Edith Stein – now St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

Sat, 09 Aug 2014 17:23:55 +0000  87887


Edith SteinEdith Stein (l) became St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (r).

First of all, I want to thank the Holy, Mighty and Eternal Triune God for allowing me to see so well now after my recent left-eye cataract surgery.  This process took my left eye several weeks to heal, whereupon new glasses were fitted and I picked them up Tuesday.  Just before my surgery, I mentioned to Dr. Eowyn that the post had to be done on Edith Stein, thinking that her Feast Day was in July, whereupon I discovered that it was actually on August 9th.  Therefore, I am able to draft this post myself now and am joyful to do so for such a brilliant and holy lady, St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (1891-1942).

Edith was born into a prominent and well-respected Jewish family in Breslau (now Wroclaw), Poland.  She abandoned her Jewish faith whilst she was a teenager.  In fact, at the age of fourteen she was an atheist.  Edith, while a student at the University of Gottingen, became fascinated by phenomenology as an approach to the study of philosophy; indeed, her mentor was Edmund Husserl, one of the leading phenomenologists.  In 1916, Edith earned a doctorate in philosophy and served as a university professor until 1922, at which time she moved to a Dominican school in Speyer.  She was a lecturer at the Educational Institute of Munich, but that position ended because of the influence and policies of the Nazis.

It was at this time in 1922, at or around October 15th, that Edith met Our Lord Jesus Christ by reading the autobiography of one of the great Doctors of the Catholic Church, also a mystic, St. Teresa of Avila.  This began her spiritual journey to being baptized a Catholic in 1922.  Twelve years later, she imitated St. Teresa of Avila by becoming a Carmelite nun, taking the name, Teresa Benedicta of the Cross.

Sister Teresa then lived at the Cologne Carmel  (1934-1938), moving to reside in the Carmelite monastery in Echt in the Netherlands, a country that was occupied by the Nazis.  The Dutch bishops publicly renounced Hitler and Nazism, which motivated revenge and retaliation, whereupon all Dutch Jews who had become Christians were arrested.  Thus, Sister Teresa and her sister Rosa, who also became a Catholic, were both executed in a gas chamber in the concentration camp in Auschwitz on August 9, 1942.  Whilst she was at this camp, she was kind and encouraging to those who suffered there.  Pope John Paul II beatified her in 1987 and she was canonized as a saint twelve years later.  During the canonization Mass, Pope John Paul II stated in his homily:

“Because she was Jewish, Edith Stein was taken with her sister Rosa and many other Catholics and Jews from the Netherlands to the concentration camp in Auschwitz, where she died with them in the gas chambers.  Today we remember them all with deep respect.  A few days before her deportation, the woman religious had dismissed the question about a possible rescue:  “Do not do it!  Why should I be spared?  Is it not right that I should gain no advantage from my baptism?  If I cannot share the lot of my brothers and sisters, my life, in a certain sense, is destroyed.” 

The Pope then said to all present at this Mass, “Your life is not an endless series of open doors!  Listen to your heart!  Do not stay on the surface but go to the heart of things!  And when the time is right, have the courage to decide!  The Lord is waiting for you to put your freedom in his good hands.” 

I construe this as a directive to “Get to the Point” of your life by serving God and His people with true love and courage, standing up for Truth and for your Faith.  I say, everything else will then follow. . .

I have always admired this great lady because of her sincere search for Truth, and when she found it, she gave up everything for Him, for Our Dear Lord, for her Catholic Faith.  She used her brilliance to serve the Triune God and His people, with great love, bravery, kindness and passion.

St. Teresa was a prolific writer, and her writings fill seventeen volumes, many of which have been translated into English.  She sought truth in her life, finding that Truth was actually a Person, Jesus.  One of her findings included in part, “Truth Is Love, and Love Is Truth.”  I can only imagine that a great celebration is taking place in heaven with the members of the Church Triumphant over this most exemplary and amazing lady!

With deep respect and love,


Source:  Saint of the Day, Sixth Revised Edition, Edited by Leonard Foley, O.F.M.

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