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Archive for August, 2009

“Since Mary is the prototype of pure womanhood, the imitation of Mary must be the goal of girls’ education. Since the dispensing of graces is entrusted to the hands of the Queen of Heaven, we will find our way to the goal not only by keeping our eyes raised to her but by maintaining a personal trusting association with her. But the imitation of Mary is not fundamentally different from the imitation of Christ because Mary is the first Christian to follow Christ, and she is the first and most perfect model of Christ. Indeed, that is why the imitation of Mary is not only relevant to women but to all Christians. But she has a special significance for women, one in accord with their nature, for she leads them to the feminine form of the Christian image.”
(Essays on Woman ICS Collected Works of Edith Stein p. 201)

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The attributes of a woman’s soul are termed by Edith Stein in her Essays on Woman as expansive, quiet, empty of self, warm and clear. The soul of a woman must have these attributes because of her nature which is determined by her original vocation – that of spouse and mother. The one depending on the other.

” The body of woman is fashioned ‘to be one flesh’ with another and to nurse new human life in itself. A well-disciplined body is an accommodating instrument for the mind which animates it; at the same time, it is a source of power and a habitat for the mind. Just so, woman’s soul is designed to be subordinate to man in obedience and support; it is also fashioned to be a shelter in which other souls may unfold. Both spiritual companionship and spiritual motherliness are not limited to the physical spouse and mother relationships, but they extend to all people with whom woman comes into contact.” (Essays on Woman, ICS Edith Stein Collected Works Vol. 2 p. 132)

The soul of woman must be expansive: “open to all human beings”. Women naturally are interested in others and relationships. This natural bent can become one of curiosity and could lead to delving into areas of peoples lives and circumstances that degrades into unfruitful things like gossiping. But if the woman’s soul goes out to others in search of and in order to bring out the hidden treasure that rests in every human soul, profit will come to her. It will also profit her if she is able to search and bring out the burden that is laid on every human soul. This requires the soul to go out of itself, not remaining outside, but seeking the other and the other’s good.

The soul of woman must be quiet: if a woman’s soul is constantly in commotion, filled with noise and easily agitated it will be unable to have the ears for those soft imperceptible voices that seek refuge in her soul so that they can find peace. Souls in commotion feel the urge to express the agitation within them and no other soul will want to be near it. It is in quiet women that others seek refuge from their disquiet and noise in order to find the rest and peace they need.

The soul of woman must be empty of self and self-contained: there will be room and quiet in the soul when the agitated self is gone and once quiet the soul can make oneself perceptible to others. To be empty of all selfishness and self-love is something no soul can do of itself. God must do it. Once emptied then the soul is capable of receiving. This is what God wants, to give Himself completely to her. Once He is there her soul can give Him to others.

The soul of woman must be warm: women come by this naturally, although not constantly. Often the soul fails to be warm when it is most needed. Instead of being warm, sparks fly! Thus, becoming fire destroying what should have been warmed. It is the heavenly fire of Divine love that consumes what is impure.

The soul of woman is clear: once all impurities have been removed and the soul illuminated by the Divine Light then all is bright, pure and clear. Contrary to this, the soul of woman appears dark and opaque to others and to herself.

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Edith Stein in her Essays on Woman was concerned with women’s education. Seeing that women just as men are individuals , she insisted that individuality be taken into consideration in educational work. Keep in mind that in speaking of education she is speaking of formation, the formation of the person. As human beings, men and women are given a common goal which is “to be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.” For this educational goal our eyes are to look on Jesus Christ. “To become His likeness is everyone’s goal. To be formed to this through Christ Himself is the path for us all as members bound to Him as head.”

“Whoever relinquishes himself unconditionally to this formation, not only will nature in its purity be restored in him but he will grow beyond nature and become an other Christ.”

Since her interest was on woman she drew for us a picture of woman’s soul that would correspond to the eternal vocation of woman. She termed the attributes of woman’s soul as expansive, quiet, empty of self, warm and clear.

“Now I am asked to say something regarding how one might come to possess these qualities. I believe that it is not a matter of a multiplicity of attributes which we can tackle and acquire individually; it is rather a single total condition of the soul, a condition which is envisaged here in these attributes from various aspects. We are not able to attain this condition by willing it, it must be effected through grace. What we can and must do is open ourselves to grace; that means to renounce our own will completely and to give it captive to the divine will, to lay our whole soul, ready for reception and formation, into God’s hands.”

