On August 9, the Catholic Church celebrates the memory of Edith Stein, the German Jewish philosopher and Catholic mystic who became a Carmelite, taking the name Teresa Benedikta of the Cross. She perished at Auschwitz together with her sister.


edith_steinEdith Stein was born in Breslau (then Germany, today Wroclaw, Poland) on October 12, 1891 into a German Jewish family. In 1916, she received a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Göttingen, with a dissertation under the German Jewish philosopher Edmund Husserl, "On The Problem of Empathy." She then became a member of the faculty in Freiburg. She also worked with Martin Heidegger, the famous German existential philosopher.

While Stein had earlier contacts with Catholicism, it was her reading of the autobiography of the mystic St. Teresa of Ávila that led to her baptism on January 1, 1922. She then spent a number of years teaching philosophy in different frameworks. When the Nazis came to power it was more and more difficult for her to teach because of the anti-Jewish legislation. In a letter to Pope Pius XI, she denounced the Nazi regime and asked the Pope to openly denounce the regime and thus "to put a stop to this abuse of Christ's name."

She entered the Discalced Carmelite monastery at Cologne in 1933 and took the name Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. To avoid the growing Nazi threat, her order transferred Stein to the Carmelite monastery at Echt in the Netherlands. However, Stein 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 policies. In a retaliatory response, all Jewish converts were arrested. Stein and her sister Rosa were captured and shipped to the Auschwitz concentration camp, where they were murdered on August 9, 1942.

Edith Stein also known as Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1998 and proclaimed as patroness of Europe.

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