one arm over his head and the other clutching his prayer book. He was praying at the Station of the Cross when Jesus fell for the first time. It was the most beautiful sight -- even more than the two that I saw the day before. He proceeded to walk the entire church periphery, clearly in agony, along with Christ. This man praying the stations. Took my breath away. Again.

Edith's Devotions of Choice

How can we narrow down our top 5 devotions? Part of what I love about being Catholic is that we have devotions, saints, liturgies for every season in our lives! But, I can, for the sake of Kim's challenge, narrow it down! So here goes -

5. The Divine Mercy Chaplet - I love this chaplet and the message of God's Divine Mercy. I still have not made my way through all of St. Faustina's diary (but I will!). This chaplet was made even more special for me when my old parish in Louisiana observed this novena from Mardi Gras every Tuesday until the Tuesday of Divine Mercy week. The choir director at the parish wrote the music and it is absolutely beautiful. I'll really miss that!

4. Spiritual Reading - I love doing all kind of spiritual reading, I am a reader and being intellectually stimulated is one way I relate to God. Whether it is Bible reading, prayer books, writings of saints and blesseds, I love it all.

3. Studying the Lives of the Saints/Novenas - I am obsessed with learning about the saints - (hmmm...can you tell, i.e. Edith Stein?) They remind me that human beings are not only entirely capable of holiness, but called to be holy. Learning about them gives us friends in heaven, and seriously, who can't use that??

2. Rosary - Sometimes I find the rosary difficult to pray - not in the sense that the prayers are hard, but to really focus and meditate upon them for me is difficult. So if I am having a really hard time, I try to focus on the fact that I am a child of God and a child of His Holy Mother and they love me. And then I also might picture a person's face that I really want to offer that decade for. It helps, and the rosary changes lives and hearts.

1. The Liturgy of the Easter Triduum - This is the most solemn and joyful time in the Church. The joy, fear, sorrow, and anticipation of Holy Thursday, the emptiness you literally feel on Good Friday, and the indescribable joy of the Easter Vigil Mass, especially as you watch new members become embraced into the arms of Holy Mother Church - words just cannot even express how much beauty....

Click for favorites of Julian and Agatha.

Julian's Devotions of Choice

1. Adoration
2. The Direction of Intention from St. Francis de Sales
3. Novena to the Archangel Raphael (he saved my father from paralysis!)
4. Chaplet of Divine Mercy
5. Contemplative Prayer

The last few weeks a meme of Catholic devotions has been spreading the papist blogsphere. The Magdalene Sisters were tagged by Kim Luisi, author of the blog Faith Fiction and Flannery, and a writer for Traces Magazine. Find Agatha's post here.

Agatha's Devotions of Choice

The last few weeks a meme of Catholic devotions has been spreading the papist blogsphere. The Magdalene Sisters were tagged by Kim Luisi, author of the blog Faith Fiction and Flannery, and a writer for Traces Magazine.

So today Julian, Edith and I will be sharing our favorite Catholic devotions. Can you guess, from the photo above, what's mine?
  1. The Angelus: when I have a really crazy days, the bells peal out across Michigan Avenue, and I take a moment to say it, and the stress doesn't matter anymore.
  2. Praying for the Souls in Purgatory: I always say: if you don't pray for them, you don't get to go. And that would be a shame, wouldn't it?
  3. The St. Joseph Novena is perfect.
  4. Celebrating Feast Days (ps. this week is feasting non-stop: Dominic, Edith Stein, Lawrence, Clare, Jane Frances de Chantal, Hippolytous, Maximillian Kolbe)
  5. The Prayer of Saint Francis basically covers everything I want to want.

August 9, 2010

Can I Get a Witness

Today at Mass I sat next to an elderly couple. The gentleman had some sort of advanced state of Parkinson's, or so it appeared. The dear man could barely control his arms, shoulders, and neck. I was feeling so much for him, and I was struck by two images that won't leave me anytime soon. This man was gripped his Rosary with such fervor before Mass. It was clear that he had to hold on for dear life or they would fly out of his hands. I thought to myself, "Do I grip my Rosary with such intensity? Do I cling to Our Lady with the love that this man does?" The other image that has been staying with me is the image of this same man trying to beat his breast at the "Lord, have mercy." I give myself a little tap out of devotion to remind myself of my sinfulness, but the struggle this man had to endure to raise him arm and then to beat his chest just blew me away. He is already so humbled in his physical state, and yet he did everything in his power to raise his fist to his heart and lower himself before Christ.

It is true the the least (in the world's terms) will be the greatest. They already are.

Woman Warrior of the Month: Edith Stein

Dear Readers,
Happy feast of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross! As you know this past week of August we celebrated with the Edith Stein Novena, which follows her last nine days in this world before the Nazis murdered her and many, many more Hebrew Catholics in retaliation of the Dutch Bishops denouncing the Nazis and the slaughter of the Jews. The novena, taken from the Association of Hebrew Catholic Website, and as the association's president David Moss explains, the novena is especially prayed during the time of August 1-9 - the time from her arrest to her death. David Moss writes,

The novena was composed by Elias Friedman, O.C.D., founder of the Association of Hebrew Catholics (AHC), who recommends it to all devotees of Saint Edith. The most suitable time to observe it would be from August 1 to August 9, in annual remembrance of the days spent by our saintly martyr in the death train, accompanied by her sister, Rosa, and many other Hebrew Catholics, on the way to the gas chambers of Auschwitz-Birkenau.

We present the Novena to the public, hoping thus to further devotion to our holy Carmelite and as a model for Hebrew Catholic’s to imitate. Edith Stein offered herself, like Jesus, our Lord and Messiah, as a victim of expiation for the redemption of her people and of mankind.

May our efforts hasten the day when all Israel shall proclaim:

Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord

(Baruch haba beShem Adonai)

Also, a little more about what inspired this novena prayer from author Elias Friedman:
An attempt has been made to draw a parallel between the last week in the life of Saint Edith Stein and the last week in the life of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. There is more in the parallel than pure analogy; Jesus himself, repeated his passion in the soul and body of Saint Edith. It is what gives to her suffering its full redemptive value. Through Jesus, our Saint sanctified the Shoah, turning the Catastrophe into a true Holocaust unto the Lord. Tragic as the story is, it should be understood as the sine qua non for the ingrafting of the Jewish People into the Church, their own olive-tree.

