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Saint Edith Stein
Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Virgin & Martyr
Optional Memorial
August 9th
co-patroness of Europe

"I even believe that the deeper one is drawn into God, the more one must 'go out of oneself'; that is, one must go to the world in order to carry the divine life into it."

From The Collected Works of Edith Stein
Self Portrait In Letters 1916-1942

translated by Josephine Koeppe, O.C.D., quote page 54
letter #45 to Sr. Callista Kopf, OP ,presumably sent to Munich

History -- Collect -- Gospel Reading -- Homily Pope John Paul II at Canonization (1998) -- Homily Pope John Paul II at European Synod (1999) -- Edith Stein and the Contemplative Vocation -- Prayer from St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross -- Verses for a Pentecost Novena

Edith was born in Breslau, Germany, on October 12, 1891, the youngest of seven children in a prominent Jewish family.  Edith abandoned Judaism as early as 1904, becoming a self-proclaimed atheist.  Her brilliant intellect was seeking truth, and she entered the University of Gottingen, where she became a protégé of the famed philosopher of Edmund Husserl.   She was also a proponent of the philosophical school of phenomenology both at Gottingen and Freiburg in Breisgau. She earned a doctorate in 1916 and emerged as one of Europe's brightest philosophers. One of her primary endeavors was to examine phenomenology from the perspective of Thomistic thought, part of her growing interest in Catholic teachings. Propelled by her reading of the autobiography of
Saint Teresa of Avila, she was baptized on January 1, 1922. Giving up her university post, she became a teacher in the Dominican school at Speyer, receiving as well in 1932 the post of lecturer at the Educational Institute of Munich, resigning under pressure from the Nazis, who were then in control of Germany.

In 1934, Edith entered the Carmelite Order. Smuggled out of Germany into the Netherlands in 1938 to escape the mounting Nazi oppression, she fell into the hands of the Third Reich with the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands in 1940. Arrested in 1942 with her sister Rosa (also a convert) as part of the order by Hitler to liquidate all non-Aryan Catholics, she was taken to Auschwitz, and, on August 9 or 10, 1942, she died in the gas chamber there.

Pope John Paul II canonized Edith on October 11, 1998.

[taken from John Paul II's Book of Saints, published by OSV 1999]

Collect and Readings: From the Common of Virgins or Martyrs

God of our Fathers,
who brought the Martyr Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross
to know your crucified Son
and to imitate him even until death,
grant, through her intercession,
that the whole human race may acknowledge Christ as its Savior
and through him come to behold you for eternity.
Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. +Amen.

Gospel Readings -- John 4:19-24
The woman said to Him, "Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshipped on this mountain; and you say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship". Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship Him. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."

[Prayer and readings from a Carmelite web site:]

Canonization of Edith Stein
Sunday, October 11, 1998
John Paul II

1. "Far be it from me to glory except in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Gal 6:14).

Saint 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 May 1, 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 Saint 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.

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 neighbor 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".

5. Dear brothers and sisters! The love of Christ was the fire that inflamed the life of Saint 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. Saint 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. Saint 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".

Saint 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.

7. Finally, the new saint teaches us that love for Christ undergoes suffering. Whoever truly loves does not stop at the prospect of suffering: he accepts communion in suffering with the one he loves.

Aware of what her Jewish origins implied, Edith Stein spoke eloquently about them: "Beneath the Cross I understood the destiny of God's People.... Indeed, today I know far better what it means to be the Lord's bride under the sign of the Cross. But since it is a mystery, it can never be understood by reason alone".

The mystery of the Cross gradually enveloped her whole life, spurring her to the point of making the supreme sacrifice. As a bride on the Cross, Sister Teresa Benedicta did not only write profound pages about the "science of the Cross", but was thoroughly trained in the school of the Cross. Many of our contemporaries would like to silence the Cross. But nothing is more eloquent than the Cross when silenced! The true message of suffering is a lesson of love. Love makes suffering fruitful and suffering deepens love.

Through the experience of the Cross, Edith Stein was able to open the way to a new encounter with the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faith and the Cross proved inseparable to her. Having matured in the school of the Cross, she found the roots to which the tree of her own life was attached. She understood that it was very important for her "to be a daughter of the chosen people and to belong to Christ not only spiritually, but also through blood".

8. "God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth" (Jn 4:24).

