What did not lay in my plans,
Lay in God’s plans…
When night comes, and
That everything was patch-work
And much which one had planned
Is left undone,
When so many things
Rouse shame and regret,
Then take all as it is,
Lay it in God’s hands,
And offer it up to Him.
In this way we will be able
To rest in him,
Actually to rest and
To begin the new day
Like a new life.
-Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein)
Allow me to introduce a friend of mine. We first met on an incredible trip to World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany. I happened to be traveling with a Carmelite friar who asked me if I would be interested in visiting the nuns at the order’s nearby convent. When in Cologne, one naturally is.
In a small dark common room, more open than usual due to World Youth Day, I meet a nun who introduces me to a friend of hers. Though her English wasn’t great, she handed me a prayer card with the above prayer written on it, and I knew I had just made a friend. As it turns out, that tiny, dark convent down a forgotten street in Cologne was the home to a Saint. As I chatted with the nun, I heard details about this Saint that confirmed my suspicions—this woman was worth knowing, and knowing well.
As with any friendship, getting to know her was filled with delight and surprise. Not only did she have a fascinating story: Jewish? Atheist?! A convert? — her ideas were both intriguing and brilliant. A series of essay on the subject of womanhood? Friend of the Maritain’s and beloved by John Paul II? Just delightful. Needless to say, our friendship was solidified. I learned all I could about this quiet, dark haired, deep soul; one who just happened to have been a teacher, an internationally known speaker and philosopher. Even more, I wanted to share this friendship with others. I wanted a way to introduce her to my other friends.
For this reason, rather than just propose reading Saint Edith Stein’s (Teresa Benedicta’s) writings, I invited a group of women to work through the Endow study on her life and teachings. Written to be read aloud with a group, it intersperses questions for discussion along with the information, helping women to truly get to know this Saint, so that they too can meet a new friend.
In this way, we were able to avoid a common pitfall. We often get to know Saints as people of the past—they are historical figures because all we do is read ‘about’ them. Often, this is all they are; we fail to make them a part of our community; even though they are more alive than we are, and part of the same community of the Body of Christ. In my experience, nothing makes the Saints come alive more than discussing them with others who also see the beauty of their lives—and the most fruitful way to do this is through an Endow study.
As this Saint’s feast day approaches this year, I encourage you to do the same. Saint Edith Stein is a woman for us—though she lived long ago, she understands so many of the feminist issues that still exist in our culture. For your own sake, get to know her with a group of friends—women who can wrestle with her thoughts with you, considering and discussing her words and teachings. In this way, she becomes a member of the group, a wise friend and guide for your group who reminds you all that in the end, we are made to “rest in Him” no matter how patch-work our days have been.
To learn more about this study, please visit Endow’s website, here. To learn more about Endow, its mission and other studies, please start here. Please also feel free to reach out with questions to [email protected]