by The Reverend Dr. Stacey Rand
Edith Stein (Teresa Benedicta of the Cross) (1891-1942) was a German-Jewish philosopher, who later became a discalced Carmelite nun. She completed her doctoral thesis on the subject of empathy at the Universities of Göttingen and Freiburg. Her studies were briefly interrupted in 1915 by a period of voluntary service as nurse. Afterwards she worked for two years as an assistant to her doctoral supervisor, Edmund Husserl. Her attempts to establish herself in an academic career as a philosopher were not successful because she was a woman. While other avenues had started to open for women, academic philosophy was not one of them. Instead, she found other ways to pursue her philosophical work, alongside a teaching position at a Dominican school in Speyer (1923 to 1931). Her thought, writing and friendships led her to explore questions of faith. An important moment was when she read The Interior Castle, by the 16th Century Carmelite nun, Teresa of Avila, whilst visiting a friend. She was baptised in the Catholic Church on 1st January 1922. While she had hoped to become a Carmelite nun, her spiritual director advised her to wait. It was not until 1933 that she entered the Carmelite monastery in Cologne. This was after she had been forced to resign from her recently-appointed post as lecturer at the Institute for Scientific Pedagogy, Münster, due to legislation passed by the Nazis. She later transferred from Cologne, along with her sister Rosa Stein, who had become an extern sister, to a Carmelite monastery in Echt, the Netherlands. Edith and her sister were arrested on 2nd August 1942 along with over 200 other baptised Jews, in an act of retaliation for a statement issued by the Dutch Bishops against the Nazis. They were imprisoned before being deported to Auschwitz, where they were killed on 9th August 1942.
The Reverend Dr Stacey Rand is a senior research fellow at the University of Kent, where her research focuses on family care, community-based social care, and social care outcomes measurement. She has been an associate of the Third Order of Carmel since September 2012 and is part of the Carmelite Companions of the Way (CCTW), an ecumenical dispersed community. She is currently a MTh student at the Carmelite Institute of Britain and Ireland (cibi.ie)