Edith Stein. A life for truth


‘This exhibition is dedicated to Sister Teresa Benedetta della Croce, better known by her original name, Edith Stein, who the Pope will proclaim a saint next October. Born at Breslau, in Silesia, to a Jewish family in 1891, when she was just over twenty years old she was already known in German cultural circles as the assistant of the philosopher Edmund Husserl, founder of phenomenology. Converted to Catholicism, she distinguished herself for her strong cultural commitment and lay apostolate on such topical matters as the female question, which she addressed in the light of Christian philosophy. At the same time, she studied Saint Thomas and the Philosophy perennis and re-elaborated contemporary philosophical schools, coming into contact with the Catholic intelligentsia of the time with meetings and trips abroad. Thus she completed and examined in greater detail the quest for truth begun following the encounter with Husserl’s phenomenology. This quest for truth had found its natural humus in her Jewish family, in which her mother had given testimony of a concrete and practised Jewish faith, tied to the events and traditions of the Chosen People. Affected in childhood by the death of her father, along the path towards the acknowledgement of Christ and the Cross, of fundamental importance was the discovery of suffering experienced in the Christian way through her friend Anna Reinach, the widow of her colleague and friend, Adolfo Reinach. The final meeting with Catholicism occurred incidentally by reading the autobiography of Saint Teresa of Avila while a guest at the house of her friends Martius at Gottingen. She devoured the book throughout the night and, when she finally closed it, she had to confess to herself: this is the truth. After ten years of intense apostolate, cultural work and in-depth consideration of her experience of faith, the Nazis came to power, with consequent impediment of any teaching. This convinced her that God was indicating the road for the fulfilment of her vocation in the Carmel, something she had desired from the offset. It was not an easy decision to take, a decision that could have been mistaken as a flight from danger. Edith Stein on the other hand lived it as the fulfilment of the total offering up of herself, right up to the last sacrifice. Thus when, during the course of a roundup of Jews converted to Catholicism, two German officers came to arrest her in Echt monastery in Holland, where she was staying, she said to her sister: Come, let us go for our people. And so, the journey towards truth found in accepted and offered sacrifice its fulfilment and its acme, in the horror of the concentration camp, reliving the sacrifice of Christ, man’s only truth. The exhibition has been organised by Father Antonio Sangalli in conjunction with the order of the Carmel of Germany and in particular with that of Cologne where the biggest archive of documents on Edith Stein is to be found. It illustrates her life through texts, a complete series of photographic documents and various objects that belonged to her, especially manuscripts and first editions of her works, including the last, the Science of the Cross, a study of Saint John of the Cross, which was never finished.’


23 Agosto 1998 - 29 Agosto 1998


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