Usually Edie plays hide and seek whenever I put my hand on Sarah’s tummy. But last night, my daughter was dancing, I tell ya’.
Edith’s been a permanent fixture in my mind, heart and prayers since we first discovered she’d been brought into existence…from nothing, I might add. Okay, so yeah, in the beauty of our mutual self-gift, Sarah and I provided the biological, material elements. But God created Edith’s soul ex nihilo, from nothing, and infused it into that microscopic, tiny little Edith, who is now capable of hearing the bedtime stories I simply must begin reading to her.
It’s been fascinating to reflect on people’s reactions to the frank and intentional descriptions Sarah and I give of our daughter. Upon discovering Sarah was having a baby, the usual questions ensued: when’s the baby due? will you find out the sex? do you have names picked out?
Now, everyone has their own philosophy on this, which is perfectly acceptable. But we made the conscious decision to find out who Edith was as soon as modern technology allowed. Certainly, we’re planners. But even moreso, our thinking was: whoever’s in there has been who she is from the moment of her conception.
“Oh, Edith, huh? You already have a name picked out?”
Of course we do! We chose a name to give to our daughter the moment we discovered that God had given our daughter to us. He’s known from all eternity that she was Edith, even when we didn’t. She’s always been Edith.
So why Edith Thérèse? Well, the Thérèse part needs little explanation: Sarah and I have long been devoted to St. Thérèse of Lisieux. She’s a Catholic superstar. Sarah and I both highly recommend her autobiography Story of a Soul.
But Edith? Now there’s a name you don’t hear very often. It had to grow on Sarah. And I suspect it’ll take some growing time on our family and friends…and the sweetheart of an old lady who we met at one of my book readings, who — upon hearing the name we’d chosen — responded, “Now that’s a strange name; where’d you come up with that?”
Still, everyone loves her nickname: Edie.
And I’ll admit, it’s a name I’d never have considered for our little girl were it not for my love of her namesake.
Edith Stein, known also as St. Theresa Benedicta of the Cross, was a German Jewish philosopher turned atheist who converted to Roman Catholicism and became a Discalced Carmelite nun. In August of 1942, less than ten years after taking the habit, she was martyred at Auschwitz, just one year after St. Maximilian Kolbe was martyred in the very same place.
I discovered Edith Stein’s writings a few years before I entered the seminary, and they captured my soul. Admittedly, much of it was way over my head. After all, she’s a genius philosopher mystic and I’m just a guy who watches too much Netflix. But her meditations and spiritual texts spoke to me and filled me up and the Spirit moved through them.
And I love the fact that she’s such a philosophy nerd (read “unmatched intellectual”). Case in point: one of her texts is entitled Finite and Eternal Being: An Attempt at an Ascent to the Meaning of Being, which begins with a “Preliminary Discussion of St. Thomas Aquinas’ Doctrine of Act and Potency”. So there’s that.
But even more, she had a singular love for Jesus Christ, and a profound devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. Here’s a poem she wrote, entitled “I Will Remain in You”:
Full of love, you sink your gaze into mine
And bend your ear to my quiet words
And deeply fill my heart with peace.
Yet your love is not satisfied
With this exchange that could still lead to separation:
Your heart requires more.
You come to me as early morning’s meal each daybreak.
Your flesh and blood become food and drink for me
And something wonderful happens.
Your body mysteriously permeates mine
And your soul unites with mine:
I am no longer what once I was.
You come and go, but the seed
That you sowed for future glory, remains behind
Buried in this body of dust.
A luster of heaven remains in the soul,
A deep glow remains in the eyes,
A soaring in the tone of voice.
* * *
In any case, Edith Thérèse was the name that came into my mind when I first considered the possibility that God might grant us with the gift of a little girl.
And what a gift she is.