Monday, November 25, 2013

Edith Stein, and What's New

Last week I rather unexpectedly ended up spending a lot of solitary time in my parish hall, which is immediately connected to the church proper. In other words, I had about 20 times more "face time" with Jesus in the tabernacle than I normally have in a week.

Which was lovely.

And powerful, and just slightly weird.

Because that's the way my life works.

One of the things I did a lot of was reading this book on the life of Edith Stein:

The more I read by her and about her, the more I am stirred in my soul to the point of being stunned. I wrote about what happened in me on her feast day this year here. That was like a whole bunch of bells going off, alerting me to my need to read everything I can get my hands on by and about her. She resonates with me. But she also thoroughly "schools" me when it comes to moral conduct. Kowabunga! She is just exactly the woman I need walking with me right now. But, of course, the fact that she was a martyr of Auschwitz is more than sobering to me. I would almost say it is just a tad on the scary side.

Here's a quote from a letter she wrote to a fellow former student of her beloved phenomenology mentor,  Edmund Husserl:

I suppose it is good to be able to speak freely with him about ultimate questions. And yet, not only does it increase his own level of responsibility, it also heightens our responsibility for him. Prayer and sacrifice, in my opinion, are much more crucial than anything we can say ... It's very possible that he could be a "chosen instrument" without being in a state of grace. I don't mean that we should judge him, and of course we have every right to hope in God's unfathomable mercy. On the other hand, we have no right to conceal how serious the issues are. After every meeting with him, I come away convinced of my inability to influence him directly, and feeling the urgent necessity of offering some holocaust of my own for him.

I don't have someone in Husserl's exact circumstance in my life, but then again, I myself could write something similar to this in a certain circumstance I do have....

And besides having Edith Stein burrowing into my soul, I am sensing God's call to me to propose a few things in my parish. Hanging in the hall also gave me opportunities for people to strike up conversations with me that normally would not happen. (Yes, that's the way it goes with me; people sit down and start telling me everything, and I listen. Works for me.)

Which reminds me of some things I've learned recently. I realize I don't spend much time at all thinking about what other people must think, about me, about things we are involved in together. This is good to the extent that I don't spend time comparing or being jealous. It is not always so good to the extent that I don't always have a good grasp of others' needs, unless they spell it out to me. People assume a lot, and generally they assume that others think as they do. Which is probably not true, most of the time. I've also learned that I have a certain characteristic that most other people do not share: I regularly deal with deeply personal and even intimate things rather analytically. That doesn't mean that I am cold and distant from their reality. But it does mean just what I said. For, I guess, most people, deeply personal and even intimate things strike the emotions and not the head. I have a deep need to thrash through things, to wrestle with them, to understand (to seek truth, like Edith). For others, these things strike the emotions, and they react emotionally, and then they are done. If it is a "happy" emotion, that lingers, and if it is an uncomfortable emotion, that lingers. In my world, emotions have to be evaluated because of how they are connected to our passions, and it is the movement of the passions that determines the moral value and whether these emotions should be nurtured or whether reason has to step in and turn to soul in a new direction.

Yeah, and I've also had the clearest example yet in my life of what it is like to be hated.

Hah, I'm just thinking how every once in a while someone will ask me "What's new?" If I were honest, I'd read them this blog post. Sometimes I wonder why people ever ask me that. And I wonder what really would be holiest response for me to give when someone asks me that. I have absolutely no idea. Most of the time I am baffled about how best to be myself with others. At least in theory, like when I sit and write on my blog and no one is actually speaking to me.

No comments: