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St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein) on Faith and Reason

Today is the Memorial for St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, a German Jewess who converted to Catholicism, became a Carmelite nun, and was gassed by the Nazis at Auschwitz.  Here’s a short biography.

Her thoughts on faith and reason came to mind today as I heard the  priest say a few words about her at the beginning of Mass (I’m quoting from “ESSAY 2: How We Believe…”

“St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein) explored the relationship between philosophy and theology, or equivalently, between faith and reason. In her work, Finite and Eternal Being, she proposed a hierarchy, that faith went beyond rational knowledge:

‘Since the ultimate ground of all existence [alles Seienden] is unfathomable, everything which is seen in this ultimate perspective moves into that ‘dark light’ of faith, and everything intelligible is placed in a setting with an incomprehensible background.’
–St. Teresa Benedicta, “Finite and Eternal Being,” p.25

I’ll put this another way:  the fundamental question we ask is “Why are we here?”   Science might be able to say how our physical bodies came to be here, but science can’t answer the question: “Why did we come to be.   Science would respond: “that question is meaningless, can’t be answered by scientific methods.”  Only faith can give a satisfactory answer to that why question.”

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Bob Kurland, Ph.D.

Retired, cranky, old physicist. Convert to Catholicism in 1995. Trying to show that there is no contradiction between what science tells us about the world and our Catholic faith. Intermittent blogs and adult education classes to achieve this end (see http://rationalcatholic.blogspot.com/ and http://home.ptd.net/~rkurland). Extraordinary Minister of Communion, volunteer to federal prison and hospital; lector, EOMC. Sometime player of bass clarinet, alto clarinet, clarinet, bass, tenor bowed psaltery for parish instrumental group and local folk group.

2 Comments

  1. I visited Auschwitz in May 2018. We visited on a Thursday and it was full of visitors. Quite a few were silently weeping, young and old alike. I visited the gas chamber that they retained; it could have been where St. Teresa Benedicta died (and I saw the starvation cell where St. Maximilian Kolbe died). I suppose her life (and 17 volumes she wrote) speak more to her impact on the Church but imagining her last walk through the doors to her death and then being tossed into a blazing oven touches me, especially as I contemplate her photo at the top of this post. My question: What do we hold on to at the end and are we ready?. I pray I am. Bob – thanks for the post and God bless you, you cranky old physicist! Please pray for my son-in-law as he, too, is a physicist but has left the Catholic Church, is a professor at a University, and now believes only in himself…

  2. Aug 10 The atheist exists. God is. The sovereign person exists in the image and likeness of the Supreme Sovereign Being. (There can be only one Supreme Sovereign Being as two preempt each other. Strange gods are either personifications of other men, or nature, or imaginings, or lies of the devil. Only The Supreme Sovereign Being is infinite and immutable truth.) The sovereign person institutes the sovereign state with his sovereign personhood. Without the sovereign personhood of the sovereign person there can be no sovereign state.
    Unless the sovereign person chooses freely to institute the sovereign state through his sovereign personhood, there can be no state. The state ceases to exist when the sovereign person is denied the exercise of his sovereign personhood. This is important, especially today as atheism and communism and totalitarianism deny the existence of God and threaten the existence of the sovereignty of the person, making of man a beast of burden to the state, that is, owned by some other person who denigrates and despises the reality of the image and likeness of The Supreme Sovereign Being in his neighbor.
    The difference between Faith and Reason, theology and philosophy is the difference between the infinite and the finite. The difference between the infinite and the finite is the difference between The Supreme Sovereign Being and the sovereign man. The difference between the sovereign man and the state is the difference between the Creator and the created, the creature. The state is the second generation creature created by the first creature, man.
    Only Jesus Christ in the Hypostatic Union is true Man and true God. The Son of God is infinite Truth. Tell your son-in-law that if he exists, then God is. Man is the glory of God and the greatest proof that God is.

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