(Essays on Woman, Edith Stein) St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

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Wordless Wednesday

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Tomorrow, August 26th, is the memorial of St. Teresa of Jesus’s Tranverberation. St. Teresa was best known for her love of God. Jesus Christ increased this virtue and many others in this saint. She experienced many visions and revelations from Christ. One time she saw an angel with a flaming dart piercing her heart. She explains this mystical experience in her autobiography, chapter 19:

“I saw an angel beside me toward the left side, in bodily form…He was not very large, but small, very beautiful, his face so blazing with light that he seemed to be one of the very highest angels, who appear all on fire. They must be those they call Cherubim…I saw in his hands a long dart of gold, and at the end of the iron there seemed to me to be a little fire. This I thought he thrust through my heart several times, and that it reached my very entrails. As he withdrew it, I thought it brought them with it, and left me all burning with a great love of God. So great was the pain, that it made me give those moans; and so utter the sweetness that this sharpest of pains gave me, that there was no wanting it to stop, nor is there any contenting of the soul with less than God”.

This heavenly gift, this flame of divine love in her heart, which penetrated her being and made her so strong that she vowed to always do what seemed to her most perfect and for God’s glory.

St. John of the Cross explains this fire of love in his work The Living Flame of Love:

“When he wills to touch somewhat vehemently, the soul’s burning reaches such a high degree of love that it seems to surpass that of all the fires of the world: for he is an infinite fire of love. Because the soul in this case is entirely transformed by the divine flame, it not only feels a cautery, but has become a cautery of blazing fire.”

“…it does not afflict it: rather, commensurate with the strength of the love, it divinized and delights it, burning gently.”

May God’s love transform our hearts and may our love of God grow, blazing like fire, burning gently.

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“Forgetfulness of created things,
remembrance of the Creator,
attention turned toward inward things,
and loving the Beloved.”
~St. John of the Cross

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“He was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said, “Lord teach us to pray…” (Lk 11:1) “He said to them, ‘When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come…” (Lk 11:2)

St. Teresa of Jesus is well known for her commentary on the ‘Our Father’ that takes up the latter part of her work The Way of Perfection. In speaking of the ‘Lord’s Prayer’, St. Teresa stresses the importance of this prayer being an act of love and to have the understanding of who this Father of ours is and “who the Master is who taught us this prayer”. (Way of Perfection ch 24)

Let’s consider how Jesus taught others. “You already know that His Majesty teaches that it be recited in solitude. This is what he always did when he prayed, and not out of any need of his own but for our instruction.” (Way of Perfection ch 24)

Our Lord taught His disciples by His words and more importantly by His example. Consider, for example, how He taught others about mercy in the story of the woman caught in adultery and how He never used the word “mercy”. He merely demonstrated the virtue in who He was and what He did. (John, chapter 8) When reading and meditating on Sacred Scripture it is good to always keep in mind that the Lord is teaching us something through His speech, actions, inaction or His silence.

St. Therese of Lisieux, in her Story of a Soul, desired a director or teacher such as St. Teresa of Jesus would recommend, that is, a director that has knowledge and virtue. One day a good priest told her, “My child, may Our Lord always be your Superior and your Novice Master”. Who other than Jesus could be said to have knowledge and virtue? The saint quickly took Jesus to be her Director and saidit was He who taught me that science hidden from the wise and prudent and revealed to little ones”. (Story of a Soul, chapter 7)

Of course we should not forget those who teach us and have the duty to do so; both saints had recourse to this thought. “There is a large difference in teachers; but it is even a greater misfortune if we forget those who teach us her below. Especially, if they are saints and spiritual masters and we are good disciples.” (Way of Perfection ch 24) St. Therese was quick to say: “I don’t mean by this that I close my soul to my Superiors; far from it, for I tried always to be an open book to them. However, our Mother Prioress, frequently ill, had little time to spend with me.” (Story of a Soul, ch 7)

It is wise to seek out and find wise and prudent spiritual people to help us in our spiritual life. But always keep in mind that Jesus is the Master Teacher.

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