Edith Stein was born on October 12th, 1891 in Breslau, Prussia to a Jewish family. Although her education was marked by Judaism, she strayed from it and abandoned all belief. She then went in search of the truth and, after leaving school for a time, began studying psychology and philosophy. With a keen intelligence, she presented a thesis on empathy and became the first female Doctor of Philosophy. She became an assistant to Edmund Husserl and became interested in the religious phenomenon. She was struck by the faith of several people, including a woman praying alone in church and a widow friend who went through mourning by drawing strength from her faith. In 1921, reading Saint Teresa of Avila’s autobiography ended her long search for true faith and she decided to ask for baptism.
With her philosophical skills and faith, Edith spent ten years teaching at the Dominican convent in Spire with the goal of valuing a Christian vision of the human person. With the rise of Nazisism, she was banned from teaching because she was Jewish. She entered the Carmel of Cologne in 1933 and took the name of Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. She testified to her vocation by saying: “For nearly 12 years Carmel has been my goal, since the life of our Blessed Mother Theresa fell into my hands”. This choice led to a new break with her family, especially with her mother, who did not understand this decision. Edith, now a Carmelite sister, continued her spiritual growth; among her models are Saint John of the Cross and Saint Therese of the Child Jesus. She chose to walk in the footsteps of Christ, under the sign of the cross, in the face of the evil that was unleashed around her. Fully lucid about Nazism, she left Germany in 1938 and left for the Echt Carmel in Holland. Following a denunciation of Nazi abuses by the Dutch bishops, the National Socialist power decided to deport all Christians of Jewish origin. Edith Stein was deported to Auschwitz on August 1st, 1942, where she died on August 9, 1942 in the gas chambers.
Sister Thérèse Benedicte de la Croix was canonized by Pope John Paul II on October 11, 1998 and proclaimed Co-Patroness of Europe in 1999 with Saint Bridget of Sweden and Saint Catherine of Siena.
(Discover the life and work of many other saints on Hozana.)
Sister Theresa Benedicta of the Cross left a lot of writings that express her spirituality. Her texts give us her luminous teaching for our time. Among all these writings, we can cite her Letter to Pope Pius XI of April 12, 1933, her lectures, Correspondences, Testament, and Poems. In addition, Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross delivers her spiritual message through her writings, of which here are some luminous quotations.
O Lord God, give me everything that can lead me to You.
O Lord God, remove from me all that may turn me away from You.
O Lord God, let me no longer be mine, but let me be entirely yours.