71 Years Ago Today, She Was Killed at Auschwitz

Today is the feast day of Edith Stein, who died as a Carmelite, Sr. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. During her canonization Mass in 1998, Pope John Paul II, said:

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.

Freedom. It’s our duty to reclaim that word. It’s not rhetoric to secure expanded abortion access. It’s not a Fourth of July banner. It’s the challenge of our lives. What will we do to be good stewards of it? To Whom will we surrender it?

Blessed John Paul II went on to talk about how truth and love are intertwined, and highlighted: “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.”

And about the Cross, he said:

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, Sr 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.

Truth, freedom, love. Edith Stein, pray for us, that we might learn again, what these words mean, conformed to Christ’s Cross. Let’s pray that our unbelief collapses and Christ shines his light on us.

  • David J. White

    I had a library job years ago where I cataloged a collection of foreign dissertations that the library had accumulated over the years. One of them was a copy of Edith Stein’s dissertation, in philosophy. That was the impetus for me to read up on her and learn more about her. It has been a real blessing.


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