St Edith Stein
Biographical Portrait of the Blessed
'We bow down before the testimony of the life and death of Edith Stein, an outstanding daughter of Israel and at the same time a daughter of the Carmelite Order, Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, a personality who united within her rich life a dramatic synthesis of our century. It was the synthesis of a history full of deep wounds that are still hurting ... and also the synthesis of a full truth about man. All this came together in a single heart that remained restless and unfulfilled until it finally found rest in God.' These were the words of Pope John Paul II when he beatified Edith Stein in Cologne on 1 May 1987.
Who was this woman?
Edith Stein was born in Breslau on 12 October 1891, the youngest of 11, as her family were celebrating Yom Kippur, that most important Jewish festival, the Feast of Atonement. 'More than anything else, this helped make the youngest child very precious to her mother.' Being born on this day was like a foreshadowing to Edith, a future Carmelite nun.
Edith's father, who ran a timber business, died when she had only just turned two. Her mother, a very devout, hard-working, strong-willed and truly wonderful woman,now had to fend for herself and to look after the family and their large business. However, she did not succeed in keeping up a living faith in her children. Edith lost her faith in God. 'I consciously decided, of my own volition, to give up praying,' she said.
In 1911 she passed her school-leaving exam with flying colors and enrolled at the University of Breslau to study German and history, though this was a mere 'bread-and-butter' choice. Her real interest was in philosophy and in women's issues. She became a member of the Prussian Society for Women's Franchise. 'When I was at school and during my first years at university,' she wrote later, 'I was a radical suffragette. Then I lost interest in the whole issue. Now I am looking for purely pragmatic solutions.'
In 1913, Edith Stein transferred to Göttingen University, to study under the mentorship of Edmund Husserl. She became his pupil and teaching assistant, and he later tutored her for a doctorate. At the time, anyone who was interested in philosophy was fascinated by Husserl's new view of reality, whereby the world as we perceive it does not merely exist in a Kantian way, in our subjective perception. His pupils saw his philosophy as a return to objects: 'back to things'. Husserl's phenomenology unwittingly led many of his pupils to the Christian faith. In Göttingen Edith Stein also met the philosopher Max Scheler, who directed her attention to Roman Catholicism. Nevertheless, she did not neglect her 'bread-and-butter' studies and passed her degree with distinction in January 1915, though she did not follow it up with teacher training.
'I no longer have a life of my own,' she wrote at the beginning of the First World War, having done a nursing course and gone to serve in an Austrian field hospital. This was a hard time for her, during which she looked after the sick in the typhus ward, worked in an operating theater, and saw young people die. When the hospital was dissolved, in 1916, she followed Husserl as his assistant to the German city of Freiburg, where she passed her doctorate summa cum laude (with the utmost distinction) in 1917, after writing a thesis on The Problem of Empathy.
During this period she went to Frankfurt Cathedral and saw a woman with a shopping basket going in to kneel for a brief prayer. 'This was something totally new to me. In the synagogues and Protestant churches I had visited people simply went to the services. Here, however, I saw someone coming straight from the busy marketplace into this empty church, as if she was going to have an intimate conversation. It was something I never forgot.' Towards the end of her dissertation she wrote: 'There have been people who believed that a sudden change had occurred within them and that this was a result of God's grace.'How could she come to such a conclusion?
Edith Stein had been good friends with Husserl's Göttingen assistant, Adolf Reinach, and his wife. When Reinach fell in Flanders in November 1917, Edith went to Göttingen to visit his widow. The Reinachs had converted to Protestantism. Edith felt uneasy about meeting the young widow at first, but was surprised when she actually met with a woman with faith. 'This was my first encounter with the Cross and the divine power it imparts to those who bear it ... it was the moment when my unbelief collapsed and Christ began to shine his light on me - Christ in the mystery of the Cross.' Later, she wrote: 'Things were in God's plan which I had not planned at all. I am coming to the living faith and conviction that - from God's point of view - there is no chance and that the whole of my life, down to every detail, has been mapped out in God's divine providence and makes complete and perfect sense in God's all-seeing eyes.'
In Autumn 1918 Edith Stein gave up her job as Husserl's teaching assistant. She wanted to work independently. It was not until 1930 that she saw Husserl again after her conversion, and she shared with him about her faith, as she would have liked him to become a Christian, too. Then she wrote down the amazing words: 'Every time I feel my powerlessness and inability to influence people directly, I become more keenly aware of the necessity of my own holocaust.'
Edith Stein wanted to obtain a professorship, a goal that was impossible for a woman at the time. Husserl wrote the following reference: 'Should academic careers be opened up to ladies, then I can recommend her wholeheartedly and as my first choice for admission to a professorship.' Later, she was refused a professorship on account of her Jewishness.
