St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

Hosea 2.16-17,21-22; Ps 44; Matthew 25.1-13

In a remarkable week of saints, St Teresa Benedicta stands out. Edith Stein (1891-1942) was born in Breslau, Poland, of an observant Jewish family. By her teenaged years, however, she had become agnostic. She was well-educated by her widowed mother and entered the University of Göttingham to study with the eminent philosopher Edmund Husserl. (Among Husserl’s other students were Martin Heidegger and Max Scheler, and Husserl and Scheler were to be profound influences on the philosophy of Karol Wojtyla, later Pope St John Paul II.) Her studies were interrupted by World War I (during which she served as a volunteer Red Cross nurse) and after the war she moved with Husserl to Freiburg where she completed her doctorate.

Reading the biography of Teresa of Avila in the summer of 1921, she found herself called to become a Discalced (‘shoeless’) Carmelite. She was baptised on 1 January 1922 but only entered a Carmelite monastery near Cologne in 1933, taking the religious name Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. To protect her from the growing Nazi threat she was transferred in 1939 to the Carmel in Echt, Netherlands, where she taught Latin and philosophy. In retaliation for a statement issued by the Dutch Bishops condemning Nazi racism, on
2nd August 1942 she was arrested and then transported to Auschwitz, where on the
9th August she died in the gas chambers. Pope St John Paul II declared her one of six co-patrons of Europe.

Posted in Daily Reflection.