Students at the University of Notre Dame tend to be high-achievers. It has been ingrained in us to strive for the highest grades, the best jobs, and the most prestigious internships. Yet, oftentimes this leaves us unsatisfied. In reality, there is something that will fulfill us that is far simpler and should be our ultimate goal—love.
But all too often in our misguided pursuits for love and acceptance, we seek it in all the wrong places, leaving us with an overwhelming shock of loneliness and despair. For, as we are so often told, we all deserve love and we were even created for love. Society has seemingly given us a purpose, a daily goal—to find love. However, it has left us abandoned as to what this “love” is meant to be, what will truly satisfy this inherent desire.
How unexpectedly blessed then is the unpleasant moment in which, after another unsuccessful night alone in the corner of a dorm party or after hearing one too many times about our classmate’s most recent hookup, we, like Dante, find ourselves saying, “I found myself in a dark wilderness, for I had wandered from the straight and true.” Once we reach this point, we have realized the falsehoods of our culture and how these fairytale and fleeting ideas of love have led us to the “dark wood”—abandoned, scared, and all too often alone. But who is to be our Virgil, our guide to the “love that moves the sun and other stars?” Here is where St. Theresa Benedicta of the Cross, commonly known as Edith Stein, enters in to lead us from this despair to the true love for which we were created.
This German philosopher, saint, and martyr writes in her final book, The Science of the Cross, “Faith in the Crucified—a living faith joined to loving surrender—is for us an entrance into life and the beginning of future glory.” Pointing to the Cross as both an example and a guide, she reveals that it is Christ on the Cross who is this love which our lives are made to imitate and which our hearts yearn for.
Unfortunately, we too often mistake this figure of a broken, beaten, and seemingly helpless man as the complete contrast to the immediate, pleasure-seeking satisfaction that we have been brainwashed into believing is “true love.” Instead of running into the embrace of the Crucified Christ, we continue to search seemingly without hope in the midst of the hookup culture which has decimated college campuses leaving a wasteland of lost souls unable to love.
Countless leaders and saints of the Catholic Church have been providing us with the solution to this turmoil for centuries. Each continuously invites us to gaze once more upon the Cross and see it for what it truly is—the ultimate depiction of love, for on it, Christ freely and vulnerably surrendered His whole self to us.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI believes that this suffering, which seems at first to be contradictory, shapes us into people who can both give and receive love, and in doing so, become more fully ourselves. He writes, “To suffer with the other and for others; to suffer for the sake of truth and justice; to suffer out of love and in order to become a person who truly loves—these are fundamental elements of humanity, and to abandon them would destroy man himself.”
The Identity Project of Notre Dame has at its mission the encouragement of those at Notre Dame and beyond to grow in greater understanding of the dignity and identity tied to each human person. The Pope Emeritus states that an essential element of humanity is that of suffering for the sake of the other. It is this reality that the 2018 Edith Stein Project Conference seeks to address.
Taking place on February 16–17th, this year’s conference explores the the theme “Even Unto Death: Embracing the Love of the Cross,” and will discuss the Cross as the fullest expression of love, as well as its place in a world that seeks self-satisfaction over self-giving and pursues pleasure as the ultimate end. A variety of speakers will highlight the critical facets of the Cross as the guide to Love, providing advice and encouragement for students to transform college culture to one which allows them to embrace suffering as the imitation of Christ, Love Incarnate, and by doing so embrace their God-given identities.
By the end of the weekend, those who have attended the Edith Stein Project Conference will have spent two days discussing in both personal and academic environments how the crosses of their daily lives can help them to grow in love through an imitation of Christ. After the final talk has been given, the Cross will no longer be something that seems without joy and hope. Instead, it will be a symbol of comfort and, ultimately, of love.
I hope you will join us for this conference to learn more about how the Cross can guide college students to discover where they can find the love which they so ardently seek. For only by meditating upon the Cross will we be able to joyfully exclaim with Saint John Paul II that “Genuine Love is demanding, but its beauty comes precisely from the demand it makes.”
Molly Weiner, co-chair of the 2018 Edith Stein Project Conference, is a senior studying theology and Italian. Following the planning of the conference, with all its endless emails and paperwork, she hopes to emulate her greatest theological hero, Benedict XVI by spending the remainder of her time at Notre Dame in solitude and prayer. If you can assist in her relocation from Pangborn Hall to a residence in the Vatican Gardens, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org