Friday, August 10, 2007

St. Edith Stein

Edith Stein lived the true meaning of her chosen name Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, for just as Jesus embraced The Cross so did Sister Teresa Benedicta.

Edith was born into a very Traditional Jewish family she was the youngest of eleven children. Unfortunately for her family Edith's Father died when she was not yet two years old, which left her Mother as the sole provider for the entire family. As Edith grew and matured she had a deep admiration and love for her Mother who struggled to support her large family. Even though Edith herself had turned her back on God, Mrs Stein remained a staunch and Devout Jew, teaching her children the Traditions of the Jewish Faith.

One of the great blessings that Edith was born with was a curious mind and a thirst for knowledge, which led her to study Philosophy, and to become one of the first women to study this subject at University. Edith was accepted at University of Breslau before transferring to the University of Gottingen in order to study with Edmund Husserl, the founder of phenomenology. It was while studying this course and observing the Faith of those around her that Edith began an inner journey to find the Source of All Truth. A course that would change her life forever and from which would also come The Way of The Cross, for herself.

It was whilst she was vacationing with friends that Edith happened by chance to see the book written by St. Teresa of Avila. Her curiosity was aroused and so Edith began to read St Teresa's autobiography and was unable to put it down until she had read the last sentence, it was Edith's Epiphany moment. There was no turning back for Edith, for she believed without doubt what she had read within that most profound book as the Truth she had been seeking. It also brought untold pain and anguish knowing in her heart that she must embrace Catholicism and leave behind her rich Jewish heritage. With this knowledge burning in her soul Edith also knew how her beloved mother would recieve the news of her daughters conversion.

A double blow would then strike Ediths mother when she found that her daughter not only would become a Catholic but also a Religious in The Order of Carmel. This was a troubling and most painful of times for both Mother and daughter, but Edith could not resist the Call of God. On October 15, just after her forty-second birthday, Edith Stein entered the Carmel of Cologne, taking the name Teresa Benedicta of the Cross.

Upon the death of her Mother, Edith would be joined by her sister Rosa who also converted and was Baptized into the Catholic Church. When the Nazi tyranny turned to untold violence in the infamous 'Kristillnacht', Edith's Superiors decided to transer Sister Teresa Benedicta to the Carmel in Echt, the Netherlands. Her sister Rosa later joined her there as a Third Order Carmelite, in which Rosa helped serve the Community.

But unfortunately this was not enough to safeguard either Edith or her sister Rosa and both were arrested on August 2, 1942. When her sister reached a state of confusion Edith with much compassion and courage took her sister Rosa and led her with these words, "Come, Rosa. We go for our people." The sisters were deported to Auschwitz and executed just a week later. Edith Stein was fifty years old.