Now, about our Saint. I have spending lots and lots of time reading everything I can about her and by her especially since my break with Peter. I felt that I wanted to reconnect with strong women to help me recover my own strength, and learn that feminine way to practice the virtue of fortitude. Let me tell you something about St. Edith, in case you have already seen, she is THE woman warrior.

Edith Stein was born in Breslau, Germany on October 12, 1891 to Siegfried and Auguste Stein. Before she reached the age of two, her father passed away, leaving her mother with 7 children and a lumber business to run. And her mother did run that business. In her unfinished autobiography, Life in a Jewish Family, Edith says that all who knew her described her mother as the most capable merchant in town. Edith wrote this book in the 1930's as an antidote to the rising anti-Semitism in her beloved Germany. This book, which I've not quite finished reading, chronicles her very normal, very real family life from her birth until 1916, which as far as she had written before the Nazis took her off to the death camps. She shows great affection for her family and reveals her own spiritual journey to the Church, which was a highly intellectual one.

Edith was known as an extremely intelligent and gifted child. She loved school and did quite well in school. She says that although her mother was quite religious and did observe the basic tenants of Judaism, Edith and her siblings were not very religious and often ridiculed their mother's piety. Frau Stein did not let that deter her. But as a young teenager, Edith self-consciously decided that she did not believe in God. It was not until she went on to receive her doctorate that Edith would find herself attracted to the Catholic faith.

Edith studied for her doctorate under the famed phenomenological Edmund Husserl. She became great friends with many very renowned scholars of phenomenology and several times had come into contact with Dietrich von Hildebrand (although they did not know one another well). It was also here that she began to be more open to the Christian faith, as most of her friends were Christians, both Protestant and Catholic. She was a brilliant student, and all her friends and family teased her for her great passion to study with Husserl. She writes that on one New Year's Eve before she left to study in Goettingen for her doctorate, her sisters and friends wrote a little verse about her: "Many a maiden dreams of 'busserl' [kisses in German], Edith, though, of naught but Husserl. In Goettingen she soon will see Husserl as real as real can be." (Life in a Jewish Family, p. 220). I admit, I had to laugh at this little anecdote. To me it not only shows her passion for the intellectual pursuit of truth, but it just shows her humanness.

It was while she was studying in Goettingen during 1913-1914 that Edith says she started to learn how "to respect questions of faith and people who had faith." (Life in a Jewish Family, p. 316). She said that she even attended some Protestant liturgies, but that the sermons, which mixed politics and religion, often turned her off to the faith. It would be about another 10 years before Edith found God in the Catholic faith.

Edith loved Goettingen and Husserl's classes. She was paving the way for women intellectuals, who, even in an intellectual powerhouse like Germany, were not common. She dearly loved Germany, loved its history, loved being a Germany citizen, but she was also keenly distressed at its tempestuous political situation in the during WWI and in the decades the followed. Edith even took a leave of absence from school during WWI and served as a nurse for wounded soldiers. To the end, she loved her German identity.

Edith finished her doctorate in 1917 and stayed on for several years helping her "Master" Husserl to edit his works. She finally began to consider seriously the possibility of becoming a Christian in 1918, and for two years discerned whether to be a Catholic or a Lutheran. She knew this would cost her many of her friendship among her Jewish acquaintance, and she especially knew that her mother would be heartbroken. And God works in funny ways. While she was visiting a Protestant friend in 1921, she randomly found a copy of Teresa of Avila's book The Book of Her Life. She felt that the saints words in the book fulfilled the desires of her heart, and on January 1. 1922, Edith Stein became a Catholic. She also felt at this time that to join the Carmelites was her calling, but she waited until 1935, so that she would not add insult to injury for her heartbroken mother.

Although her family was far from pleased by her decision, Edith remarks that they all respected her because they knew that Edith ardently sought truth with her whole being. Dr. Fraulein Stein, as she was called, longed to be a philosopher and also loved to teach. Josephine Koeppel says of her:
Edith earned the international reputation she had in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria by her careful attention to contemporary topics of her own day which were forerunners of our own vital issues. Her lectures on women's roles. . . incorporated all the facets of her remarkable erudition. . . . To enable others to lead and teach is an inestimable talent, and this was one Edith Stein's greatest gifts." (Life in a Jewish Family, Chronology, p. 419)
In 1933, Edith entered Carmel in Cologne, Germany. Her mother was sorrowful, but embraced her daughter for the last time. She made her final vows in 1938 and took the name Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, which means "Teresa Blessed of the Cross" (or by the Cross in some translations.) Her name reflects her beloved spiritual sister and fellow Carmelite, Teresa of Avila, and her fate of sharing in the Cross of Christ in a very tangible, visible way. After her mother's death, her sister Rosa followed Edith's example, became a Catholic and joined her as a Third Order Carmelite. As a Carmelite, she continued her work as a philosopher and a seeker of truth. Many great treatises and theological meditations were written in this period. But in 1938, the threat of the Nazis was so great that the nuns removed Edith and Rosa to their Carmel in Echt. It was here, as we know, that Edith and her sister were brutally taken in 1942 to their deaths in Auschwitz.

But on the journey to her death, Edith made an impression on her fellow Jewish Catholics. Lucie Bromberg-Rosenthal, who shared a barrack with Edith, remembers this time:
The great difference between Edith Stein and the other sisters lay in her silence. My personal impression is that she was grief-stricken. She was not afraid, but I cannot express it better except by saying that she seemed to carry such a heavy burden of suffering that even when she did smile every once and a while, it made one even sadder. . . . She had the thought of impending suffering; not her own, for she had long accepted it, but the suffering that was awaiting the others. Her whole appearance, as I see her in my mind's eye sitting in the barrack, still reminds me of a Pieta without Christ." (Taken from Edith Stein and Companions, p. 85-86)
What Edith has taught me is the great love it takes to embrace suffering. What I hope she teaches me is how to become a better woman in Christ and how to love and to suffer as she did. May this feast day be a blessing to all of you, and I hope you will let Edith Stein into your life today to show you the face of Christ.

