An Unflinching Theological Aesthetic | The Russell Kirk Center

When it comes to the saints, the power of their stories is rooted in their mysterious interiority. One of the most haunting poems in The Hanging God is “Some Will Remember You,” which is addressed to Edith Stein/St. Teresa Benedicta. Born to a German Jewish family, Stein was a brilliant philosopher who converted to Catholicism in 1922 and joined the Carmelites after reading St. Teresa of Avila’s autobiography: “The interior mountain beckoned you to climb, / The floors of the self-darkened room first creaked. / You wrote out what you saw and then sought stillness.” The Nazis later killed Stein at Auschwitz: “After the smoke, bones left forgotten, / Your jotted notes shut in a metal trunk, / As others bore reprisals and arrests, / Your thought lived in the study of a priest.” The second section of the poem begins: “In evil times and aftertimes, in times / When all the stubbled fields of action smolder, / Bowed heads can’t help but make their patient study / Of how the person worlds.” It goes on to depict a young Karol Wojtyła sitting in his wired room behind the Iron Curtain reading Stein’s words aloud “for all / The stashed and sensitive microphones to hear. / In those times, your words, carried on the quiet, / Fostered his own. Thought, act, and judging person, / The self in solitude revealing God, / Clicked like the murdered signal of your voice / Across a telegraph and moved his hand.” She becomes “A sainted sign / Named Edith Stein” whose mysterious love and fortitude nourished by the contemplative life contrasts sharply with the reductionist ideologies of the twentieth century.
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