Dear brothers and sisters, the divine Teacher spoke these words to the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well. What He gave His chance but attentive listener we also find in the life of Edith Stein, in her "ascent of Mount Carmel". The depth of the divine mystery became perceptible to her in the silence of contemplation. Gradually, throughout her life, as she grew in the knowledge of God, worshipping Him in spirit and truth, she experienced ever more clearly her specific vocation to ascend the Cross with Christ, to embrace it with serenity and trust, to love it by following in the footsteps of her beloved Spouse: Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross is offered to us today as a model to inspire us and a protectress to call upon.

We give thanks to God for this gift. May the new saint be an example to us in our commitment to serve freedom, in our search for the truth. May her witness constantly strengthen the bridge of mutual understanding between Jews and Christians.

Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, pray for us! Amen.

Source: Vatican web site

Co-Patroness of Europe


Three new Co-patronesses of the European Continent:
Saint Edith Stein, Saint Brigid of Sweden and Saint Catherine of Siena.
October 1999


Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dearest Brothers and Sisters!

1. "Jesus Himself came up and walked by their side" (Lk 24:15).

The Gospel story about the disciples of Emmaus, which we have just listened to, is the biblical icon that is the backdrop of this second Special Assembly for Europe of the Synod of Bishops. We begin with this solemn Eucharistic concelebration whose theme is: "Jesus Christ, alive in His Church, source of hope for Europe". We begin by entrusting to the Lord the expectations and hopes that lie in the hearts of all of us. We find ourselves gathered around the altar, representing the Nations of the Continent, united by the desire to make the announcement and the witness of the living Christ ever more incisive and concrete in every corner of Europe, yesterday, today and forever.

With great joy and affection I offer my fraternal embrace of peace to each of you. The Spirit has convoked us here for this important ecclesial event that, going back to the Assembly for Europe of 1991, ends the series of continental Synods in preparation for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. Through you, I express my most cordial salutation to the local Churches you come from.

2. "Jesus Christ is the same today as He was yesterday and as He will be forever" (Heb 13:8). This, as is well known, is the constant calling that resounds in the Church on the path towards the great Jubilee of the Year 2000.

Jesus Christ lives in His Church and, from generation to generation, continues to "be next to" man and "to walk" with him. Especially in moments of trial, when delusions might make one's faith and hope waver, the Resurrected One crosses the paths of human loss and, even when unknown, becomes our walking companion.

Thus, in Christ and in His Church, God never ceases listening to the joys and the hopes, the sadness and the anguish of humanity (cf. Cost. past. Gaudium et spes, 1), whom He tries to reach with His loving solicitude even today. This is what happened during Vatican Council II; this is also the meaning of the different continental Assemblies of the Synod of Bishops: Christ risen, living in His Church, walking with the man living in Africa, in America, in Asia, in Oceania, in Europe to arouse or awaken faith, hope and charity in his soul.

3. With the Synodal Assembly that begins today, the Lord wishes to turn a forceful invitation to hope to the Christian people, pilgrims in the countries comprised between the Atlantic and the Urals. It is an invitation that, today, has found a singular expression in the words of the Prophet: Shout for joy ... rejoice ... exult!" (Zp 3:14). The God of the Covenant knows the hearts of His sons; He knows about the many painful trials, which the European nations have undergone during this last belabored and difficult century that is coming to a close.

He, the Emanuel, the God-with-us, was crucified in lagers and gulags, He has known suffering under the bombings, in the trenches, He has endured wherever man, every human being, has been humiliated, oppressed and violated in His inalienable dignity. Christ endured the passion of the many innocent victims of wars and conflicts that have bloodied the regions of Europe. He knows the serious temptations of the generations, readying to cross the threshold of the third millennium: the enthusiasm aroused by the fall of the ideological barriers and the peaceful revolutions of 1989, unfortunately, seems to have rapidly diminished with its impact with political and economic egotism, and the disconsolate words of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus well up on the lips of many persons in Europe: "Our own hope had been..." (Lk 24:21).

In this particular social and cultural context, the Church feels the duty to renew with vigor the message of hope entrusted to her by God. With this Assembly she repeats to Europe: "Yahweh your God is there with you, the warrior-Savior" (Zp 3:17). His invitation to hope is not based on a utopistic ideology, like the ones during the last two centuries that have ended up by undermining human rights, and especially of the weakest. It is, on the other hand, the unceasing message of salvation proclaimed by Christ: the Kingdom of God is among you, convert and believe in the Gospel! (cf. Mk 1:15). With the authority given to Her by the Lord, the Church repeats to Europe today: Europe of the third millennium "do not let your hands fall limp" (Zp 3:16); do not give in to discouragement, do not resign yourself to ways of thinking and living that have no future, because they are not based on the firm certitude of the Word of God!