Edith Stein's writings can be found in English through the Institute of Carmelite Studies.

Edith Stein Novena Day 9

Day 9 ­ Sunday, August 9th, 1942
The Auschwitz Extermination Camp

Auschwitz was at that time a small provincial Polish town, which was to give its name to the notorious concentration camp, opened nearby by order of Himmler for political prisoners on April 27, 1940. The first camp was rather small in size and was called, subsequently, Auschwitz I. In October 1941, a far more extensive camp was set up, named after a neighboring village, Auschwitz II-Birkenau (Encyclopaedia Judaica Vol. 3, Coll. 854-871). From March 1942, Jews were directed to the second camp.

Mass murders of Jewish prisoners by Zyklon B (prussic acid) gas was instituted at Birkenau as from January 1942, at the instigation of Adolf Eichmann, who was in overall command of the execution of the "Final Solution" of the Jewish Problem by genocide, decided on by the Nazis at Wansee in 1941. The gassing continued for two years and ten months, during which time a million Jews perished in the camp.

The convoys arrived at the rate of three or four a day; they were usually met at the platform by the Camp Commandant, Rudolph Hoess, later executed for war-crimes, and the infamous Dr. Mengele, who performed the "Selektion", strong prisoners being separated for forced labor in mines and factories, the remainder being consigned for immediate "elimination."

The first transport of prisoners from Holland arrived in July 1942; the one carrying our Saint was, perhaps, the third, being preceded by a transport of men which had reached the camp that afternoon.

The newcomers were taken to barracks and told to leave their clothes on a numbered peg, to be retrieved after the shower, which they were falsely led to believe would follow. Women usually had their hair cut off. The prisoners had then to walk four hundred meters along a path till they came to a large room, with tubes running across the ceiling. Force was used to get them to enter, when necessary. The metal doors were locked, levers operated and the gas introduced into the rooms. Twenty to twenty-five minutes later, electric-pumps evacuated the gas, allowing special commando-units to enter and empty the chambers. Not all the victims were dead. Gold dentures were removed and the corpses carted away to be thrown into a common fosse. Crematoria had not yet been installed at Auschwitz; but, later, to obliterate traces of their crimes, the Nazis exhumed the corpses and had them burnt.

From the moment of the arrival of a convoy to the extermination of the victims, no more than an hour and a half would elapse, as a rule. The killing of human beings became a monotonous routine.

Saint Edith, her companions and a thousand other Hebrew Catholics died in the gas-chambers of Auschwitz II-Birkenau on the morning of August 9th from suffocation by prussic acid fumes. She then entered into her glory, accompanied, as we like to believe, by many others.

Some Hebrew Catholic Companions of Saint Edith in her Ordeal

Saint Edith Stein was accompanied by a group of Hebrew Catholics throughout her ordeal; they lived with her, prayed with her, shared her spiritual sentiments, and died, most of them, together with her in the same gas-chamber. They are the rays of light that scintillate around our Saint’s crown of glory. Divine Providence wanted to give the world an example of an ideal Hebrew Catholic Community, though one assembled under duress and for a short period only.

We recall a few names, those most closely associated with Saint Edith in her trial.

Rosa, Edith’s sister

She was the only member of the Stein family to follow Edith into the Church, delaying her entry until the death of her mother, so as to spare the latter the suffering her entry would have occasioned her. She became a Tertiary Carmelite and rendered service to the Nuns at Echt, from where she left with her sister, Edith, for Auschwitz.

Dr. Bromberg and his family

The Doctor, his wife, son and daughter travelled in the transport from Amersfoort to Westerbork. They survived the war, as by a miracle. Mrs. Bromberg, who was very close to Edith, left a fine testimony to her bearing during the two days Edith spent in the camp. The son was ordained a priest in the Dominican Order after the war: Fr. Ignatius Bromberg, O.P.

The Löb family

The father was a Dr. Löb; of his five children, two became Trappist priests, two Trappistines, and one, a Trappist lay-brother. The two priests deployed an admirable ministry amongst the prisoners, proving a benediction to them in their distress. All were to die with Edith and Rosa.

Sister Judith Mendez da Costa

Her family had left Portugal in the 16th century to settle in Amsterdam. She became a Dominican nun and was conventual in Bilthoven from where she was carried off by the Gestapo on August 2nd. Her distant Portuguese origin provided an excuse, so that she was set free for a while and returned to her convent on the 15th August. On the 25th February 1944, she and the entire Portuguese community were transferred from Westerbork to Theresienstadt camp and from there to Auschwitz (16th May) where they were all gassed. Her brother and sister died in the torment. Sister Judith managed to send to her Superior a detailed description of her stay in Westerbork, from August 4th to August 15th, during which time she met Saint Edith.

Alice Reis

She entered the Church in 1932, Edith Stein standing as her godmother. Two years later she entered the Sisters of the Good Shepherd as a postulant. Circumstances in Germany being what they were at the time, she was sent to Holland. On account of her asthma, she was not accepted as a religious, but remained on as a lay-helper to the Sisters in several of their establishments. At 5 o’clock on the morning of August 2nd, she was snatched from her convent at Almelo by the Gestapo and sent to Amersfoort camp, from where she accompanied our Saint on the journey to Auschwitz.

Dr. Ruth Kantorowicz of the Ursuline Convent at Venlo

She had been an old friend of Edith’s. She was arrested on August 2nd and carried off to Amersfoort and then in a goods-train to Hooghalen. She was one of those who were forced to walk across fields, woods and hedges to the Westerbork camp. In answer to an urgent note, the Ursulines sent her supplies with two gentlemen. These saw her in the camp with Edith Stein, both wearing the yellow star-shaped patch. She remarked that the Trappist priests had not been able to celebrate Holy Mass for them. She left with Edith for Auschwitz.

Dr. Meirowsky

Since 1940, she had been resident in the lodge of the Trappistine Abbey near Tilburg. She was a medical doctor of Polish-Jewish origin, acquainted with our Saint with whom she had exchanged several letters. At Tilburg, she rendered valuable services to the community as doorkeeper and community doctor. She was a member of the Dominican Third Order and was regarded by the Trappistines as one of themselves.

