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Peace is not given to us just for ourselves alone.

St. Teresa Benedicta

 

Biography of Saint Teresa Benedicta
of the Cross (Edith Stein)

St. Edith Stein
Born October 12, 1891
Breslau, German Empire
Died August 9, 1942 (aged 50)
Auschwitz concentration camp, Nazi-occupied Poland
Venerated in Roman Catholicism
Beatified May 1, 1987, Cologne, Germany by Pope John Paul II
Canonized October 11, 1998 by Pope John Paul II
Feast August 9
Attributes Yellow Star of David, flames, a book
Patronage Europe; loss of parents; martyrs; World Youth Day

Edith Stein

 

Edith Stein (October 12, 1891 – August 9, 1942) was a German-Jewish philosopher, nun, martyr, and is a saint of the Roman Catholic Church. Born into an observant Jewish family but an atheist by her teenage years, she converted to Christianity in 1922, was baptized into the Roman Catholic Church and was received into the Discalced Carmelite Order as a postulant in 1934. Although she moved from Germany to the Netherlands to avoid Nazi persecution, in 1942 she was arrested and sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp, where she died in the gas chamber.

Edith Stein was canonized as Saint Teresia Benedicta of the Cross (her monastic name) by Pope John Paul II in 1998; however, she is often referred to as "Saint Edith Stein".

Stein was born in Breslau (Wrocław), in the German Empire's Prussian Province of Silesia, into an observant Jewish family. Born on October 12, 1891, Edith was a very gifted child who enjoyed learning. She greatly admired her mother's strong faith; however, by her teenage years Stein had become an atheist.
In 1916, she received a doctorate of philosophy from the University of Göttingen, with a dissertation under Edmund Husserl, Zum Problem der Einfühlung (On the Problem of Empathy). She then became a member of the faculty in Freiburg. In the previous year she had worked with Martin Heidegger in editing Husserl's papers for publication, Heidegger being appointed similarly as a teaching assistant to Husserl at Freiburg in October 1916. But she was rejected as a woman with further habilitational studies at the University of Freiburg [2]and failed to successfully reach in a habilitational study "Psychische Kausalität" (Psychic Causality) at the University of Göttingen in 1919.

While Stein had earlier contacts with Catholicism, it was her reading of the autobiography of the mystic St. Teresa of Ávila on a holiday in Göttingen in 1921 that caused her conversion. Baptized on January 1, 1922, she gave up her assistantship with Husserl to teach at a Dominican girls' school in Speyer from 1922 to 1932. While there, she translated Thomas Aquinas' De Veritate (On Truth) into German and familiarized herself with Catholic philosophy in general and abandoned the phenomenology of her former teacher Husserl for Thomism. She visited Husserl and Heidegger at Freiburg in April 1929, in the same month that Heidegger gave a speech to Husserl (like Stein, a Jewish convert to Christianity) on his 70th birthday. In 1932 she became a lecturer at the Institute for Pedagogy at Münster, but anti-Semitic legislation passed by the Nazi government forced her to resign the post in 1933: the same year in which her former colleague Martin Heidegger became Rector at Freiburg and stated that "The Führer, and he alone, is the present and future law of Germany." In a letter to Pope Pius XI, she denounced the Nazi regime and asked the Pope to openly denounce the regime "to put a stop to this abuse of Christ's name."[3]
Stein's letter received no answer, and it is not known for sure whether Pius XI even read it.[4] However, in 1937, Pope Pius XI issued an encyclical written in German, Mit brennender Sorge, in which he criticized Nazism, listed breaches of an agreement signed between Germany and the Church and condemned anti-semitism.

She entered the Discalced Carmelite monastery St. Maria vom Frieden (Our Lady of Peace) at Cologne in 1933 and took the name Teresia Benedicta a cruce (Teresia Benedicta of the Cross). There she wrote her metaphysical book Endliches und ewiges Sein, which tries to combine the philosophies of Aquinas and Husserl.

To avoid the growing Nazi threat, her order transferred Sr. Teresia Benedicta to the Carmelite monastery at Echt in the Netherlands . There she wrote Studie über Joannes a Cruce: Kreuzeswissenschaft (The Science of the Cross: Studies on John of the Cross). Her testament of June 6, 1939 states, "I beg the Lord to take my life and my death … for all concerns of the sacred hearts of Jesus and Mary and the holy church, especially for the preservation of our holy order, in particular the Carmelite monasteries of Cologne and Echt, as atonement for the unbelief of the Jewish People and that the Lord will be received by his own people and his kingdom shall come in glory, for the salvation of Germany and the peace of the world, at last for my loved ones, living or dead, and for all God gave to me: that none of them shall go astray."

However, Sr. Teresia Benedicta was not safe in the Netherlands—the Dutch Bishops' Conference had a public statement read in all the churches of the country on July 20, 1942, condemning Nazi racism. In a retaliatory response on July 26, 1942, the Reichskomissar of the Netherlands, Arthur Seyss-Inquart, ordered the arrest of all Jewish converts, who had previously been spared. Sr. Teresia Benedicta and her sister Rosa, also a convert, were captured and shipped to the Auschwitz concentration camp, where they were gassed on August 9, 1942 when Edith was 50.[5] They received no numbers, as these were only for prisoners who were to be kept alive to work.

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