By Tom Quiner
On Mother’s Day yesterday, I posted this quote by Edith Stein:
“The destiny of every woman is to be bride and mother.”
A faithful Quiner’s Diner reader (and detractor) pushed back:
“This is vile. The destiny of every woman is to do whatever happens, and thankfully we all have more options open to us than to be appendages to men and broodmares. How insulting to infertile women and women who never have a partner for whatever reason!”
Interestingly, the Nazis agreed that Ms. Stein’s writings were vile.
Ms. Stein was a Catholic convert who took the name, Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. She became a Discalced Carmelite nun and leading philosopher of her day. Her writings on “woman” were considered dangerous by the Nazis for the way Stein synthesized traditional Catholic theology with modern feminism.
Writing in L’Osservatore Romano, the official Vatican newspaper, Igino Giordani talks about Stein’s watershed book, “Woman:”
“In the articles collected in this book, Edith Stein studies the nature and duties of women with an exceptional perception that illuminates the mission of women in social existence, and hers is a high and noble insight that cannot be compared with the sham philosophy of certain glossy magazines. Edith Stein looks at woman in the light of nature and grace and she always represents her in this completeness, made of human and divine values.”
Stein, who was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1998, wrote about the ‘deepest needs of women:’
“To become what one must be, to unfold and mature in the best way one’s hidden humanity…, to make it mature in that union of love that alone can animate this rigorous process, and at the same time, drive others toward perfection and maturity: this is the deepest need of woman… A specifically feminine need”.
In other words, women are nurturers, with a critical ministry to lead us to Christ.
Stein’s philosophy certainly doesn’t square with the modern feminist, who embraces a different, relativistic theology.
Secular feminism of today rejects the idea of divine values, focusing more on equality and power. Reproduction is very much viewed as a disease by the modern feminist.
One such feminist expressed these views in Slate Magazine yesterday, apologizing for the “worst thing” she had ever done to her mother, “hijacking her uterus at the moment of conception.” Yes, the writer, Rebecca Helm, writes about pregnancy much like the daughter in the womb is a life-sucking vampire:
“Just when you thought I couldn’t get any more demanding, I started actively invading your blood supply. This is where humans are especially destructive. No other animal is so ruthless in its invasion. For most animal species, Mom’s blood vessels remain safely hers, but humans are not like most animals.”
In fairness to my Quiner’s Diner detractor mentioned at the outset, my wife said she understood her chagrin. The Stein quote suggests to some that single or infertile women have no destiny, no dignity. This is certainly not what Edith Stein or the Catholic Church believes. Not at all.
As a religious, Stein herself was celibate, but nonetheless in a sacramental relationship with Christ.
The Catholic Church considers chaste, unmarried women and men to be engaged in a noble vocation. The Catechism of the Catholic Church honors them:
“The virtue of chastity blossoms in friendship. It shows the disciple how to follow and imitate him who has chosen us as his friends,134 who has given himself totally to us and allows us to participate in his divine estate. Chastity is a promise of immortality.”
What about women and men who are sterile? The Church explains that God doesn’t owe each of us children, that in fact, each child is a gift from God. Nonetheless, the Church honors the dignity of these marriages, and suggests good can come from these situations:
“Spouses who still suffer from infertility after exhausting legitimate medical procedures should unite themselves with the Lord’s Cross, the source of all spiritual fecundity. They can give expression to their generosity by adopting abandoned children or performing demanding services for others.”
Ultimately, the Nazis didn’t like her message which put God ahead of state, just as modern feminists don’t like the way it puts God ahead of self:
“This must be the purpose of the education of girls: to make them enthusiastic about the ideal of making their lives a mysterious symbol of that union which Christ contracted with his Church, with redeemed humanity. The girl who comes to marriage must know that marriage has this sublime symbolic meaning, and that she must honour in her husband the image of the Lord“.
The Nazis executed Edith Stein at Auschwitz in 1942.
To this day, the message of Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross challenges us.