In a letter addressed to her confessor from Westerbork, dated "Transfiguratio, 6, VIII." she expressed the most admirable spiritual sentiments, showing to what extent our Saint was seconded in her intentions by other Hebrew Catholics.

We quote the following passages from her letter:

"I want to send you my last greetings and to tell you that I have complete confidence in God and have surrendered myself entirely to His will. Even more — I regard it as a grace and privilege to be driven along this road under these conditions, a witness to the words of our good Fathers and shepherds in Christ.

"If our sufferings have been increased somewhat then we have received a double portion of grace and a glorious crown is being prepared for us in heaven. Rejoice with me. I am going forward unshaken, confidently and joyfully — like the Sisters who are with me — to testify to Jesus Christ and to bear witness to the Truth in company with our Bishops. We are going as children of Our Holy Mother, the Church; we will unite our sufferings with the sufferings of our King, our Saviour and our Bridegroom, sacrificing ourselves for the conversion, for the Jews, for those who persecute us, so that all may know the peace of Christ and his Kingdom. Join with me in thanking God for this great favor by singing an exultant Magnificat."

The letter was signed, Sister M. Magdalena Dominica
(in the world, Dr. Meirowsky).

In our humble option, the sentiments that emanate from Dr. Meirowsky’s letter are no less sublime than those expressed by the early Christian martyrs as they went to their death by fire, by torture and by the lions, in the arenas of the Roman Empire.

Gospel Readings

"When they reached a place called Gethsemane, he said to his disciples, ‘Sit here while I pray’ and he took Peter and James and John with him. Horror and dismay came over him and he said to them, ‘My heart is ready to break with grief; stop here and stay awake.’ Then he went forward a little, threw himself on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, this hour might pass him by. ‘Abba, Father all things are possible to thee; take this cup away from me. Yet not what I will, but what thou wilst.’" Mark 26: 32-36

"As they led him away to execution they seized upon a man called Simon from Cyrene, on his way back from the country, put the cross on his back and made him walk behind Jesus carrying it.

"Great numbers of people followed, many women among them, who mourned and lamented over him. Jesus turned to them and said, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; no, weep for yourselves and your children. For the days are surely coming when they will say "Happy are the barren, the wombs that never bore a child, the breasts that never fed one." Then they will start saying to the mountains, "Fall on us," and to the hills, "Cover us." For if these things are done when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?’" Luke 23: 26-31

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be
(Any suitable prayer may be said here)
Saint Edith, Pray For Us!

Source: Association of Hebrew Catholics

August 8, 2010

I Hate to Interrupt Our Novena...

...but I couldn't help but write a post about St. Dominic on his feast day. Personally, I think Edith Stein wouldn't mind. With feast days in such close calendar proximity, I think they're probably toasting one another. Actually, no, they are toasting the Lord!

For anyone interested in in the life and legacy of St. Dominic and his brethren, I highly recommend purchasing St. Dominic's Family : Lives of Over 500 Famous Dominicans by Sr. Mary Jean Dorcy, O.P. From that book I leave you this:

His rule was meant to make the way to heaven easier, not harder. He was the first to propose an order dedicated to preaching at a time when no one but bishops regularly preached. With insight that we can bless today, he foresaw that one might preach in many ways, and in many media; so he made VERITAS the motto of the Order and did not limit the ways or means by which one might preach it. Lastly, his Order was organized to cope with problems of future centuries in lands that had not even been discovered in his day. There is nothing in the Dominican rule to prevent the evangelization of any continent, or of Mars, for that matter; its application is flexible in order to meet the problems of all times and places.

Lord, we praise you for the gift of St. Dominic's life and the establishment of his order. Teach us individually and collectively how to preach your Truth. Amen.

Edith Stein Novena Day 8

Day 8 ­ August 7th to August 8th, 1942
In the death train to Auschwitz

Saint Edith and her fellow-prisoners spent two days in the wagons of a goods-train which took them from Westerbork in Holland through Germany to Auschwitz in Poland. The convoy numbered exactly 987 persons, men, women and children, each wagon being crowded with from fifty to eighty prisoners. Conditions inside the wagons were horrendous.

The train arrived at Auschwitz at ten o’clock on the evening of Saturday, August 8th, and was checked in as bringing a load of insane patients. Two workmen who noticed our Saint Edith on the platform in her Carmelite habit muttered to one another that she, at least, did not appear to be mad. Any communication with the victims was strictly forbidden.

Gospel Reading

"So they took Jesus and he went out bearing his own cross to the place called the place of the skull, which is called in Hebrew Golgotha."

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be
(Any suitable prayer may be said here)
Saint Edith, Pray For Us!

Source: Association of Hebrew Catholics

August 7, 2010

Edith Stein Novena Day 7

Day 7 ­ Friday, August 7th, 1942
Departure from Westerbork to Auschwitz

The transport had been due to leave on Thursday, August 6th, but the departure was postponed for one reason or another, On Thursday afternoon, a woman arrived at the camp carrying civilian clothes for the Sisters. It was supposed, therefore, that they would be obliged to change on their arrival at the frontier, though it does not appear that a change of habit actually took place.

During Thursday afternoon, the Jewish Council drew up lists of those persons due to be transported on the next convoy for Auschwitz, the lists being read out to them Thursday night, so that the people concerned could make what preparation they thought necessary. The Gestapo had given the Council stern instructions to make no exemptions from their particular transport. As a matter of fact, the Bromberg family and Sister Judith were left behind on some technical ground. The family was fortunate enough to survive the persecution; but Sister Judith was to die at Auschwitz later, in 1944 .

