There are plenty of Christians who have never heard of Simone Weil - she was European, she lived and died before many of us reading this were alive, her life was brief and her work was intense. On top of all of that - she was born Jewish.
Simone Weil was born in Paris in 1909. Her parents were brilliant. Her brother, Andre, was a math prodigy. Simone herself - while able to quote whole passages from literature by the age of 6 - saw herself as "dull". She was recognized by French philosopher Emile-Auguste Chartier as a philosophical genius. She completed her bachelors with honors at the age of 15 and by 1931, at the ripe age of 22, having researched philosophies in Sanskrit, Greek and Hindi, completed doctoral studies in philosophy and was qualified to teach.
While her upbringing and education entitled her to the relative ease of academic life - she was sensitive to the shifting political winds in Europe and decided to leave her first teaching job after just a few years and instead to applied herself to understanding what it was to labor, and toil. Though her gifts made her an intellectual giant - she was not endowed with the health or vigor that living like "everyone else" would demand. She worked at the Renault plant for a season - living on her wages and in the same housing and conditions as the rest of her co-workers.
In 1935 when the strife in Spain intensified - she left her job at Renault and took another teaching position - this time in Barcelona - and eventually left that post to go and serve with Franco-ites on the front in that conflict. Though only in the strife for several weeks - the effects on her health were long lasting and forced her to return to St. Quentin girls school until her health worsened to the point that 1938 she had to stop working altogether.
Weil's family - while Jewish by ancestry was largely atheistic/agnostic and non-practicing - but Simone's interest in philosophy crossed over into realms often considered the territory of faith. But it wasn't until a friend introduced her to Father Perrin - a Dominican in Marseilles - shortly after Germany invaded France. There in that community she began to engage in studying all the Dominicans could teach her. At the community she was confirmed, baptized and renounced her family's wealth and position. She became fascinated - even preoccupied with the notion a personal God and was known to hold the friars, and monks spell-bound with her spontaneous musings and teachings on the merits of obedience to God first and foremost. To have been a fly on the wall and hear one of those discourses!
Over the next few years Weil wrote extensively - including religious works on faith and the nature of God - as well as philosophical-political works on the rights and responsibilities of nations and individuals.
Her intellectual gifts were rare enough - but the sensitivity and moral acumen with which she applied them left a lasting impact on all she encountered. She wrote extensively after joining the community in Marseilles - including her best known essays "Intimations of Christianity" and "Forms of the Implicit Love of God" - and filled over twenty journals with notes to be included in a book she was working on called "Waiting for God." She had a gift for piercing through hazier aspects of life and pursuit of God and seeing through to what matters. Of her life and writing T. S. Elliot wrote:
"We must simply expose ourselves to the personality of a woman of genius, of a kind of genius akin to that of the saints."
Of all of Weil's dozens of famous quotes and anecdotes here are my two favorites:
"At the bottom of the heart of every human being, from earliest infancy until the tomb, there is something that goes indomitably expecting, in the teeth of all experience of crimes committed, suffered, and witnessed, that good and not evil will be done."
"A hurtful act is the transference to others of the degradation which we bear in ourselves."
Simone Weil died on August 29th, 1943, as a result of working as a farm-hand while subsisting (in solidarity) on the rations given to her countrymen being held in Nazi concentration camps.