Back in Breslau, Edith Stein began to write articles about the philosophical foundation of psychology. However, she also read the New Testament, Kierkegaard and Ignatius of Loyola's Spiritual Exercises. She felt that one could not just read a book like that, but had to put it into practice.
In the summer of 1921 she spent several weeks in Bergzabern (in the Palatinate) on the country estate of Hedwig Conrad-Martinus, another pupil of Husserl's. Hedwig had converted to Protestantism with her husband. One evening Edith picked up an autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila and read this book all night. 'When I had finished the book, I said to myself: This is the truth.' Later, looking back on her life, she wrote: 'My longing for truth was a single prayer.'
On 1 January 1922 Edith Stein was baptized. It was the Feast of the Circumcision of Jesus, when Jesus entered into the covenant of Abraham. Edith Stein stood by the baptismal font, wearing Hedwig Conrad-Martinus' white wedding cloak. Hedwig was her godmother. 'I had given up practicing my Jewish religion when I was a 14-year-old girl and did not begin to feel Jewish again until I had returned to God.' From this moment on she was continually aware that she belonged to Christ not only spiritually, but also through her blood. At the Feast of the Purifica-tion of Mary - another day with an Old Testament reference - she was confirmed by the Bishop of Speyer in his private chapel.
After her conversion she went straight to Breslau: 'Mother,' she said, ' I am a Catholic.' The two women cried. Hedwig Conrad-Martius wrote: 'Behold, two Israelites indeed, in whom is no deceit!' (cf. John 1:47).
Immediately after her conversion she wanted to join a Carmelite convent. However, her spiritual mentors, Vicar-General Schwind of Speyer, and Erich Przywara SJ, stopped her from doing so. Until Easter 1931 she held a position teaching German and history at the Dominican Sisters' school and teacher training college of St. Magdalen's Convent in Speyer. At the same time she was encouraged by Arch-Abbot Raphael Walzer of Beuron Abbey to accept extensive speaking engagements, mainly on women's issues. 'During the time immediately before and quite some time after my conversion, I ... thought that leading a religious life meant giving up all earthly things and having one's mind fixed on divine things only. Gradually, however, I learnt that other things are expected of us in this world ... I even believe that the deeper someone is drawn to God, the more he has to 'get beyond himself' in this sense, that is, go into the world and carry divine life into it.' She worked enormously hard, translating the letters and diaries of Cardinal Newman from his pre-Catholic period as well as Thomas Aquinas' Quaestiones Disputatae de Veritate. The latter was a very free translation, for the sake of dialogue with modern philosophy.
Erich Przywara also encouraged her to write her own philosophical works. She learnt that it was possible to 'pursue scholarship as a service to God ... It was not until I had understood this that I seriously began to approach academic work again.' To gain strength for her life and work, she frequently went to the Benedictine Monastery of Beuron, to celebrate the great festivals of the Church year.
In 1931 Edith Stein left the convent school in Speyer and devoted herself to working for a professorship again, this time in Breslau and Freiburg, though her endeavors were in vain. It was then that she wrote Potency and Act, a study of the central concepts developed by Thomas Aquinas. Later, at the Carmelite Convent in Cologne, she rewrote this study to produce her main philosophical and theological oeuvre, Finite and Eternal Being. By then, however, it was no longer possible to print the book.
In 1932 she accepted a lectureship position at the Roman Catholic division of the German Institute for Educational Studies at the University of Münster, where she developed her anthropology. She successfully combined scholarship and faith in her work and her teaching, seeking to be a 'tool of the Lord' in everything she taught. 'If anyone comes to me, I want to lead them to Him.'
In 1933 darkness broke out over Germany. 'I had heard of severe measures against Jews before. But now it dawned on me that God had laid his hands heavily on His people, and that the destiny of these people would also be mine.'
The Aryan Law of the Nazis made it impossible for Edith Stein to continue teaching. 'If I can't go on here, then there are no longer any opportunities for me in Germany,' she wrote; 'I had become a stranger in the world.'
The Arch-Abbot of Beuron, Walzer, now no longer stopped her from entering a Carmelite convent. While in Speyer, she had already taken a vow of poverty, chastity and obedience. In 1933 she met with the prioress of the Carmelite Convent in Cologne. 'Human activities can-not help us, but only the suffering of Christ. It is my desire to share in it.'