On Friday morning, August 7th, at half-past three, a long row of prisoners, men, women and children, lined the road running through the camp. It included our Saint Edith, Rosa, and a thousand other Hebrew Catholics. The entire barracks had been cleared. S.S. men now took over from the Dutch gendarmes and gruffly ordered the line to start moving. They crowded them into goods-trains, filled to suffocation. Saint Edith and the other Sisters, still dressed in their habits, were in the middle section of the train. The other prisoners were in prison-uniform, though the fact is disputed. It is touching to learn that the train passed through Breslau, only 50 to 60 kilometers from Auschwitz, on its way to the Polish frontier. Breslau, was our Saint’s birthplace, though the wagons were so well sealed that she might well have been unconscious of the fact. At Scifferstadt, however, a door might have been opened for a few moments, during which time, our Edith managed to recognize an ex-pupil standing on the platform and to convey to her greetings for her Sisters. "Tell them" she said "I am on my way to the East." Perhaps she was unaware that she was on her way to Auschwitz.

Many died en route, though permission was not granted to remove the corpses. The thirst, hunger and suffering, both mental and physical, of the passengers in those "death-trains" can be imagined.

Gospel Reading

"And taking the Twelve, he said to them, ‘Behold we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written of the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spat upon; they will scourge him and kill him and on the third day he will rise.’ But they understood nothing of these things; this saying was hid from them and they did not grasp what was said." Luke 18:31-34

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be
(Any suitable prayer may be said here)
Saint Edith, Pray For Us!

Source: Association of Hebrew Catholics

August 6, 2010

Edith Stein Novena Day 6

Day 6 ­ Wednesday, August 5th to August 6th, 1942
At the Westerbork assembly camp

The camp consisted of thousands and thousands of huts surrounded by a high barbed-wire fence, with many watchtowers manned by gendarmes with machine-guns and searchlights, to thwart any attempt at escape. In it were assembled at the time one thousand two hundred Hebrew Catholics, amongst whom were a dozen or so religious. These were still dressed in their religious habits, on which was sewn a yellow star-shaped patch, sign of their infamy in the eyes of the Nazis. Saint Edith encountered acquaintances and even members of her family in the camp.

The prisoners were looked after by a Jewish Council which showed particular kindness to the Hebrew Catholics, of which assistance the latter were quickly deprived when the Camp Commandant ordered them to be isolated from the others.

The morning began with a quick medical examination, after which a woman orderly led the religious to their barracks, a dirty hut full of mud. The Sisters washed at a little basin. They recited their morning prayers, followed by meditation, while their guards marched up and down outside their enclosure. The two Carmelites recited the full Office, while the others recited the Little Office of Our Lady, as they were accustomed to do.

At 7 a.m. there was a break, during which they were allowed to perambulate inside their enclosure for a while. After breakfast, they could obtain coffee in the kitchen. They were then instructed to clean their quarters.

At midday, the prisoners were stripped of their valuables, gold, silver, money, down to the smallest change, and were led to a huge wooden building to have their particulars registered. For the next four hours they filed through the building from table to table filling in forms about their personal effects and circumstances. Incidentally, there was in the same building a kitchen, used on occasion for concerts. After the registration was completed, each was photographed seated on a stool holding a slate in one hand on which his or her prison-number had been chalked. The sentiment of being in prison became overpowering at that moment.

Meals consisted of potatoes and carrots, invariably. The Sisters were allowed to distribute their ration from a tureen brought into their barracks; the others had to line up at the kitchen.

The men were then finally separated from the women. Sister Judith Mendez da Costa, a Dominican, whose family, of Portuguese origin, had settled in Holland centuries before, was calm enough to remark, in a letter she wrote to her Superior from the camp, that the weather was beautiful.

August 5th - August 7th
In the Westerbork Assembly Camp

We are fortunate to have several testimonies to the bearing of Saint Edith during her sojourn at the Westerbork camp.

Before leaving Westerbork, Saint Edith managed to send off two notes to her Prioress, written with a pencil on two sheets of paper torn out of a writing pad. In the first note, there is a sentence which reflects her inner attitude during the ordeal:

"One can only learn a Scientia Crucis, if one feels the Cross in one’s own person. I was convinced of this from the first and have said with all my heart: Ave Crux, spes unica" (Hail, O Cross, our only hope).

Mrs. Bromberg, who together with her family, all Hebrew Catholics, accompanied Edith from Amersfoort to Westerbork, where she was in close contact with the Carmelite nun. As we noted, the family survived the war and Mrs. Bromberg gave the following testimony, which was written down by her son, Fr. Ignatius Bromberg, O.P.:

"The great difference between Edith Stein and the other Sisters lay in her silence. My personal impression is that she was deeply sorrowful, but without anxiety. I cannot express myself better than by saying that she gave the impression of bearing such an enormous load of sorrow that even when she did smile, it only made her look more sorrowful. She hardly ever spoke, but she often looked at her sister, Rosa, with indescribable sorrow. She was thinking of the suffering she foresaw awaited others, not of her own. Her whole appearance, as I picture her in my memory sitting in that hut, suggested only one thought to me, a Pietà without Christ, a Rachel weeping for her children."

The next equally striking testimony comes from a Jewish businessman from Cologne, Julius Markan, who had been put in charge of the prisoners at Westerbork Camp and, along with his wife, was spared deportation. He wrote:

"Amongst the prisoners who were brought in on the 5th of August, Sister Benedicta stood out on account of her calmness and composure. The distress in the barracks and the stir caused by the new arrivals were indescribable. Sister Benedicta was just like an angel, going around amongst the women, comforting them, helping them and calming them. Many of the mothers were near to distraction; they had not bothered about their children the whole day long, but just sat brooding in dumb despair. Sister Benedicta took care of the little children, washed them and combed them, attending to their feeding and other needs. During the whole of her stay there, she washed and cleaned for people, following one act of charity with another, until everyone wondered at her goodness."

Our Saint spent as much time as she could in prayer, never complaining, neither about the food nor about the behavior of the soldiers. Everyone, Rosa the first, benefited from her uplifting example.

Dr. Wielek, employed in office work at the Westerbork camp when the transport carrying Edith and her sister Rosa arrived there, was questioned in the course of the diocesan canonical process. He rendered the following testimony to her bearing during her stay in the camp:

"She went about, talking, praying, like a saint. In one conversation she said to me: ‘The world is made up of opposites, but in the end nothing remains of these contrasts. What only remains is great love. How is it possible for it to be otherwise?’ She spoke with such security and humility as to conquer all her listeners. A conversation with her was a voyage to another world. In those moments, Westerbork ceased to exist. By now there was no doubt that she and the other baptized (Jews) would be deported elsewhere in a few hours time. I asked her whom she wanted me to inform about what was happening and whether I could do anything to help her. She replied asking why should an exception be made for her or her group? It was only just that the fact of being baptized should not bring her any privilege. Her life would be ruined if she could not participate in the fate of the others."

