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Saturday, October 1, 2016
Aylesford: dedication of North Barn as Edith Stein Centre
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┬áThe 17th century North Barn, now restored with help from the Heritage Lottery Fund, was blessed and dedicated as the Edith Stein centre by Archbishop Kevin McDonald of Southwark yesterday. The Archbishop spoke of Aylesford as a place of encounter and hoped the centre would further enable encounters between Christians and encourage interfaith work. Tessa Hilder, Regional Manager of the Heritage Lottery Fund was delighted that the project they had helped would preserve heritage and be a venue for the community at large. In an enthusiastic talk in the afternoon Fr Matthew Blake ODC helped the person of Edith Stein come alive. Edith, who was Prussian and Jewish, grew up in Breslau in the early years of the 20th century and unusually for a young woman of the time, made her way in the world of academia being an outstanding student of the philosopher Edmund Husserl. However, Edith suffered a crisis of faith, becoming an atheist. She was involved in campaigning for women's rights and was so committed to Germany's r˘le in the War that she enrolled as a nurse. However, the personal sufferings of her friends drew her to Christianity and reading St Teresa's life brought her to Catholicism. As a Catholic she was involved as an educator and lecturer but the constraints of the times prevented her getting a lectureship in universities. People remember her as a gentle, slim woman with dark hair and eyes that drew you to her. She was a person at peace with herself and immensely human. She was a loyal friend and one who came to see that Jesus is the truth who underpins humanity. As the Nazis took over in Germany Edith, because of her Jewish blood, became unemployable and she took this negative and made it positive by entering Carmel in Cologne in 1933. Here she developed her philosophical stance and tried to situate 20th century movements in a Christian context. Jesus was for her the source of wisdom and guidance - she believed in dialogue. Her writings on the Cross give insight into her death in Auschwitz - a saving grace in the darkness. Edith was never superficial, she was willing to change and be changed. Change for her was at the heart of Christianity. Saying yes to Jesus allows him to open us up to the new and unknown. She died because she was Jewish and may her legacy be to help Christians and Jews come to a new place where they live in peace and respect. I found the statue of Edith by Geoff Lucas - the young, reflective woman - a wonderful icon giving a special dimension to Fr Matt Blake's words.
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