The feast day of St. Edith Stein is celebrated on Aug. 9. St. Edith Stein was also known as St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. She is the patron saint of loss of parents and converts. Edith Stein was born in Breslav, Germany on Oct. 12, 1891. She was the youngest of a large Jewish family. Her father ran a timber business but he died when she was only two years old. Her mother was hard working and devout. Edith, however, lost her faith when she was in her teens.
Edith studied at the University of Breslav where she studied German and history as well as philosophy and women’s issues. She considered herself a radical suffragette. When World War I began she completed a course in nursing and served in an Austrian field hospital, caring for wounded soldiers. After the war she received her degree, writing her thesis on “The problem of Empathy.”
Witnessing a person kneeling for a brief prayer while holding a shopping basket in the Frankfurt Cathedral Edith had a great impact on her faith. In 1917, Edith visited a widow who had converted to Protestantism. It was during this visit that she was introduced to the cross of Christ. Edith began reading the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola. She then read the Autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila. St. Teresa described God not as a God of knowledge but as a God of Love. Edith decided to study the Catholic Catechism. Soon after she decided to become Catholic. She was baptized on Jan. 1, 1922.
St. Edith felt called into the Carmelite way of life but decided to wait. She accepted a position teaching German and history at a Dominican Sister’s school. She also translated the letters and diaries of Cardinal Newman. Edith joined the Carmelite Convent of Cologne at the age of 42. She took the name Teresa, Benedicta Cruce; Teresa of the Cross. She believed it was her vocation to intercede for others through prayer. As a Carmelite she wrote several books, including The Science of the Cross.
Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross was arrested by the Gestapo on Aug 2, 1931 while she was in the chapel. She was taken with other Jewish Christians to Amersfoort and then to Westerbork. They were then deported to Auschwitz. On Aug. 9, St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross died in the gas chamber of Auschwitz at the age of 51. She was canonized as a martyr by Pope John Paul II.
If we place our hands of the divine Child,
if we say “Yes” to the “Follow me”,
then we are His, and the way is free
for His divine life to flow into us.
Quote of St. Edith Stein
August is the Month of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.