Gospel Readings

"So also the chief priests, with the scribes and the elders mocked him saying, ‘He saved others, he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross and we will believe in him. He trusts in God, let God deliver him now, if he desires him.’" Matthew 27:41-42

"And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour." Mark 15:33

"Pilate then called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people and said to them, ‘You brought me this man as one who was perverting the people; and after examining him I did not find this man guilty of any of your charges against him, neither did Herod for he sent him back to us. Behold, nothing deserving death has been done by him.’" Luke 23:13-15

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be
(Any suitable prayer may be said here)
Saint Edith, Pray For Us!

Source: Association of Hebrew Catholics

A Reminder to Myself: God is Powerful

We all need little reminders about who God is. I got mine a couple of days ago. I have been praying for an understanding as to why God allowed me to waste my emotions and my time on a person who never really loved me and never wanted to marry me. On the very day that I was engaged last year, August 3, the Holy Spirit moved the heart of one of Peter's friends to write me an email. She grew up with Peter since Kindergarten and was supposed to be a bridesmaid in our wedding, or "the phantom wedding" as I now, sort of with a dark smile, refer to it.

Anyway, she wrote me telling me that she wants to become a Catholic and wanted some advice on what to read, what to do, etc. That was a very powerful moment for me, because she wrote to me even though she knows plenty of Catholics in very Catholic South Louisiana. So this is what I told God: "Dear God, if all You give me from this awful experience with Peter was a chance to give his friend one word that will bring her closer to your Church, then I guess I'll have to admit (but can I do so with a huff and maybe an eye roll...) that it was all worth it. Ok, no huff or eye roll. Drawing people to you is what we are all here to do. I accept. But please let the next guy be a good one, and no more devastating heart breaks would really be ideal! But that thanks for answering my prayers! Edith."

Yes, God is powerful. And my dear namesake St. Edith Stein says that "Whoever lives in the strong faith that nothing happens without the knowledge and will of God is not easily disconcerted by astonishing occurrences or upset by the hardest of blows." I guess despite myself or my feelings, God revealed to me what that means. I am sure it was through her prayers. All is in the hands of He who IS, and I just continually need to learn what that means. But it is a long journey indeed! Pray for me and pray for my friend - and also, pray for Peter too.

August 5, 2010

Finding Meaning in the Mundane

My summer jobs are coming to an end this week as I prepare to take some time to get my curriculum together before the new school year begins. One job was was fun and lighthearted, but the other has been a drag! Don't get me wrong; I'm so very grateful for the supplement to my income during the summer months. I'm keenly aware of that blessing.'s clerical work...and it's boring.

However, I was reading a little bit yesterday from Scripture and came across this gentle reminder from Our Lord:

Whatever you do, do from the heart, as for the Lord and not for others, knowing that you will receive from the Lord the due payment of the inheritance; be slaves of the Lord Christ. Colossians 3:23-24

The single life affords many instances to question the meaning of work -- is this a holding pattern? Should I be doing something else? What do my decisions and work say about my life? But as for any vocation, no matter what we do, whether it's changing diapers, working on Wall Street, or spending our day in prayer and community chores with the Lord as a religious sister, we do it all out of love for Jesus Christ. And that can make even the most mundane data entry a gift back to God.

Carry on in your work, no matter what it is!

Edith Stein Novena Day 5

Day 5 ­ Tuesday, August 4th to August 5th, 1942
From Amersfoort to Westerbork

On Tuesday evening, August 4th, the prisoners were loaded on to a railway-coach and taken to the railway-station at Amersfoort, under strict orders not to raise the curtains of their compartments. From the cries of the station-master they gathered that their train was on its way to Westerbork. Passing Apeldoorn, Zwolle, Meppel Hogeven, the train reached Hooghalen, in North Holland, so many fresh names on their way of the cross.

The Westerbork assembly camp may be five kilometers from the Hooghalen railway-station. The train carrying our prisoners came to a stop in an open stretch of country, where they descended from the coaches; it must have been about three o’clock in the morning. A detachment of twenty men wearing armbands was waiting to help them transfer their luggage to two horse-drawn wagons, on to which the sick, the old and the religious also mounted. The others were herded in the dark across fields, through woods and hedges for an hour till they reached the camp. By now, it was the morning of August 5th, Wednesday.

Gospel Reading

"Pilate’s soldiers then took Jesus into the Governor’s headquarters, where they collected the whole company round him. First they stripped him and dressed him in a scarlet mantle; and plaiting a crown of thorns they placed it on his head, with a cane in his right hand. Falling on their knees before him they jeered at him: ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ They spat on him and used the cane to beat him about the head. Finally, when the mockery was over, they took off the mantle and dressed him in his own clothes." Matthew 27: 27-31

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be
(Any suitable prayer may be said here)
Saint Edith, Pray For Us!

Source: Association of Hebrew Catholics

August 4, 2010

Edith Stein Novena Day 4

Day 4 ­ Monday, August 3rd to August 4th, 1942
At the Amersfoort transit-camp

When the vans reached the camp, they emptied their passengers who were taken over by the S.S. guards. These began to drive them, cursing and swearing, beating them on their backs with their truncheons, into a hut where they were to pass the night without having had a meal.

The hut was divided into two sections, one for men, one for women. It was separated from the main lager by a barbed-wire fence. Altogether, the lager held at that moment, about three hundred men, women and children.

The beds were iron frames arranged in a double tier, without mattresses of any kind. Our prisoners threw themselves on the bare springs trying to snatch a few minutes sleep; but few slept that night, if only because the guards kept switching the lights off and on, from time to time, as a precaution against attempts to escape, which was next to impossible in any case. Their cold harsh voices filled the prisoners with anxiety about the future and, in these circumstances, it is anxiety which can turn a prison into a hell on earth.

