Edith Stein : Her Life

Edith Stein, the Carmelite Teresa Benedict of the Cross, was born 12 October 1891 in Breslau ( Germany , now a Polish city) on the day of Yom Kippur in a Jewish family. The meaning of the Jewish celebration – “the Day of Expiation” – deeply marked his life, which culminated in martyrdom, 9 August 1942, following the deportation to the concentration camp of Auschwitz . Gifted with an extraordinary intelligence, righteous living and a passion for the truth, she completed her studies in philosophy at Freiburg and Göttingen and, obtaining a doctorate in philosophy, she became an assistant professor of Edmund Husserl.

She passed from atheism to faith in Jesus Christ, stimulated by the encounter with other converts, but especially by reading the autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila, which she had providentially in her hands. She read the book without a break throughout the night, and, at dawn, a new light more powerful than the sun was lit in her heart, a light which shines in her forever. Here is where the truth is, she exclaimed. In fact, guided by the hand of Teresa, she met Christ whom she was never to leave.

Edith received baptism and her vocation to Carmel at the same time, according to what she has testified. As a Christian and a member of the Church, she showed a new dimension of her belonging to the people of Israel, with whom she was identified, as she stated during the events of World War II; she considered herself to be a small Esther, called to intercede in favor of her people: “I always think of Queen Esther, who was chosen from her people for this very reason. I am a poor Esther, powerless, but the king who chose me is infinitely great and merciful. It is a great consolation” (Letter of 31 October 1938).

She entered the Carmel of Cologne in Germany , 14 October 1933, but because of persecution due to her Jewish origin, was transferred to the Caramel of Ech in Holland , and was arrested with her sister Rosa, who had the role of porter at the monastery.

The last words that her community was able to hear before her arrest by the Gestapo on 2 August 1942, were: “Come, Rosa , let us go for our people.”

Pope John Paul II beatified her on 1 May 1987, and canonized her on 12 October 1998 in Rome . On that occasion the Pope turned to her as a daughter of Israel who, during the Nazi persecution, remained faithful, as a Catholic, to the faith and to the love of the Crucified Lord, Jesus Christ, and, as a Jewess, for her people.