A brilliant philosopher who stopped believing in God when she was 14, Edith Stein was so captivated by reading the autobiography of Teresa of Avila that she began a spiritual journey that led to her Baptism in 1922. Twelve years later she imitated Teresa by becoming a Carmelite, taking the name Teresa Benedicta of the Cross.
Born into a prominent Jewish family in Breslau (now Wroclaw, Poland), Edith abandoned Judaism in her teens. As a student at the University of Göttingen, she became fascinated by phenomenology, an approach to philosophy. Excelling as a protégé of Edmund Husserl, one of the leading phenomenologists, Edith earned a doctorate in philosophy in 1916. She continued as a university teacher until 1922 when she moved to a Dominican school in Speyer; her appointment as lecturer at the Educational Institute of Munich ended under pressure from the Nazis.
After living in the Cologne Carmel (1934-38), she moved to the Carmelite monastery in Echt, Netherlands. The Nazis occupied that country in 1940. In retaliation for being denounced by the Dutch bishops, the Nazis arrested all Dutch Jews who had become Christians. Teresa Benedicta and her sister Rosa, also a Catholic, died in a gas chamber in Auschwitz on August 9, 1942.
Pope John Paul II beatified Teresa Benedicta in 1987 and canonized her in 1998. [www.americancatholic/saintoftheday]
* * *
SOME QUOTATIONS FROM HER WRITINGS:
“One cannot desire freedom from the cross when one is especially chosen for the cross.”
"Whoever seeks the truth seeks God, whether he is conscious of it or not."
"In the heart of Jesus, which was pierced, the kingdom of heaven and the land of earth are bound together. Here is for us the source of life. This heart is the heart of the Triune Divinity, and the center of all human hearts... It draws us to itself with secret power, it conceals us in itself in the Father's bosom and floods us with the Holy Spirit. This heart, it beats for us in a small tabernacle where it remains mysteriously hidden in that still, white host."
"Whatever was not planned by me, was planned by God."
“God Himself teaches us to go forward with our hand in His by means of the Church’s liturgy.”
“The more lofty the degree of loving union to which God destines the soul, so much more profound and persistent must be its purification.”
“There is a state of resting in God, an absolute break from all intellectual activity, when one forms no plans, makes no decisions and for the first time really ceases to act, when one simply hands over the future to God’s will and ‘surrenders himself to fate’.”
“God is there in these moments of rest and can give us in a single instant exactly what we need. Then the rest of the day can take its course under the same effort and strain, perhaps, but in peace. And when night looks back and you see how fragmentary everything has been, and how much you planned that has gone undone, and all the reasons you have to be embarrassed and ashamed: just take everything exactly as it is, put it in God’s hands and leave it to Him – really rest – and start the next day as a new life.”
"Learn from St. Therese to depend on God alone and serve Him with a wholly pure and detached heart. Then, like her you will be able to say ‘I do not regret that I have given myself up to Love’.’’
* * *
Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Virgin and Martyr
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 Saviour and through him come to behold you for eternity. Who lives and reigns with you.
* * * * * *
CAMP EKON AT 40
In 1971, what had been the former summer Jesuit Seminary and later a summer retreat for Jesuits of the English Canada Province, became the site of a wonderful summer camp for youngsters 7-17 and a leadership training program for youth from across Canada (many associated with Jesuit schools or ministries).
As I had not been there in many years, I accepted the director Father John Sullivan's invitation to drop in one afternoon last week while I was in the Huntsville area, a half-hour away, to catch up on developments (new dormitories), celebrate Mass and dine with some of the leadership team.
During my visit we also took a pontoon boat ride to Little Round Island where some younger campers were experiencing their first overnight camp-out.