In the 1940s, women weren't expected to be successful in the academic world - especially Jewish women. But Edith Stein wasn't held back by societal expectations. Her writings inspired future saints, her thoughts on womanhood define the New Feminism encouraged by Saint Pope John Paul II, and the story of her life tells of a woman who even the vicious Nazi regime could not silence.
As a teenager, Edith became an avowed atheist and rejected the Jewish faith of her family. It wasn't until she stumbled upon the writings of Saint Theresa of Avila that Edith became interested in the Catholic Church. She converted to Catholicism at age 31.
Breaking gender stereotypes of her era, she then became a Catholic professor in Germany. But when the Nazi Regime’s requirement for the “Aryan certificate” was enforced, she gave up her position and discerned into the Carmelite order.
Her writings on women and philosophy inspired Saint Pope John Paul II. At her canonization Mass in 1998, Pope John Paul II said, “This woman had to face the challenges of such a radically changing century as our own.”
Saint Edith Stein is a saint for the modern woman. She lived her life boldly, and to this day inspires women to do the same. Here are ten quotes that Saint Edith Stein wrote on the dignity of women, the new feminism, and living out the feminine genius:
1. "The world doesn't need what women have, it needs what women are."
2. “Each woman who lives in the light of eternity can fulfill her vocation, no matter if it is in marriage, in a religious order, or in a worldly profession.”
3. “Women comprehend not merely with the intellect but also with the heart.”
4. "The woman's soul is fashioned as a shelter in which other souls may unfold."
5. "This is a serious warning cry: Surrender without reservation to the Lord who has called us. This is required of us so that the face of the earth may be renewed."
6. "The destiny of every woman is to be a bride and mother."
7. "Woman naturally seeks to embrace that which is living, personal, and whole. To cherish, guard, protect, nourish and advance growth is her natural, maternal yearning.”
8. "Let go of your plans."
9. "When you seek truth, you seek God whether you know it or not.”
10. "The soul of woman must be expansive and open to all human beings, it must be quiet so that no small weak flame will be extinguished by stormy winds; warm so as not to benumb fragile buds … empty of itself, in order that extraneous life may have room in it; finally, mistress of itself and also of its body, so that the entire person is readily at the disposal of every call."
Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, pray for us! Strive alongside us on our journey to the Lord's heart and inspire us as women to live out the feminine genius in our daily life with ferocious courage.