Edith Stein as a Teacher of Empathy and Spirituality

Course on Carmelite Mysticism Focuses on Saint

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ROME, DEC. 8, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Edith Stein is a teacher of empathy, humanity, interior life and liturgical spirituality, said a number of specialists attending an intensive course on Carmelite mysticism.

The course, at Rome’s pontifical theological faculty Teresianum, focused on Stein (1891-1942), now St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross and a co-patroness of Europe.

Carmelite Father Jesús Castellano, vice president of the Teresianum, presented Stein as a «teacher of liturgical spirituality.» The saint formed part of the German liturgical renewal movement of the 1930s, he said, and she was «impressed by Christian liturgy, specifically the Catholic.»

Father Castellano, a consultor of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, referred to Stein’s stay at the Benedictine Abbey of Beuron, Germany, fulcrum of the liturgical renewal of the time.

According to the Carmelite, «the liturgical aspect in Edith Stein has not had the attention it merits.»

Among the saint’s liturgical texts, Father Castellano highlighted the one that expressed a desire to make the Eucharist the center of life — the need «to move from the liturgical experience of presence, sacrifice and communion, to a pedagogy of life,» he said.

«St. Edith Stein is a teacher because she was first a disciple of the crucified God,» said philosopher Analiza Margarino.

«To see Edith as a teacher of empathy is to see her as a teacher of relation,» Margarino said. «For her, empathy did not mean to be assimilated to the other but to be in the world and take care of the other, to accept him in his own identity.»

Stein’s position against relativism was addressed by Marco Paolinelli. For Stein, he said, «the Truth is not relative, it is eternal, and it is the spirit that finds Truth and does not produce it.» Paolinelli also highlighted the saint’s stress on «the human person and objective Truth.»

Carmelite Javier Sancho Fermin, director of the St. Teresa/St. John International Center of Avila, a future university focused on mysticism, referred to what he called «the journey of an atheist woman who went from Judaism to atheism and finally to the Catholic faith.»

The «foundation of her life was great trust and absolute abandonment to God,» Father Fermin said.

The saint died in a gas chamber in Auschwitz on Aug. 9, 1942.

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