Charity registration No. SC002876  
Sunday August 11th. 2013
The story of Edith Stein has appeared frequently in the Bulletin, but it is always well worth recalling. Edith Stein is one of those people whose entire life seems to be sign. She was born on Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, in 1891 in Breslau, Germany, the youngest of eleven children in a devout Jewish  family.  When she was not yet two years old her father died suddenly, leaving Edith’s mother to raise the seven remaining children (four had died in childhood) and to manage the family business. Brought up on the Psalms and Proverbs, Stein considered her mother a living example of the strong woman of Proverbs 31, who  rises early to care for her family and trade in the marketplace. By her teenage years, Stein no longer practiced her Jewish faith and considered herself an atheist, but she continued to admire her mother’s attitude of total openness toward God. Like many before and since, Edith Stein came to Christianity through the study of philosophy. One of the first women to be admitted to university studies in Germany, she moved from the  University of Breslau to the University of Gottingen in order to  study with Edmund Husserl, the founder of phenomenology, and  ultimately became a professor and lecturer. Stein’s philosophical studies encouraged her openness to the possibility of transcendent realities, and her atheism began to crumble under the influence of her friends who had converted to Christianity. During the summer of 1921, at the age of twenty-nine, Stein was on holiday with friends but found herself alone for the evening. She picked up, seemingly by chance, the autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila, founder of the Carmelite Order. She read it in one sitting, decided that the Catholic faith was true, and went out the next day to buy a missal and a copy of the Catholic catechism. She was baptized the following January, but her desire immediately to enter the Carmelites was delayed for a time. Her advisers saw that her conversion and claustration would be a double blow to her mother, and they knew the Church could benefit enormously from  her contributions as a speaker and writer Edith eventually became a leading voice in the Catholic Woman’s Movement in Germany, speaking at conferences and helping to formulate the principles behind the movement. By the time Hitler rose to power in early 1933, Stein was well-known in the German  academic community. Hitler’s growing popularity and the  increasing pressure on the Jewish people, prompted her to request  an audience with the pope in the spring of 1933. She hoped that a  special encyclical might help counteract the mounting tide of anti– Semitism. Edith’s colleagues at the Educational Institute in Munster realized that they could protect her no longer, and so offered her a teaching position in South America. Since this would mean that her mother, now eighty-four, would never see her again, Stein felt that the time had come to fulfil her -standing desire to enter religious life. While on a trip during Holy Week of 1933, Edith stopped in Cologne at the Carmelite convent during the service for Holy Thursday. She attended it with a friend, and by her own account, the homily moved her very deeply. She wrote: I told our Lord that I knew it was His cross that was now being placed upon the Jewish ; that most of them did not understand this, but that those who did would have to take it up willingly in the name of all. I would do that. At the end of the service, I was certain that I had been heard. But what this carrying of the cross was to consist in, I did not yet know. On October 15, just after her forty-second birthday, Edith Stein entered the Carmel of
Cologne, taking the name Teresa Benedicta  of the Cross. A Carmel among the Nazis Edith’s family saw her entry into the convent as a betrayal, and as coming at the worst possible time, just when Jewish persecution was intensifying. Christianity was the religion of their oppressors; they couldn’t understand what it meant to her. When Edith’s mother heard of her decision to enter the convent she was crushed. “Why did you have to get to know him (Jesus Christ)? He was a  good man — I’m not saying anything against him. But why did he have to go and make himself God?” It was only after her mother’s death in 1936 that Edith’s sister Rosa felt free to be baptized as a Catholic as well. Edith remained in Cologne for five years, participating in the life of the community with great joy while continuing her scholarly work. After the terror of kristallnacht (November 9 1938), the nuns in Cologne feared for Edith’s safety and decided to send her secretly to the Carmel in Echt, in the  Netherlands. Her sister Rosa later joined her there as a Third Order Carmelite, serving as the convent portress. When Holland fell to the Nazis, Edith and Rosa  were arrested and were deported to Auschwitz and executed  just a week later. Edith  was fifty years old.  She was beatified by Pope John Paul II on May 1,1987, canonised on October 11, 1998, and made patron saint of Europe. In the eighth century, St.John Damascene, preaching at the Tomb of Mary,  expressed the belief of the Church on the meaning of the feast: "Although the body was duly buried, it did not remain in the state of death, neither was it dissolved by decay.. .in truth, you were transferred to your heavenly home, O Lady, Queen of heaven and Mother of God”. Feast Days of Mary  All the feast days of Mary mark the great mysteries of her life and her part in the  work of redemption.  The central mystery of her life is her divine motherhood, celebrated both at  Christmas, and a week later on January 1st, the feast of the Solemnity of Mary,  Mother of God. December 8th, marks the feast of The Immaculate Conception, the preparation  her divine motherhood, so that she had the fullness of grace from the moment of her   existence, completely untouched by sin.Her whole being was filled with the divine  life from the very beginning, preparing her  for the exulted role of mother of our  Saviour.  The Assumption is God's crowning of His work as Mary ends her earthly life and enters eternity.This completes God's work in her since it was not fitting that the flesh that had given life to the Son of God  should undergo corruption of the grave. The feast turns our eyes in that direction, where we too will follow when our earthly life is over.
Edith Stein — Convert, Nun, Martyr - Her feast day is August 9th