despair Edith Stein

Life Is Worth Living

6:00:00 AMJoe Rooney

Have you ever walked across the street and wished that a bus would speed by and end your life suddenly? 

Edith Stein did.

When Edith was at the University of Breslau, she was used to “being the best”. She excelled at everything she applied herself too. She asserted every ounce of willpower into her work. Her life was so dedicated to the particular tasks in front of her that she became addicted to their triumphal completion. Her life was geared towards success. Not unlike some people I know.

But when Edith entered the University of Goettingen, “she found herself among some superior minds.” (1) Edith was not simply applying her talents to these good occupations of study and work, but she was being devoured by them. Or as the expression goes, “she was consumed by her work.” There was a loss of herself. She was eaten by what she loved: success. Her accomplishments meant so much to her that she allowed them to rule her.

She lost her footing…For months she led a hectic life, working from six a.m. until midnight, just grabbing a sandwich in between….Edith had reached such a state of despair. (2)

How similar this can be to my own life, and the lives of many of my college friends.

But this disposition can be foolish.

And practically speaking, foolish. If Edith really cared about the work she was doing, she would be more careful with herself.  In caring so much about succeeding in the particular tasks of her life, she lost sight of the beauty of her own life. And in losing sight of her own life, she also lost sight of those tasks which are a part of her life.  

In the name of success, she almost failed.

She gave herself over to her work so fully that she wanted to be killed by a bus. If she were killed, she certainly would not have accomplished any work.

But there is a greater danger. Not only does she fail in respect to accomplishments, but she lost touch with the beauty of her life.

Where are your priorities? 

Do you care so much about getting everything done that you put yourself in a place where life does not make sense? In these times, you are confused and life seems to be about nothing but drudgery.

I am driven to succeed. 

And often, I take my identity in this. When we associate ourselves with what we can do, then we are setting ourselves up for disaster. If who I am is what I do, then when I fail (which inevitably happens in life), if follows that ‘who we are’ is a failure. If you are sleep deprived and malnourished, something in your life has to change. This is not how you are meant to live. Even if it means taking an extra semester to graduate or going into a little more debt. 

That little extra debt is not worth the cost of your sanity. If it causes you to think life is not worth living, then it is not worth doing.

If you are doing too much, there is a simple solution: do less. Slow down. Be sure you are getting proper nourishment and rest.  Retreat from the world occasionally so that you can recollect yourself. For Edith, one of the things that restored her peace was the music of Bach.

Remember: life is “such a precious gift.” (3)
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Joseph Rooney
What would you say if I told you I wanted to become a priest and be martyred in Russia? Indeed, I am in formation for the priesthood, and I hope to do missionary work in Russia, although, "martyrdom" is not actually part of the plan.



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(1) Alice von Hildebrand, Dietrich von Hildebrand and Edith Stein, Roman Catholic Books (Fort Collins, 2013). 24 
(2) Hildebrand,  Hildebrand and Stein. 25
(3) Hildebrand, Hildebrand and Stein. 25


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2 comments

  1. A thought-provoking article! I've found a new friend in Edith Stein!

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