Monday, August 13, 2012

St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein)

Thursday (August 9) was the memorial of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, informally known as St. Edith Stein. Born on October 12, 1891, St. Teresa Benedicta was raised as an observant Jew. Throughout her teenage years, however, she became an atheist.

Edith Stein

While reading the autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila during her summer vacation in 1921, she decided to become a Roman Catholic. She taught at the Dominican Nun's school, after which she became a lecturer at Munster, but having to resign after an antisemitic legislation was passed by the Nazi Government in 1933. She even wrote a letter to Pope Pius XI, asking him to denounce the Nazi regime and "put a stop to this abuse of Christ's name." She received no answer, so no one ever knows if the Pope even read it.

Edith Stein as a Discaled Carmelite Nun

She entered the Discaled Carmelite monastery of Our Lady of Peace at Cologne in 1933, where she wrote a book, Finite and Eternal Being.  As the Nazi threat was growing, she transferred to the Carmelite monastery in Echt in the Netherlands. She was not safe there, either. The Dutch Bishops' Conference had a public statement read at all Masses, condemning the Nazi and their racism. All Jewish converts, who had previously been spared, where to be deported to the Nazi concentration camps. St. Teresa Benedicta and her sister, Rosa, where sent to Auschwitz where they were presumed to be gassed at the chambers on August 9, 1942. Her last known words were to her sister, saying, "Come, we are going for our people." She was 50 years old. 

St. Teresa Benedicta was canonized on October 11, 1988, and is honored as a martyr to the faith.

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