Saturday, January 08, 2011

Recommended Reading: Edith Stein: Life in a Jewish Family

A book about a former Jewish atheist who converted and was later canonized may seem an odd choice for Advent reading but this is the book I chose. It is the unfinished autobiography of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, formerly Edith Stein. Her autobiography was interrupted by her arrest and ultimate death at the hands of the Nazis.

This book which spans many years in the writer's life is fascinating in its frankness in telling her family's story. In the first part she shares the good times and the hardships growing up in the family home. She is very open with the stories of problems and struggles within the family. I was surprised by the family disputes, quarrels and rivalries that she shared. I felt grateful to her for taking me, the reader into her confidence and trusting me enough to share what she did. Edith Stein, who wrote this after becoming a Catholic did not want to portray her family as a holy family but a normal family with normal every day troubles.

Because she wrote this autobiography as a Catholic, she makes references to certain situations from a Catholic perspective even though it involved Jewish individuals.

The second part of the book is filled with her memories of her time as a student. She was a student of philosophy in Germany. During that time period Europe was the mecca for academia and art. She was a member of a philosophical society in which one of its founders was none other than Dietrich von Hildrebrand another famous Catholic convert.

Her first cousin was mathematician Richard Courant.  He co-authored a well-known book on mathematics with Herbert Robbins entitled What is Mathematics.  In the Stein autobiography she speaks in a warm way of her cousin, with whom she had a close relationship. 

"The further removed things are from mathematics, the more complicated they are; and nothing is as far removed from mathematics as housekeeping." - Nelli Courant, mathematician and wife of Richard Courant. Nelli was not very well equipped to be a housewife according to Edith Stein.

The manuscript continues on until it is abruptly stopped. Sad that it was never to be completed.  But then again, we all know how it turns out.

This book can be ordered at EWTN Religious Catalog


scmom (Barbara) said...

I am reading Meet Edith Stein right now -- fascinating woman! Thanks for the tip.

Esther G. said...

Barbara, I will have to check out that book too. Thanks.