St. Edith Stein is the patron saint of our school because she clearly articulated, and fully embodied, the qualities of an extraordinary and exemplary woman. The soul of a woman, in her own words, “must be expansive, quiet, warm, clear, self-contained, empty of itself, and mistress of itself”.
In her essays on the spirituality and education of women, Stein suggests ways in which these attributes could be fostered. Her works have been foundational in the forming of our school’s mission statement and curriculum. We place special emphasis on St. Edith Stein’s following insights regarding the education of women:
- The importance of the study of emotionally formative subjects (literature, history and art)
- The need for a well-formed intellect
- The additional necessity for the formation of practical intelligence for women, achieved by engaging in concrete tasks
- Religious education as the most important component of education
- And finally, the desirability of women teaching women
St. Edith Stein was a Jewish German philosopher who converted to the Catholic Faith, became a Carmelite nun, and in her life and writings expressed profound insights into the ideal of womanhood before she gave up her life in Auschwitz concentration camp as an offering for the conversion of her people.
Drawing upon her profound meditations on the work of St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Edith Stein insisted that gender is an intrinsic quality of the soul and that:
“The relationship of soul and body is different in man and woman; the relationship of soul to body differs in their psychic life as well as that of the spiritual faculties to each other. The feminine species expresses a unity and wholeness of the total psychosomatic personality and a harmonious development of faculties.”(1)
At St. Edith Stein Academy, the entire curriculum and ambience of the school address this unique vocation of woman to motherhood, whether in Religious Life, in Holy Marriage, or in another form of service to the Kingdom of God.
In the words of a contemporary Catholic philosopher, St. Edith Stein saw the unlimited nurturing quality of motherhood in woman, not simply as a natural function that involves bonding with a child emotionally, educating and protecting offspring, but as
“a mysterious and unique quality given by God to the woman in such a way that her entire being is spiritually attuned to the deep intimate quality of motherhood(2).”
1. St. Edith Stein, Woman: The Collected Works of Edith Stein, Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Discalced Carmelite (Washington, D.C.: ICS Publications, 1996), 187-188.
2. Aurora Restrepo, The Two Shall Become One: The Creation of Adam and Eve as the Foundation of the Church’s Teaching on Holy Marriage (Rome: Human Life International and Kolbe Center for the Study of Creation, 2015), p. 159.