Edith Stein was on October 12, 1891, in the Breslau,
Germany. After the Second World War the city became known as
Wroclaw, the capital of Silesia.
She was the youngest of the Stein's 11 children. Her
parents, Sigfred and Auguste, were dedicated to business and
were Jewish. Sigfried died before Edith was two years old,
and her mother had to carry the weight of the business and
the education of her children. Edith wrote about herself
that as a child she was very sensitive, dynamic, nervous and
irascible, but that when she turned 7 years old she began to
develop a reflective temperament. Soon, Edith would stand
out for her intelligence and her capacity to remain open at
the problems that surrounded her.
In the middle of her adolescence she leaves school and her
religion because she is unable to find in them the meaning
for her life. Her great existential doubts begin to arise
regarding the meaning of life for man in general and she
becomes aware of the discrimination that women suffer. And
from there a great search begins motivated by only one
principle: We are in the world to serve humanity. In 1913
attracted by Husserl’s phenomenology she becomes his
disciple and assistant.
Soon she interrupts her studies and her work to collaborate
with her help during World War I. In 1915 she works as a
nurse for six months in the Red Cross. It was a decisive
moment in her life where she encountered limitations in
man’s reality: suffering, war, death. It was an incentive to
continue searching for answers.
In 1916 she completes her doctoral thesis regarding empathy
and she works as Husserl’s assistant until 1918. Her serious
phenomenological studies allows her to reach a profound
knowledge of the Catholic Church.
Yet, her definitive conversion was in 1921 reading the
Autobiography of St. Teresa of Jesus. She is finally
baptized in 1922 and receives the name, Teresa Edwig. God,
or the Absolute One, totally fills her soul: “Christ
elevated Himself radiantly before my eyes, Christ in the
mystery of the Cross.” Until 1933 she was a teacher,
conference speaker, translator and anthropology professor.
At age 42, on the 15th of April 1934 she is given the
Carmelite Habit in the convent at Cologne. Soon the
atmosphere in Germany gets complicated and she had a
premonition about what awaited her in the future.
They want to save her by making her flee to Holland, but she
does not consent, since this would imply she would have to
abandon her sister Rosa. On August 7, 1942, members of the
SS present themselves in the convent and arrest both of them
and take them to the Concentration Camp in Auschwitz. After
various torments in the gas chamber, on August 9th she dies
a martyr of the Cross. Edith consumes her vocation in
martyrdom offering her life for all- for love.
She was canonized as Martyr in 1998. Later, in October 1999,
she was declared patron of Europe along with St. Brigid and
While she was a believing and practicing Jew, when she left
the faith, and above all when she later converts and
embraces the life of the Carmel, her spirituality manifests
itself above all in her marvelous and profound writings. Her
principal works are: Infinite and eternal Being, The
Science of the Cross, Paths for knowing God, Theresa of
Jesus, The mystery of Christmas, The Wedding of the Lamb,
The Prayer of the Church and Hail Cross. Her writings
are a diverse variation of philosophy, anthropology,
psychology and spirituality... but in all of them there is
one common denominator: her concern for understanding and
clarifying who man is.
Edith Stein gives us an example of a life lived in a sincere
search for the truth, with a disposition to hear the voice
of the Lord, though this may change the course of our lives.
She also teaches us to fall in love with the cross as a
means of salvation and that we remain faithful until the
end, though this may call us to martyrdom.
"Learn from St.
Thérèse to depend on God alone and serve Him with a wholly
pure and detached heart. Then, like her, you will be able to
say ‘I do not regret that I have given myself up to Love’."
Let us Pray
Lord, God of our Fathers in the faith, copiously infuse in
us the science of the Cross, the way you admirably enriched
St. Benedicta of the Cross at the hour of her martyrdom.
Grant us, by her intercession, that we ceaselessly search
for You - You who are the sum of all Truth, and that we
remain faithful until our death to the eternal covenant of
love sealed by the Blood of Your Son for the salvation of
all men. Amen.
CANONIZATION AND HOMILY OF ST. EDITH STEIN
Blessed John Paul II
"For the honour of the Blessed Trinity, the exaltation of
the Catholic faith and the fostering of the Christian life,
by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the holy
Apostles Peter and Paul, and our own, after due deliberation
and frequent prayers for the divine assistance, and having
sought the counsel of our Brother Bishops, we declare and
define that Bl. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Edith Stein,
is a saint and we enrolled her among the saints, decreeing
that she is to be venerated in the whole Church as one of
the saints. In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of
the Holy Spirit".
