“As I stand in our peaceful choir I cannot thank God enough for having lifted me out of the whirlwind and set me in this profound peace, that I have done nothing to deserve” (Edith Stein, January 1934).
Edith’s six months of probation passed quickly.
Teresia Renata Posselt, O.C.D.
Chapter 14: In the School of Humility (excerpts)
Very Reverend and dear Mother,
Many sincere thanks for your new gifts of love. Our dear Mother [Maria Josefa of the Blessed Sacrament] had to spend a long time yesterday going through all these treasures with me. They will be shown to the [sisters in the] novitiate—who are currently living in joyful anticipation—on Sunday, since at recreation on weekdays we do manual work, according to the wise direction of our Holy Mother [Teresa of Avila] (for which I am very grateful.
You have no idea how little it takes to make Carmel’s children happy, and how munificent your package is for us. I would feel deeply embarrassed by such great love and goodness did I not know that it counts less for my person than for the holy vocation for which I have been chosen without deserving any of it, and which you appreciate so deeply. Therefore, every new token of love is a stimulus to collect all my powers in order to be a less unworthy vas electionis [chosen vessel].
I know well that all I have written to you is colorless. But in comparison with the fullness of grace that each day brings, a poor miserable human soul is so tiny. Yet, compared to what that soul can nevertheless comprehend, all words are inadequate. And when one has to write about this to so many people, one is afraid of making the sacred into something banal.
It would make me so very happy if you were able to come sometime. In the first place because I could then learn a bit more about your concerns that it is possible to put into writing, for you have not ceased to be mea res [my care]. And the more concrete a picture one has, the more one is impelled to come to the aid of our Sisters out there. I think, too, that it would do you good to spend some time with us.
Of course, we have nothing great to offer you—no beautiful liturgy at all, or the like. Only our joyful poverty and our peace. These are so much more easily maintained by us than by those who have to go into battle daily and hourly. Therefore I am always glad when someone is able to derive some strength from it for the [ongoing] struggle…
The Feast of the Purification was my Confirmation Day, so it still has particular significance for me. I will be happy if you remember me especially that day.
But I ask urgently for prayers in the coming weeks, for I know I will have to earn the holy habit with some severe trials. They have already started in that my mother has begun with renewed vigor to oppose the forthcoming decision. It is so hard to witness the pain and the pangs of conscience of such a mother and to be unable to help with any human means.
In faithful remembrance, your grateful
Saint Edith Stein
Letter 165 to Mother Petra Brüning, OSU
26 January 1934
Excerpts from Edith’s last letter before her petition to receive the habit
Note: Learn more about Edith’s life as a novice
Posselt, T 2005, Edith Stein: The Life of a Philosopher and Carmelite, translated from the German by Batzdorff S, Koeppel J, and Sullivan J, ICS Publications, Washington DC.
Stein, E. 1993, Self-Portrait in Letters, 1916-1942, Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Discalced Carmelite, translated from the German by Koeppel, J, ICS Publications, Washington DC.
The image of the Carmelite habit comes from José-María Moreno García / Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
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