Europe of the third millennium, the Church re-proposes Christ to you and your children, only Mediator of salvation yesterday, today and forever (cf. Heb 13:8). She proposes Christ, true hope of mankind and history. She proposes Him not only and not so much in words, but especially with the eloquent testimony of holiness. The saints, with their existence following the Beatitudes of the Gospel, are the most efficacious and credible vanguard of the Church's mission.

4. For this reason, dearest Brothers and Sisters, on the threshold of the Year 2000, while the entire Church in Europe is most worthily represented here, I have the joy today of proclaiming three new Co-patronesses of the European Continent. They are: Saint Edith Stein, Saint Brigid of Sweden and Saint Catherine of Siena.

Europe has already been placed under the heavenly protection of three great saints: Benedict of Norcia, father of Western monasticism, and the two brothers Cyril and Methodius, apostles of the Slavs. Alongside these noteworthy witnesses of Christ, I wished to include the same number of feminine saints, in order to highlight the important role that women had and still have in the ecclesiastical and lay history of the Continent up to our day.

From her origins, the Church, though being conditioned by the cultures in which she finds herself, has always acknowledged the full spiritual dignity of women, starting from the unique vocation and mission of Mary, Mother of the Redeemer. Since the beginning, Christians have turned to women like Felicity, Perpetua, Agatha, Lucy, Cecilia and Anastasia with no less fervor than that reserved to saintly men.

5. The three saints, chosen as Co-patronesses of Europe, are all linked in a special way to the history of the continent. Edith Stein, who, coming from a Jewish family, left a brilliant career as a researcher to become a Carmelite nun with the name of Theresa Blessed by the Cross, and died in the Auschwitz extermination camp, is the symbol of the dramas of Europe this century. Brigid of Sweden and Catherine of Siena, who both lived in the 14th century, worked tirelessly for the Church, concerned for her destiny on a European scale. Thus Brigid, consecrated to God after fully living her vocation as wife and mother, traveled in Europe from North to South, working unceasingly for the unity of Christians, and died in Rome. Catherine, humble and fearless member of the Dominican Third Order, brought peace to her own Siena, to Italy and to Europe in the 14th century. She worked unsparingly for the Church, achieving the return of the pope from Avignon to Rome.

All three of them admirably express the synthesis between contemplation and action. Their life and their works testify with great eloquence to the power of the Risen Christ, living in His Church; power of generous love for God and for man, power of authentic moral and civil renewal. Christians and ecclesial communities of every confession, as well as European citizens and states, sincerely committed to the search for truth and common good, can find inspiration in these new Patronesses, so rich in gifts from the supernatural and human point of view.

6. "Did not our hearts burn within he explained the scriptures to us?" (Lk 24:32).

I sincerely hope that the synodal works will allow us to relive the experience of the disciples of Emmaus who, full of hope and joy for having recognized the Lord, "at the breaking of bread", without hesitation returned to Jerusalem to tell their brethren what had happened along the way (cf. Lk 24:33-35).

May Jesus Christ also allow us to meet and recognize Him, together with Him at the Eucharistic table, in the communion of hearts and of faith. May He grant us to live these weeks of reflection, profoundly attuned to the Spirit who speaks to the Churches in Europe. May He make us humble and courageous apostles of His Cross, as were Saints Benedict, Cyril, Methodius, and the Saints Edith Stein, Brigid and Catherine.

Let us beseech their help together with the heavenly intercession of Mary, Queen of all the Saints and Mother of Europe. May the guidelines for evangelizing action, concerned for the challenges and expectations of the young generations, emerge from this Second Special Assembly for Europe.

And may Christ be the renewed source of hope for the inhabitants of the "old" continent, where the Gospel has reaped an incomparable harvest of faith, active love and civilization over the centuries!


Edith Stein and the Contemplative Vocation -- by Sister Joan Gormley Pentecost 2003 Vocation Issue

Prayer from St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

"When night comes, and retrospect shows that everything was patchwork and much that one had planned left undone, when so many things rouse shame and regret, then take all as is, lay it in God's hands, and offer it up to Him. In this way we will be able to rest in Him, actually to rest and to begin the new day like a new life."

Verses for a Pentecost Novena: By Saint Edith Stein

Related Link on the Vatican Website:

Benedict XVI, General Audience, Papal Summer Residence, Castel Gandolfo, Wednesday, 13 August 2008, St Edith Stein and St Maximilian Mary Kolbe

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