Lent with St Edith Stein Day 7: The Emotional Life and the Soul

Lent with St Edith Stein Day 7: The Emotional Life and the Soul

“The strength of woman lies in the emotional life. This is in accord with her attitude toward personal being itself. For the soul perceives its own being in the stirrings of the emotions. Through the emotions, it comes to know what it is and how it is; it also grasps through them the relationship of another being to itself, and then, consequently, the significance of the inherent value of exterior things, of unfamiliar people, and impersonal things.”

 St Edith Stein, Spiritualty of the Christian Woman


               Women are naturally more centered around their emotions than men. This is sometimes pointed out as a negative attribute, but emotions are essential to the development of the soul. We discussed in an earlier reflection that women are naturally drawn to personal development, to transcend our current state and become something more. Additionally, we seek to help others along a path of development. Emotions help condition us in our struggle to find wholeness, so clearly our emotionally centric nature is part of God’s intentional design for women.

               Emotions, however, require discipline or they will leave us lost at sea, always tossing us from one extreme to another. In order to train our emotions, we must utilize our intellect and will. By utilizing our intellect, we can lead our emotions on a clear path, rather than being led by them.

               If we do not engage our intellect, we can be lead astray so very easily by our emotions. How often do we concede our morality in today’s culture based on emotional appeals? We know what is right and what is wrong but we fail to exercise our intellect so that we can understand and articulate why a thing is right and why another is wrong.

As women, we are particularly susceptible to emotional appeals. But with a strong intellectual foundation, we can guide our emotions so that we can care for others while we maintain our moral compass. Not only that, we can understand the basis for our beliefs and why these things that the church recognizes as sinful are inherently harmful. Then we can react with love and compassion while remaining on a sure path, rather than being pulled off course by our emotions.

               Without the participation of the intellect and the will, our emotional life becomes compulsive and lacks direction. But emotions want to be stimulated. So without self-control, we become focused on sensuality rather than spirituality. In layman’s terms: we overindulge in material things, food, drink, and sex. Physical gratification trumps our physical health as well as our spiritual health.

               St Edith wrote, “Only if its faculties are correspondingly trained will the feminine soul be able to mature to that state comfortable with its true nature.” Women long to transcend their current state. But when we fail to stimulate and engage our will and intellect, we stall our growth. It’s not enough to embrace our feminine nature, although that is crucial. We have to engage our minds and train our will as well.

Challenge for further reflection:

Pick a hot-button topic in the news and read what the Catechism has to say about it, along with any scriptural references provided.

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