Friday, August 9, 2013

Feast Day St. Therese Benedicta de la Crux

" I do not regret that i have given myself to love."

The name Edith Stein took in the Carmel was St Benedicta De La Crux-an accurate translation is Blessed by the Cross.Today Aug 9 is her feast day.The day she was martyred in 1942 at the Auschwitz concentration camp.She was gassed. Edith Stein's life began in Breslau, Germany on October 12, 1891, the youngest of eleven children in a Jewish family. In 1913 she began studies at the University of Göttingen in Germany. She soon became a student of the phenomenologist Edmund Husserl and was later attracted to the work of Max Scheler, a Jewish philosopher who converted to Catholicism in 1920. A chance reading of the autobiography of Saint Teresa of Avila,Story of A Soul, was the turning point when she made the decision to convert to Catholicism. She entered the Church in 1922. the Church in 1922.

[Later we will take a look at the philosophy of phenomenology since it was also a tremendous influence on Blessed John Paul II-he used this philosophy to develop his Theology of the Body,Human Love in the Divine Plan.]

For eight years Edith lived with the Dominicans, teaching at Saint Magdelene's, which was a training institute for teachers. She wrote: Initially, when I was baptized on New Year's Day, 1922, I thought of it as a preparation in the Order. But a few months later, when I saw my mother for the first time after the baptism, I realized that she couldn't handle another blow for the present. Not that it would have killed her—but I couldn't have held myself responsible for the embitterment it would have caused. In fact, after her conversion Edith continued to attend synagogue with her mother. Meanwhile, she continued to grow and impress as a philospher. In 1925 she met the Jesuit Erich Pryzwara, a philosopher who would have a tremendous influence on Hans Urs von Balthasar. Pryzwara encouraged Edith to study and translate St. Thomas Aquinas; she eventually wrote a work comparing Usserl with Aquinas.

In 1933 Edith entered the religious life with the Carmel of Cologne, Germany. She fell in love with the person and writing of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux. She wrote: My impression was, that this was a life which had been absolutely transformed by the love of God, down to the last detail. I simply can't imagine anything greater. I would like to see this attitude incorporated as much as possible into my own life and the lives of those who are dear to me.

After taking her first vows, Edith was known as Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. She continued to write, Fr. Connor notes, "continually developing the theme that Christ's sacrifice on the Cross and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass are in fact one and the same sacrifice. From her religious background, she knew the importance of sacrificial prayer for Old Testament prophets." She wrote of how Jesus' sacrifice as the Incarnate God-man was the final, perfect sacrifice that replaced all of the sacrifices of the Old Testament.

Because of the rise of Nazi power, Edith and her sister Rosa, who had also converted to Catholicism, moved to Holland in 1938.She did not want to endanger the community she lived with and it was assumed Holland would be safe.The Nazi's were rounding up all Christians of Jewish Heritage. Sr Therese Benedicta was vulnerable when Holland became occupied. On August 2, 1942, Edith and her sister were taken from the convent by two S.S. officers. She was martyred seven days later.


Edith Stein was arrested by the Gestapo on 2 August 1942, while she was in the chapel with the other sisters. She was to report within five minutes, together with her sister Rosa, who had also converted and was serving at the Echt Convent. Her last words to be heard in Echt were addressed to Rosa: "Come, we are going for our people." Fr. Connor writes: "On October 11, 1998, fifty-six years, two months, and two days after her death at Auschwitz, Edith Stein, Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, was canonized a saint of the Roman Catholic Church by Pope John Paul II." Read the entire biography online at

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