St Edith Stein (1881-1942) came from a large German Jewish family. Very bright and academically inclined, she had a brilliant university career in philosophy and became assistant to the famous philosopher Edmund Husserl. She had considered herself an atheist since she was thirteen, but by her mid-twenties she was again reflecting on questions about God, without wishing to commit herself. Then one night at a friend’s place she dipped into the autobiography of St Teresa of Avila, sat up all night to finish it, and decided to become a Catholic. She was already well-known as a philosopher and as an advocate for women in the early German feminist movement when Nazi anti-Semitic laws excluded her from public life.
In 1933 she joined the Carmelite nuns and her writings took on a much more mystical character. Despite a move to Holland which was thought would save her, Edith and her sister Rosa were arrested at the Carmel of Echt on 2 August 1942 and shipped to Auschwitz. They were dead a week later. Edith’s last recorded words were: “Come, Rosa, let us go for our people.” She stands for study, wisdom, heroism, the search for God, acceptance of what cannot be changed, and of all that binds Judaism and Christianity together. Her feast is celebrated on 9 August.
God of the Covenant, walking always with us, guide us on the way of acceptance, understanding, respecting all ways to you, reconciliation. Help us to know that racism and reconciliation are not abstracts but allies. Give us the courage to replace fear with welcome. Grant us the love to be peacemakers. And lead us to discover in Saint Edith Stein that trust in you that is the only way to bringing peace to this battered world.
Edith Stein’s House Charity is the Movember Foundation and since 2017 we have donated funds specifically to their men’s mental health and suicide prevention programs, and to support prostate and testicular cancer research. The Movember Foundation was set up in 2003 by former Whitefriars College students, Adam Garone, Travis Garone, Luke Slattery (Class of 1991) and it is now a global fundraising foundation. Our focus in Stein House is to raise awareness of important men’s health issues and to support programs and research done within Australia. To support our House Charity, we have House raffles and fund-raising blitz weeks, along with our annual ‘Movember in May’ drive that aims to promote greater understanding of these men’s health issues and initiatives, both within Stein and the wider College community. Representatives of Movember have visited the Stein students on our House Feast Day, and have spoken to the whole College community at College Assemblies.