With these solemn words pronounced in Latin on Sunday, 11
October, Pope John Paul II canonized St Teresa Benedicta of
the Cross, Edith Stein, a Jewish philosopher, convert to the
Catholic faith, Carmelite nun and martyr at Auschwitz. The
canonization took place during a solemn concelebrated Mass
in St Peter's Square. After the Gospel text (Jn 4: 19-24)
was chanted in Latin and Greek, the Holy Father gave the
following homily in Italian and German.
1. "Far be it from me to glory except in the Cross of our
Lord Jesus Christ" (Gal 6: 14). St Paul's words to the
Galatians, which we have just heard, are well suited to the
human and spiritual experience of Teresa Benedicta of the
Cross, who has been solemnly enrolled among the saints
today. She too can repeat with the Apostle: Far be it from
me to glory except in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Cross of Christ! Ever blossoming, the tree the Cross
continues to bear new fruits of salvation. This is why
believers look with confidence to the Cross, drawing from
its mystery of love the courage and strength to walk
faithfully in the footsteps of the crucified and risen
Christ. Thus the message of the Cross has entered the hearts
of so many men and women and changed their lives. The
spiritual experience of Edith Stein is an eloquent example
of this extraordinary interior renewal. A young woman in
search of the truth has become a saint and martyr through
the silent workings of divine grace: Teresa Benedicta of the
Cross, who from heaven repeats to us today all the words
that marked her life: "Far be it from me to glory except in
the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ".
2. On 1 May 1987, during my Pastoral Visit to Germany, I had
the joy of beatifying this generous witness to the faith in
the city of Cologne. Today, 11 years later, here in Rome, in
St Peter's Square, I am able solemnly to present this
eminent daughter of Israel and faithful daughter of the
Church as a saint to the whole world. Today, as then, we bow
to the memory of Edith Stein, proclaiming the indomitable
witness she bore during her life and especially by her
death. Now alongside Teresa of Avila and Thérèse of Lisieux,
another Teresa takes her place among the host of saints who
do honour to the Carmelite Order. Dear brothers and sisters
who have gathered for this solemn celebration, let us give
glory to God for what he has accomplished in Edith Stein.
We remember all concentration camp victims with respect
3. I greet the many pilgrims who have come to Rome,
particularly the members of the Stein family who have wanted
to be with us on this joyful occasion. I also extend a
cordial greeting to the representatives of the Carmelite
community, which became a "second family" for Teresa
Benedicta of the Cross. I also welcome the official
delegation from the Federal Republic of Germany, led by
Helmut Kohl, the outgoing Federal Chancellor, whom I greet
with heartfelt respect. Moreover, I greet the
representatives of the states of North Rhine-Westphalia and
Rhineland-Palatinate and the Mayor of Cologne. An official
delegation has also come from my country, led by Prime
Minister Jerzy Buzek. I extend a cordial greeting to them. I
would particularly like to mention the pilgrims from the
Dioceses of Wroclaw (Breslau), Cologne, Münster, Speyer,
Kraków and Bielsko-Zywiec who have come with their
Cardinals, Bishops and pastors. They join the numerous
groups of the faithful from Germany, the United States of
America and my homeland, Poland.
4. Dear brothers and sisters! Because she was Jewish, Edith
Stein was taken with her sister Rosa and many other Catholic
Jews from the Netherlands to the concentration camp in
Auschwitz, where she died with them in the gas chambers.
Today we remember them all with deep respect. A few days
before her deportation, the woman religious had dismissed
the question about a possible rescue: "Do not do it! Why
should I be spared? Is it not right that I should gain no
advantage from my Baptism? If I cannot share the lot of my
brothers and sisters, my life, in a certain sense, is
destroyed". From now on, as we celebrate the memory of this
new saint from year to year, we must also remember the Shoah,
that cruel plan to exterminate a people a plan to which
millions of our Jewish brothers and sisters fell victim. May
the Lord let his face shine upon them and grant them peace
(cf. Nm 6: 25f.). For the love of God and man, once again I
raise an anguished cry: May such criminal deeds never be
repeated against any ethnic group, against any race, in any
corner of this world! It is a cry to everyone: to all people
of goodwill; to all who believe in the Just and Eternal God;
to all who know they are joined to Christ, the Word of God
made man. We must all stand together: human dignity is at
stake. There is only one human family. The new saint also
insisted on this: "Our love of neighbour is the measure of
our love of God. For Christians and not only for them no one
is a "stranger'. The love of Christ knows no borders".
