Friday, August 9, 2019

His Word Today: Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

Good morning everyone,

Today, the church celebrates the liturgical Memorial of Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (born Edith Stein).  On the day when he beatified her, Saint John Paul II said of her that she was an outstanding daughter of Israel and at the same time a daughter of the Carmelite Order.  In her rich life, she united a rich synthesis of the past century: a synthesis filled with deep wounds ... and the full truth about mankind (Homily for the Beatification of Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, 1 May 1987).

Edith Stein was born in Breslau (Germany) on 12 October 1891, the youngest of 11 children.  Her birth coincided with Yom Kippur, the most important Jewish festival, the Feast of Atonement.  Edith's father, who ran a timber business, died when she was only two years old.  Her mother, who was a very devout, hard-working, strong-willed and truly wonderful woman, then had to fend for herself, look after the children and the business.  She succeeded in this, but not in keeping up a living faith in her children.  As a result, Edith lost her faith in God.

She (Edith) was very bright.  At the age of 20, she passed her school exams with flying colours and enrolled at the University of Breslau where she studied German and history.  Her true passion though was in Philosophy, which she pursued two years later at G√≥ttingen University.  She eventually passed her doctorate with the utmost distinction in 1917.  In a time when most women would not have had the opportunity to pursue such advanced studies, Edith distinguished herself as a scholastic, but this was not the end of her journey.

After much searching and having witnessed the faith of many others, she converted to Catholicism.  She was baptized on 1 January 1922 and immediately, she wanted to join the Carmelite Order, but this desire was not fulfilled until 14 October 1933.  She lived at the Carmel in Cologne for five years.  However, on New Year's Eve 1938, she was smuggled across the border to Echt (Netherlands) for safety, because she was being pursued by the Nazi regime.  She lived there, continuing her scholastic work until 2 August 1942, when she was arrested by the Gestapo.  She was transported to a transit camp located at Amersfoort and then to another at Westerbork.  Early in the morning of 7 August 1942, she was transported to Auschwitz as part of a group of 987 Jews.  It was probably on 9 August 1942 that Sister Teresa, her sister Rosa (who was also a Carmelite nun) and many other people were gassed.

May Saint Teresa Benedicta intercede for us today, that we who are called to live our faith may have the courage to stay awake ... for we know neither the day or the hour (Mt 25:13) when the Lord is coming.

Have a great day.

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