Since it's her feast day, I am reading about Edith Stein. I've learned (unless it's something I'd known and forgotten) that she was born on the Jewish day of Atonement, and that her pious Jewish mother considered this to be of great significance.
And then I find this line from her memoirs. It comes from a moment in her teen years, when she was having to decide what to do with herself: where to go, what to study. Her family was giving her definite hints, but she was resisting their influence. Her decision had to be her own.
I could not act unless I had an inner compulsion to do so. My decisions arose out of a depth that was unknown even to myself.
This captures at least two central insights of personalism as we understand it:
1) The dignity of the person has everything to do with our self-determination through freedom.
2) The roots of our being as persons are hidden in God, so that He is closer to us than we are to ourselves.
That Edith Stein apparently sensed all this even before her conversion, while she was still very young, and at a time when young women especially were under enormous pressure to conform to social expectations, speaks to her greatness as a person. It partly explains how she was able to make such a thoroughgoing gift-of-self in her martyrdom. She knew how to listen to that "still, small voice" within. She had learned to withstand the "undue influences" of others in her life. She knew how to "investigate her feelings," and learn what they had to teach her about herself and God's plan for her. She had "taken possession" of her own "interior terrain." So, when the moment came to offer everything, in an oblation, she was ready.