This summer, a Catholic organisation that helps and celebrates those who experience disability, is hosting a series of events to introduce people to Edith Stein, the great Judeo-Catholic saint whose life and teachings offer the perfect example of how to value everyone – particularly those with disabilities.
Cristina Gangemi, a highly experienced disability adviser who is Director of the Kairos Forum, explained to the Bishops’ Conference why Edith Stein, also known as St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, provides such a good model for people working in ministry with those with disabilities.
She said: “I started to read about Stein, and I found that she, in her early years, experienced what we would now call being a ‘gifted child’ in school. She had various experiences of being hypercognitive and metacognitive.
“She had a niece with an intellectual disability, who she loved and who she understood needed to be taught as a creative learner.”
“Her anthropology is all about value. She says, ‘I see another person, they gaze at me, and I know that I gaze back at another human being whom we have to respect’.”
Gangemi relayed a story about a young girl, Julia who lived with Down’s syndrome and could struggle to vocalise thoughts. She shared how Julia, when asked what the word ‘holy’ meant to her, answered that it was “as if people are beautiful” – which echoes the thinking of Edith Stein.
“Years later, I was reading a book, Stein’s thinking on the ‘Way to Know God’, and she says that we have to translate this down. God is beauty. That beauty is God. That’s it.
When we fill ourselves with God in the Eucharist, in love, in acceptance, in evangelising, in celebrating being people of faith that have so much to give the world, when we fill ourselves with that experience of God, we become beautiful. People are beautiful.”
The Kairos Forum is hosting three unique events in July to bring people closer to this inspirational Catholic saint. The first, on Sunday 2 July, is a Day of Celebration at Aylesford Priory in Kent. It’s free of charge, open to all, and is a day of shared pilgrimage – a celebration of creative people who experience disability who will tell Edith Stein’s story.
There is also a ground-breaking three-day conference, also at Aylesford Priory, from 4 – 6 July, that celebrates the wisdom of Edith Stein. Titled Dignitas Personae et Amor Dei: The Value of the Human Person and Divine Love; Meeting Edith Stein, the event promises to be one of the first international events of its kind introducing new areas of study and stories, including issues surrounding disability.
Edith Stein in Parliament
Following St John Henry Newman into Parliament (who can forget Pope Benedict XVI’s historic address in Westminster Hall?), Edith Stein will be the focal point of an invitation-only gathering in the House of Lords on 3 July. At the invitation of Baroness Sheila Hollins and facilitated by the Kairos Forum, Steinian scholars Professor Angela Ales Bello and Professor Shahid Mobeen will give reflections to those assembled.
Cristina Gangemi wants as many people as possible to encounter Edith Stein this summer:
“Everything she found out when she moved from Judaism to atheism to Christianity – it’s a unique perspective. We hope to be able to get people to just meet Edith Stein and love her as much as we all do.
Edith Stein was a human being who experienced living in the world, and she understood what valuing the other meant.”
To find out more about the Edith Stein events at Aylesford Priory, and to book, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org