Tag Archives: Edith Stein

St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

edith steinSaint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (in history she is known as Edith Stein). The Church honors her with the title of  Virgin and Martyr due to her vocation as a nun and one killed for belief in Christian faith.

Stein was born on October 12, 1891, in Breslau, Poland. Her family was Jewish. By 1922, after reading the saints, in particular, Saint Teresa of Avila, and on matters in the Catholic faith, she was baptized at the Cologne Cathedral. Eleven years later she entered the Carmelite Order in Cologne before being sent to the Carmel in Echt, Holland. With her sister Rose, Teresa was arrested and sent to the concentration camp at Auschwitz. There she died in the gas chambers of Auschwitz in 1942 at the age of fifty-one. Stein was beatified in 1987 and canonized on October 11, 1998.

It is said that she made a claim about Husserl that “Whoever seeks truth seeks God, whether he knows it or not.” Professor Husserl was not one to speak about his religious faith because he wanted to maintain a separation between faith and reason. Yet, we know from experience, that faith and reason go hand-in-hand. Catholics ought to take a lesson here: a person who claims Christian faith faith can not be diffident reading the same. One can say with a degree of certainty that Stein’s philosophical research was one of a constant quest for God. Saint Teresa Benedicta’s witness is that whoever seeks truth through philosophy seeks God, because God is Truth. We therefore hold that that whoever seeks truth is, in fact, seeking God. There is a primacy of faith and reason in the Catholic mind.

Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

Edith SteinSaint Teresa Benedicta said: “love will be our eternal life.” She also said, “As for what concerns our relations with our fellow men, the anguish in our neighbor’s soul must break all precept. All that we do is a means to an end, but love is an end in itself, because God is love.”

This Carmelite saint of the 20th century  was killed for her love, for her abiding affection and love for her Divine Lover, Jesus Christ.

We know from experience that the measure of the person is recognized not by words, but by the actions one does in the face of diminishment, exhaustion, laziness, and persecution. Seeing ourselves in action is crucial for growing in our personal mission given to us by the Holy Spirit. Do we know what our mission is in this life?

We also know from experience based on regular self-reflection and discernment that what can sustain our hearts is the love we have for our Creator,  the Infinite, and the concern we have for the salvation of others. Of course, this concern is first based on acceptance that are saved by Grace. The concern for the destiny of others, hence, is the exact same as what Jesus had for the 12 Apostles, the disciples, and for each of us.

All this leads me to think of the ways I am a mature Christian. Recall that Saint Paul talks about the goal of Christian is to be mature in his or her relationship with Christ and neighbor, even when it we meet immaturity in the other person; to be mature in living as faithful members in the Church. We have to admit that some days this can be difficult and only the reasonableness of faith Christ and honest friendship makes this possible and beautiful. This is why Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross is a beautiful and reasonable witness: she understood the goal: eternal life. Can we follow her as she points to Jesus?

Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

The Church’s sacred Liturgy recalls for us an important 20th century woman, scholar and convert, Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. She is known in history as Edith Stein who became a professed member of the Discalced Carmelite Order.

Stein made a significant impact on many people because of her extraordinary witness to Jesus Christ and His Church. This is especially true for Blessed John Paul II who himself is said to have had a “Carmelite soul,” so much so one wonders if he really did have a vocation to the Carmelite charism. When John Paul beatified Stein he said,

“We bow down before the testimony of the life and death of Edith Stein, an outstanding daughter of Israel and at the same time a daughter of the Carmelite Order, Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, a personality who united within her rich life a dramatic synthesis of our century. It was the synthesis of a history full of deep wounds that are still hurting … and also the synthesis of the full truth about man. All this came together in a single heart that remained restless and unfulfilled until it finally found rest in God” (1 May 1987, Cologne).

It is well known that her intellectual mentor was the renown philosopher Edmund Husserl whose view of reality and our perception of it turns on end the Kantian method. Stein later became a collaborator with Husserl in his phenomenology. Moreover, data tells us that Husserl’s phenomenology led many Christianity. At the same time Stein met the philosopher Max Scheler who suggested that she look into the claims of Catholicism. She read Saint Teresa of Avila’s autobiography and the rest is history.

Edith Stein’s life and acceptance of the beauty, goodness, and truth of the Christian faith was a liturgical procession: born during the Feast of Tabernacles, baptized on feast of the Circumcision of the Lord; confirmed on the feast of the Purification of Mary and later entered Carmel during Jewish feasts of purification and the Church’s approach to the feast of Christ the King and then Advent of 1934. At her final profession of vows on 21 April 1938, Eastertide, Sister Teresa Benedicta wrote the words of Saint John of the Cross: “Henceforth my only vocation is to love.” Her final work was to be devoted to this author. Hers was a liturgy that gave voice to a new epiphany of being a woman of two covenants, that of Abraham and Jesus. One leads to the other. She said,  “I had given up practicing my Jewish religion when I was a 14-year-old girl and did not begin to feel Jewish again until I had returned to God.”

