On This Day – Saint Edith Stein

On This Day – Saint Edith Stein


Jesus once asked his disciples, “Who do you
say that I am?” Saint Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the son of the living
God.” And yet despite that wonderful answer, Jesus told the apostles: “Don’t tell
anyone.” I wonder if that could be because that’s a question that everyone has to
answer for themselves. Who do you say that I am? Who is god for me? It’s really the most important question
in life. If I go through life, and I never reflect
on my life… If I never wonder… Where do I come from? Where do I go when I die? Who is God? Then I’m never going to be able to grow
spiritually. A young girl called Edith Stein, the
eleventh child of a Jewish family, was born in Poland in eighteen ninety-one. For her, when she asked that question, “Who is God?”
the answer was clear in her early life. It was the God of Israel, the God of
fathers, the one true God. By the age of fourteen, this bright young
girl was still asking that question: “Who is god?” And at fourteen, the answer she came to is
“God is nobody to me.” There is no God. God is irrelevant in my life. She went on in her later teens to study
philosophy. In fact, she was a very bright and brilliant girl. She became a
great writer; someone who reflected deeply on the big
questions of life; so that by the age of twenty one, her answer to the question: “Who is God?” was that Jesus Christ is God. And so she was baptized as a Catholic. But, she didn’t stop asking those
questions. Those questions led her to hear the call
of God, to give more, to give her all. So, she left behind the world; her very successful career, and she became a Carmelite sister. She entered the Carmelite Convent of
Cologne in nineteen thirty-three. And as the Nazi persecution of the
Jews became more and more intense, she knew that she was in danger, and that
her presence in the Convent was placing the other sisters in danger too. So, she moved to the Carmelite Convent
Echt, in the Netherlands. In the early nineteen-forties, the
Archbishop of Etrecht denounced what the Nazis were doing to the Jews. As a direct retaliation, the Nazis
rounded up and arrested all Christians who have converted from Judaism,
including Edith Stein, or as she was now known, Sister Teresia Benedicta of the Cross
and her Sister, Rosa. They were both sent to the Nazi
concentration camp of Auschwitz. I feel certain that as she looked around
in those terrible scenes; the destruction wrought by man’s
inhumanity to man; that she must often have asked herself once
again the question: “Who is God?” I feel certain too, that in a new way, she
embraced Jesus Christ as the God who never leaves us, even in the midst of
terrible suffering; as the one who would bring her through
death to eternal life. That’s why we celebrate this day. The day of her death in Auschwitz, as the day of her birth into heaven and eternal life. The ninth of August nineteen forty-two, on this day.

10 Replies to “On This Day – Saint Edith Stein”

  1. You are right. And Dr. Stein wrote from her monastery to the pope entreating him to take a stand against Nazi persecution of Jews and others….but the pope was an asshole and sided with Hitler.

  2. Interesting. But:
    1. "Born in Poland". That would have been news to Edith Stein. She was born and raised in Breslau – throughout her life a city in Germany – but nowadays in Poland (Wrocław).
    2. 1942: In the occupied Netherlands, she was treated like all other Jews – registered, forced to wear a star etc. To halt a protest by the Dutch Catholic bishops, the Nazis offered to "exempt" baptised Jews from deportation. The bishops continued with their protest; the exemption was withdrawn.

  3. This is just a short biography of into the life St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. In fact, when she and her sister were rounded by the SS, she left an incompleted work that has been published called Science of the Cross. She influenced by two Doctors of the Catholic Church and Carmelite Saints St. Teresa of Jesus (Avila) and St. John of the Cross. Pope JPII pushed for her canonization and he was a member the Secular Order of the Carmelites.

  4. @campcasey62

    I do not get the controversy regarding Edith Stein-Therese Benedicta; it seems many Jewish people have a problem regarding her as a Jew due to her conversion to Catholicism. I suggest they look at it this way: the freaking Nazis had no problem looking at her as a Jew even though she was not only baptized but a Catholic nun at the time they murdered her.

  5. The story of Edith Stein is here economically and well told. Left out, because only relatively important, is her philosophical work pursued under the direction of Husserl and in company with Heidegger. Of all the young philosophers of that circle, Edith Stein most notably followed the truth to source and lived by it. Hosea here has rightly pointed out that it was the Dutch Catholic Church's denunciation of Nazi racism that led to the Nazis arresting Edith and others.

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