The religious grouped themselves spontaneously into a little community which regarded Saint Edith as its Superior, so unquestionable was the ascendancy of her spirit. Arrangements were made to recite the Breviary, the Rosary and to meditate. A copy of the Imitation of Christ which had been smuggled into the camp provided matter for meditation. The Confiteor was sung daily, despite the catcalls of the guards.

The two Trappist priests were unable to celebrate Holy Mass and distribute Holy Communion at Amersfoort; but they heard confessions and did what they could to redress the morale of the internees, shaken by the sudden change in their fortunes. Their presence was a blessing, all the more so, since it was generally felt that the journey was a ‘journey to heaven’ as one Sister put it; for them their would be no return. On one occasion, the guards stood the two Trappist Fathers against a wall and pointed their guns at them, in the presence of the Sisters — all for a joke.

The prisoners were resigned to their fate; no one criticized the Dutch Bishops for the pastoral letter, the publication of which was the immediate cause of their distress, for no one knew whether there were not other causes at work.

Twice a day the prisoners were granted a respite; they were allowed to walk around inside their barbed-wire enclosure for ten to fifteen minutes under the watchful eyes of their German guards. The hygienic facilities in the camp can be left to the imagination. The guards forced them to stand for hours waiting for the roll-call to take place. One starving internee picked up a piece of dry bread that had been thrown away; for the ‘theft’, the entire camp was punished by being made to stand for hours on end in the barracks-square, until they began to drop down from sheer exhaustion. It was the signal for a series of kickings and beatings as the guards tried to force their prisoners onto their feet again.

Gospel Readings

"You will then be handed over for punishment and execution and men of all nations will hate you for your allegiance to me." Matthew 24:9

"Jesus was led off under arrest to the house of Caiaphas the High Priest, where the lawyers and elders were assembled ... The chief priests and the whole Council tried to find some allegation against Jesus on which a death-sentence could be based, but they failed to find one ... The High Priest tore his robes and exclaimed, ‘Blasphemy! Need we call further witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy. What is your opinion?’ ‘He is guilty,’ they answered; ‘he should die.’ Then they spat in his face and beat him with their fists." Matthew 26:57

"The men who were guarding Jesus mocked him. They beat him, they blindfolded him and they kept asking him, ‘Now, prophet, who hit you? Tell us that.’ And so they went on, heaping insults upon him." Luke 22: 63-65

"Herod and his troops treated him with contempt and ridicule." Luke 23:11

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be
(Any suitable prayer may be said here)
Saint Edith, Pray For Us!

Source: Association of Hebrew Catholics

August 3, 2010

Prayer Request: for those seeking jobs

St. Joseph at Work by Georges de la Tour

I hope our dear sister Edith, won't mind that we're posting this: Edith needs a job. And she's just applied for a really wonderful opportunity, that perfectly suits her abilities and wishes for the future. So, as she is leading us through this amazing Edith Stein novena (we're only on day three so you have time to catch up!), I ask that you keep her intentions in your prayers, as well.

In a similar vein, I came across this remarkable Rosary Meditation for those seeking jobs. The Anchoress' thoughtful meditation on the Sorrowful Mysteries remind us of both the agony and the peace of seeking God's will, and finally, accepting it. As she says:
"Prayer has power. When everything is falling apart, prayer holds. Any one of us can suddenly find ourselves out of work, and looking at the job opportunities with failing hope and a growing sense of powerlessness that can truly affect both ego and spirit. Once again, we find that the Mysteries of the Rosary help us to identify with Christ, and join our sufferings to His, that all may be One."
I hope they will be helpful to all of you as you are searching for God's will in your life, and especially in your work. Rest assured of our prayers for you--and please keep this special intention in your hearts as well!

St. Theresa Benedicta of the Cross, pray for us!
St. Joseph, patron of workers, pray for us!

Edith Stein Novena Day 3

Day 3 ­ Sunday, August 2nd to August 3rd, 1942
From Echt to Amersfoort

The police van drove our Saint Edith and her sister, Rosa, from the Carmel of Echt to the police headquarters in Roermond, first station on their way of the cross. Late the same day, they were transported to the Amersfoort transit camp.

That Sunday, August 2nd, the Nazis raffled about three hundred Hebrew Catholics throughout Holland, bringing them to Amersfoort, from the north and the south of the country. The transport from Roermond in the south was composed of two police vans, one packed with thirteen, the other with seventeen persons. The one in which our Edith travelled, was taking, apart from Rosa, six other female religious, all Hebrew Catholics. These included Sister Judith Mendez da Costa, a Dominican nun, and two Trappistines, sisters germain, from the remarkable family, Löb; of their three brothers, arrested with them, two were Trappists priests and one, a lay brother of the same Order. The wife and children of the writer Herman de Man travelled in the same transport.

The journey from Roermond to Amersfoort was usually a matter of three to four hours; but, on this occasion, the driver lost his way on account of the blackout and brought the prisoners to Amersfoort only at three o’clock the next morning, Monday August 3rd.

Gospel Reading

"And Jesus said to them: ‘The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized.’" Mark 10:39

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be
(Any suitable prayer may be said here)
Saint Edith, Pray For Us!

Source: Association of Hebrew Catholics

August 2, 2010

Dating - Yikes!

Julian's past week of romance:
1. Dealing with with incredibly real, strong feelings for someone though timing is possibly way off. Discernment and prayer is daily in this regard. Any prayers are appreciated!
2. My Mormon landlord is trying to set me up with his very Mormon son.
3. A male acquaintance said, "Hey, would you like to grab a drink on Monday?" last week. Naturally, I think this is just a chance to catch up. He shows up with a RED ROSE and proceeds to go on and on at the restaurant about the importance of conquering fears and how it was huge for him to conquer the fear of buying me a rose, but fears are not from God and on and on he went. He kept telling me how guarded I was, and I should open up to him and tell him what's on my heart, etc. Hello, I only sort of know you.

All of this is to say I need to take my heart to the Lord (and all of these laughs) and beg for laughter, too. :)

From all the toil and anxiety of heart...