Only the love of Christ makes us truly free
5. Dear brothers and sisters! The love of Christ was the
fire that inflamed the life of St Teresa Benedicta of the
Cross. Long before she realized it, she was caught by this
fire. At the beginning she devoted herself to freedom. For a
long time Edith Stein was a seeker. Her mind never tired of
searching and her heart always yearned for hope. She
traveled the arduous path of philosophy with passionate
enthusiasm. Eventually she was rewarded: she seized the
truth. Or better: she was seized by it. Then she discovered
that truth had a name: Jesus Christ. From that moment on,
the incarnate Word was her One and All. Looking back as a
Carmelite on this period of her life, she wrote to a
Benedictine nun: "Whoever seeks the truth is seeking God,
whether consciously or unconsciously". Although Edith Stein
had been brought up religiously by her Jewish mother, at the
age of 14 she "had consciously and deliberately stopped
praying". She wanted to rely exclusively on herself and was
concerned to assert her freedom in making decisions about
her life. At the end of a long journey, she came to the
surprising realization: only those who commit themselves to
the love of Christ become truly free. This woman had to face
the challenges of such a radically changing century as our
own. Her experience is an example to us. The modern world
boasts of the enticing door which says: everything is
permitted. It ignores the narrow gate of discernment and
renunciation. I am speaking especially to you, young
Christians, particularly to the many altar servers who have
come to Rome these days on pilgrimage: Pay attention! Your
life is not an endless series of open doors! Listen to your
heart! Do not stay on the surface, but go to the heart of
things! And when the time is right, have the courage to
decide! The Lord is waiting for you to put your freedom in
his good hands.
6. St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross was able to understand
that the love of Christ and human freedom are intertwined,
because love and truth have an intrinsic relationship. The
quest for truth and its expression in love did not seem at
odds to her; on the contrary she realized that they call for
one another. In our time, truth is often mistaken for the
opinion of the majority. In addition, there is a widespread
belief that one should use the truth even against love or
vice versa. But truth and love need each other. St Teresa
Benedicta is a witness to this. The "martyr for love", who
gave her life for her friends, let no one surpass her in
love. At the same time, with her whole being she sought the
truth, of which she wrote: "No spiritual work comes into the
world without great suffering. It always challenges the
whole person". St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross says to us
all: Do not accept anything as the truth if it lacks love.
And do not accept anything as love which lacks truth! One
without the other becomes a destructive lie.
Novena to the Holy
Who are you, sweet light, that fills me
And illumines the darkness of my heart?
You lead me like a mother's hand,
And should you let go of me,
I would not know how to take another step.
You are the space
That embraces my being and buries it in yourself.
Away from you it sinks into the abyss
Of nothingness, from which you raised it to the
You, nearer to me than I to myself
And more interior than my most interior
And still impalpable and intangible
And beyond any name:
Holy Spirit eternal love!
Are you not the sweet manna
That from the Son's heart
Overflows into my heart,
The food of angels and the blessed?
He who raised himself from death to life,
He has also awakened me to new life
From the sleep of death.
And he gives me new life from day to day,
And at some time his fullness is to stream through
Life of your life indeed, you yourself:
Holy Spirit eternal life!
Are you the ray
That flashes down from the eternal Judge's throne
And breaks into the night of the soul
That had never known itself?
It penetrates hidden folds.
Alarmed at seeing itself,
The self makes space for holy fear,
The beginning of that wisdom
That comes from on high
And anchors us firmly in the heights,
That creates us anew:
Holy Spirit ray that penetrates everything!
Are you the spirit's fullness and the power
By which the Lamb releases the seal
Of God's eternal decree?
Driven by you
The messengers of judgement ride through the world
And separate with a sharp sword
The kingdom of light from the kingdom of night.
Then heaven becomes new and new the earth,
And all finds its proper place
Through your breath:
Holy Spirit victorious power!
Are you the master who builds the eternal
Which towers from the earth through the heavens?
Animated by you, the columns are raised high
And stand immovably firm.
Marked with the eternal name of God,
They stretch up to the light,
Bearing the dome,
Which crowns the holy cathedral,
Your work that encircles the world:
Holy Spirit God's molding hand!
Are you the one who created
the unclouded mirror
Next to the Almighty's throne,
Like a crystal sea,
In which Divinity lovingly looks at itself?
You bend over the fairest work of your creation,
And radiantly your own gaze
Is illumined in return.
And of all creatures the pure beauty
Is joined in one in the dear form
Of the Virgin, your immaculate bride:
Holy Spirit Creator of all!
Are you the sweet song of love
And of holy awe
That eternally resounds around the triune throne,
That weds in itself the clear chimes
of each and every being?
That joins together the members to the Head,
In which each one
Finds the mysterious meaning of his being blessed
And joyously surges forth,
Freely dissolved in your surging:
Holy Spirit eternal jubilation!
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