Before her desire to enter the Carmelite monastery was realized –she needed time to better comprehend the grace of conversion– Stein was following the indications of  Benedictine Archabbot Raphael Walzer of Beuron Abbey who wanted her to speak widely on issues pertaining to women. She said of her time, “During the time immediately before and quite some time after my conversion I … thought that leading a religious life meant giving up all earthly things and having one’s mind fixed on divine things only. Gradually, however, I learnt that other things are expected of us in this world… I even believe that the deeper someone is drawn to God, the more he has to ‘get beyond himself’ in this sense, that is, go into the world and carry divine life into it.”

The rest you know. The Nazi regime hated Jews, including intelligent Jewish convert Catholic women. Sister Teresa was vigorously pursued, as well as many others ,and she tragically died. She was canonized on 11 October 1998.

John Paul named Saint Teresa Benedicta a Co-Patroness of Europe, who, “Even after she found the truth in the peace of the contemplative life, she was to live to the full the mystery of the Cross” (Apostolic Letter Spes Aedificandi).

Saint Teresa Benedicta of Cross

On the question of relating to our fellowman – our neighbor’s spiritual need transcends every commandment. Everything else we do is a means to an end. But love is an end already, since God is love.

Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein)

Monasteries are true and proper oases for humanity, Benedict XVI reminds us

In Wednesday’s edition of L’Osservatore Romano, Pope Benedict told the listeners of the Wednesday General Audience that the monastic life is an essential value for humanity and for the Church, today. The Pope’s emphasis on beauty and silence helps us to appreciate and to listen God’s promptings of the desires of the heart is important. Let’s pay attention to what the Pope has to say. You may also want to watch the Rome Reports news video.

The editor writes, “Monasteries are true and proper oases of the spirit in which God speaks to humanity. The Pope said this to faithful at the General Audience of Wednesday, 10 August, that was held in the courtyard of the Papal Residence at Castel Gandolfo.”

Dear Brothers and Sisters! In every age, men and women who have consecrated their lives to God in prayer – like monks and nuns – have established their communities in particularly beautiful places: in the countryside, on hilltops, in valleys, on the shores of lakes or the sea, or even on little islands. These places unite two elements which are very important for contemplative life: the beauty of creation, which recalls that of the Creator, and silence, which is guaranteed by living far from cities and the great means of communication. Silence is the environmental condition that most favors contemplation, listening to God and meditation. The very fact of experiencing silence and allowing ourselves to be “filled,” so to speak, with silence, disposes us to prayer. The great prophet, Elijah, on Mount Horeb – that is, Sinai – experienced strong winds, then an earthquake, and finally flashes of fire, but he did not recognize the voice of God in them; instead, he recognized it in a light breeze (cfr. 1 Rev 19:11-13). God speaks in silence, but we need to know how to listen. This is why monasteries are oases in which God speaks to humanity; and there we find the courtyard, a symbolic place because it is a closed space, but open toward the sky.

Tomorrow, dear friends, we will celebrate the memory of St. Clare of Assisi. So I would like to recall one of these “oases” of the spirit which is particularly dear to the Franciscan family and to all Christians: the little convent of San Damiano, situated just beneath the city of Assisi, among the olive groves that slope towards Santa Maria degli Angeli. In that little church, which Francis restored after his conversion, Chiara and her first companions established their community, living off prayer and little works. They were called the “Poor Sisters,” and their “form of life” was the same as the Frati Minori: “To observe the Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rule of St. Clare, I, 2), conserving the union of reciprocal charity (cfr ivi, X, 7) and observing in particular the poverty and humility of Jesus and his Most Holy Mother (cfr, ivi, XII, 13).

Benedict XVI at the General Audience stresses the value of monastic spirituality God speaks in silence Benedict XVI at the General Audience stresses the value of monastic spirituality God speaks in silence and beauty of the place in which the monastic community lives – simple and austere beauty – are like a reflection of the spiritual harmony which the community itself attempts to create. The world is filled with these oases of the spirit, some very ancient, particularly in Europe; others are more recent, while still others have been restored by new communities. Looking at things from a spiritual perspective, these places of the spirit are a load-bearing structure of the world! It is no accident that many people, especially in times of rest, visit these places and stop there for some days: even the soul, thanks be to God, has its needs!  The Pope continues:

Let us remember, therefore, St. Clare. But let you also remember other Saints who remind us of the importance of turning our gaze to the “things of heaven,” like St. Edith Stein, Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Carmelite, co-patron of Europe, whom we celebrated yesterday. And today, August 10, we cannot forget St. Lawrence, deacon and martyr, with a special wish for Romans who have always venerated him as one of their patrons. Finally, let us turn our gaze to the Virgin Mary, that she may teach us to love silence and prayer.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
coat of arms



Humanities Blog Directory