Sartorial Sharing: St. Edith Stein and her Godmother Hedwig Conrad-Martius
The Discalaced Carmelite blog carried a Christmas story about St. Teresa Benedicta and her sister Rosa Stein a few years ago on Christmas Eve 2018. Christmastide was a significant time of year for the Carmelite—Philosopher saint since she was baptized a Catholic on January 1, 1922, octave day of Christmas.
Original Baptismal font
Present at the ceremony as baptismal sponsor was her dear friend and philosopher colleague Hedwig Conrad-Martius. Conrad-Martius had been given permission to be her godmother even though a Lutheran, because persons belonging to churches of the Reformation in countries like Germany where Catholicism was not dominant would be admitted to this role exceptionally. The baptismal register in Bergzabern church indicates that Edith chose the following significant names as a Christian, i.e., Teresa Hedwig.
Besides her presence at the conferral of the sacrament Conrad-Martius or “Hatti” was adding more to the joy her Jewish convert friend took from the ceremony. In line with ancient liturgical practice (requiring adult catechumens in Rome to wear a white robe at their baptism then throughout the Easter Octave) Hatti loaned Edith her white marriage cloak. Far from her home in eastern Germany Edith stood decked out in distinct finery and would have been most appreciative of her friend’s empathetic gesture.
The cloak has not been preserved, but we do have a photo of Conrad-Martius splendidly displaying her own sartorial taste in another setting. The image shows a group of Phenomenogist philosophers in Göttingen a year before Edith arrived to study there in 1913. (I oftentimes let my fanciful side take over and call the photo “A Day out with the Boys”.)
Hedwig Conrad Martius with Max Scheler et al.
It is appealing to think that Edith in her own way adopted then contemporary styles and doffed similar, if smaller sized, headgear so reminiscent of the “roaring 20s”.
Beyond the day of her Baptism they went on to affirm, assist and associate with each other both on philosophical and spiritual levels. In their frequent correspondence one notices this trusting confidential remark for Hedwig, or “Hatti”, from Edith: “Today my sincere wishes for your birthday. The little book I’m having sent to you from Breslau will not find a gracious reception from Autos [Theodore Conrad, Hatti’s husband]. But I thought that if you have to have people like Klages around you, then it will be good for you in the interim to be in touch with a kindred spirit.” (Feb. 24, 1933)
~ John Sullivan OCD