For what profit comes to man from all the toil and anxiety of heart with which he has labored under the sun?
--Ecclesiastes, 2:21

I felt, yesterday morning as I listened to the readings and gospel, that these were especially powerful selections for me this week. Little did I know that, 10 minutes after I came into the office, a certain project would blow up in my face, and I would be in big trouble.

The hardest part about working for a non-profit is that there are no little mistakes, there are only big ones. Everything costs us money, and money is the one thing we can't waste. On top of which there is too much work, and too little help, and no possible way to get everything done. Being late on a project--no matter the reason--is negligence. The only real analogy I have is that most of the time I am a juggler, and all I care about is keeping the balls in the air--I don't care if I do it with grace, or flourish, or manage any fancy tricks: I just don't want to drop anything. But when I do drop something--I find that the thing is the pearl without price, and it doesn't just fall to the soft grass, it falls off a cliff, and shatters into a million pieces.

That, my friends, is a tremendous amount of pressure, and a helluva a guilt trip. I've never learned how to cope with it. Sometimes I find St. Maximilian a help: "Let us prepare to suffer and work, we will rest after death." But let's face it, I'm not so good at the suffering thing, and to work I need rest. Edith Stein's words, quoted here before, only help when I know I have accomplished something--and have to step away leaving it unfinished.

But what do you do when the expectations of those around you are too high for you not to fail? And, worse, when the inevitable happens and you do fail, you fail colossally? When your job is at stake? When the livelihood of your institution is at stake?

My situation is not so dire as all that, but it is true that I made a big mistake first thing this morning. And that, though I have been doing this for a long time I still feel like I am treading water, because I haven't learned to swim. And that one more wave will sink me.

Edith Stein Novena Day 2

Day 2 ­ Sunday, August 2nd, 1942
Carmel of Echt, Holland

What happened that day in the Carmel of Echt, is now known the world over; but the circumstances need to be recalled.

The Catholic Bishops of Holland had issued a joint protest against the deportation of Dutch Jews by the Nazis, which they instructed was to be read out at every Mass in all churches on Sunday, July 26th. Prior to that, the Bishops had procured an exemption from deportation for Catholics of Jewish origin, from the Nazi authorities, who accorded the privilege on condition that the persons concerned had belonged to a Christian organization before January 1941.

The pastoral letter of the Bishops created apprehension about the possibility of a Nazi reaction; it was soon forthcoming. On August 2nd, Christians of Jewish origin of every religious community in the country were arrested and carried off by the Gestapo. The General-Commissar Schmidt announced publicly, that he was taking reprisals for the pastoral letter of the 26th July. He specified, saying:

"We are compelled to regard the Catholic Jews as our worst enemies and consequently see to their deportation to the East with all possible speed."

The savage reaction of the Nazis to the pastoral letter of the Dutch Bishops is what motivated His Holiness, Pius XII, to withhold and destroy his own protest which he had already composed. If such be the reaction to the protest of the Dutch Bishops, he argued, what might not be the reaction to a protest of the Pope. On his orders, the monasteries and convents throughout Italy had taken in Jewish refugees fleeing the persecution of the Germans. The Vatican itself was fill to overflowing with Jews who had come to its doors seeking refuge.

In execution of the decision of General-Commissar Schmidt, two S.S. men turned up at the Carmel of Echt to carry off our Saint Edith and her sister, Rosa, in a police-van.

The deportation of our Martyr and her sister was an act, undertaken in hatred of the faith, as a reprisal for the condemnation of the Nazi persecution of the Jews by the Catholic Hierarchy of Holland; that our Martyr was of Jewish origin, would not in itself, have furnished a sufficient cause for her deportation and death.

Gospel Reading

"Turning to the Chief Priests, the officers of the temple police and the elders who had come to seize him, he said: ‘Do you take me for a bandit that you have come out with swords and cudgels to arrest me? Day after day, when I was in the temple with you, you kept your hands off me. But this is your moment - the hour when darkness reigns!’ Then they arrested him and led him away." Luke 22: 52-53

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be
(Any suitable prayer may be said here)
Saint Edith, Pray For Us!

Source: Association of Hebrew Catholics

August 1, 2010

Edith Stein Novena Day 1

Day 1 ­ Saturday, August 1st, 1942
Carmel of Echt, Holland

It was the last day of freedom for Saint Edith and her sister, Rosa. By then Saint Edith had reached a clear perception of the eschatological nature of the crisis affecting the Jews of Germany and the role she was called upon to play in the drama, as a victim of expiation for her people and for mankind.

As far back as March 26th, 1939, Edith had addressed a petition to her Prioress on a used postcard (for motives of monastic poverty) asking permission to offer herself to Jesus in expiation, that the sway of Antichrist be broken and peace ensue.

"I am asking this, today, because it is already the twelfth hour. I know I am nothing, but Jesus wills it and He will call many more to the same sacrifice in these days."

The manuscript of her book, Science of the Cross, lay on her table; it would never be finished, because the next day, the Gestapo would come to drag her away from the convent. What we read therein is proof of the clarity and courage with which she grasped the call to expiation, key to her earthly destiny.

Around her, the atmosphere was growing heavy with fear and foreboding. A few days earlier (July 28th), her brother, Paul, his wife Eva and their daughter, were sent off to the Theresienstadt Camp. Hede Spiegel, her god-daughter, depressed and distraught, came to the grille of the convent, to pour out her anxieties for the future, anxieties which were shared by Saint Edith’s fellow-Nuns in the Carmel of Echt, where Edith had been sent by her superiors to take refuge from the persecution of the Jews raging in Germany. Edith, in contrast, maintained a rock-like composure and faith in God, which impressed all those in contact with her. The Church has since defined her virtue as heroic.

Gospel Reading

"They were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, Jesus leading the way; the disciples were filled with foreboding, while those following behind were afraid. He took the Twelve aside and began to tell them what was to happen to him. ‘We are now going to Jerusalem,’ he said, ‘and the Son of Man will be given up to the Chief Priests and the doctors of the Law. They will condemn him to death and hand him over to the foreign power. He will be mocked and spat upon, flogged and killed.’" Mark 10: 32-34

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be
(Any suitable prayer may be said here)
Saint Edith, Pray for Us!

Photo: Edith Stein as a Child

Source: Association of Hebrew Catholics
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