Edith Stein went to Breslau for the last time, to say good-bye to her mother and her family. Her last day at home was her birthday, 12 October, which was also the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles. Edith went to the synagogue with her mother. It was a hard day for the two women.'Why did you get to know it [Christianity]?' her mother asked, 'I don't want to say anything against him. He may have been a very good person. But why did he make himself God?' Edith's mother cried. The following day Edith was on the train to Cologne. 'I did not feel any passionate joy. What I had just experienced was too terrible. But I felt a profound peace - in the safe haven of God's will.' From now on she wrote to her mother every week, though she never received any replies. Instead, her sister Rosa sent her news from Breslau.
Edith joined the Carmelite Convent of Cologne on 14 October, and her investiture took place on 15 April, 1934. The mass was celebrated by the Arch-Abbot of Beuron. Edith Stein was now known as Sister Teresia Benedicta a Cruce - Teresa, Blessed of the Cross. In 1938 she wrote: 'I understood the cross as the destiny of God's people,which was beginning to be apparent at the time (1933). I felt that those who understood the Cross of Christ should take it upon themselves on everybody's behalf. Of course, I know better now what it means to be wedded to the Lord in the sign of the cross. However, one can never comprehend it, because it is a mystery.' On 21 April 1935 she took her temporary vows. On 14 September 1936, the renewal of her vows coincided with her mother's death in Breslau. 'My mother held on to her faith to the last moment. But as her faith and her firm trust in her God ...were the last thing that was still alive in the throes of her death, I am confident that she will have met a very merciful judge and that she is now my most faithful helper, so that I can reach the goal as well.'
When she made her eternal profession on 21 April 1938, she had the words of St. John of the Cross printed on her devotional picture: 'Henceforth my only vocation is to love.' Her final work was to be devoted to this author.
Edith Stein's entry into the Carmelite Order was not escapism. 'Those who join the Carmelite Order are not lost to their near and dear ones, but have been won for them, because it is our vocation to intercede to God for everyone.' In particular, she interceded to God for her people: 'I keep thinking of Queen Esther who was taken away from her people precisely because God wanted her to plead with the king on behalf of her nation. I am a very poor and powerless little Esther, but the King who has chosen me is infinitely great and merciful. This is great comfort.' (31 October 1938)
On 9 November 1938 the anti-Semitism of the Nazis became apparent to the whole world. Synagogues were burnt, and the Jewish people were subjected to terror. The prioress of the Carmelite Convent in Cologne did her utmost to take Sister Teresia Benedicta a Cruce abroad. On New Year?s Eve 1938 she was smuggled across the border into the Netherlands, to the Carmelite Convent in Echt in the Province of Limburg. This is where she wrote her will on 9 June 1939: 'Even now I accept the death that God has prepared for me in complete submission and with joy as being his most holy will for me. I ask the Lord to accept my life and my death ... so that the Lord will be accepted by His people and that His Kingdom may come in glory, for the salvation of Germany and the peace of the world.'
While in the Cologne convent, Edith Stein has been given permission to start her academic studies again. Among other things, she wrote about The Life of a Jewish Family (that is, her own family): 'I simply want to report what I experienced as part of Jewish humanity,' she said, pointing out that 'we who grew up in Judaism have a duty to bear witness ... to the young generation who are brought up in racial hatred from early childhood.'
In Echt, Edith Stein hurriedly completed her study The Church's Teacher of Mysticism and the Father of the Carmelites, John of the Cross, on the Occasion of the 400th Anniversary of His Birth, 1542-1942. In 1941 she wrote to a friend, who was also a member of her order: 'One can only gain a scientia crucis (knowledge of the cross) if one has thoroughly experienced the cross, I have been convinced of this from the first moment onwards and have said with all my heart: "Ave, Crux, Spes unica" (I welcome you, Cross, our only hope).' Her study on St. John of the Cross is entitled: Kreuzeswissenschaft (The Science of the Cross).
Edith Stein was arrested by the Gestapo on 2 August 1942, while she was in the chapel with the other sisters. She was to report within five minutes, together with her sister Rosa, who had also converted and was serving at the Echt Convent. Her last words to be heard in Echt were addressed to Rosa: 'Come, we are going for our people.'
Together with many other Jewish Christians, the two women were taken to a transit camp in Amersfoort and then to Westerbork. This was an act of retaliation against the letter of protest written by the Dutch Roman Catholic Bishops against the pogroms and deportations of Jews. Edith commented, 'I never knew that people could be like this, neither did I know that my brothers and sisters would have to suffer like this. ... I pray for them every hour. Will God hear my prayers? He will certainly hear them in their distress.' Prof. Jan Nota, who was greatly attached to her, wrote later: 'She is a witness to God's presence in a world where God is absent.'
When Edith Stein was beatified in Cologne on 1 May 1987, the Church honored 'a daughter of Israel', as Pope John Paul II put it, 'who, as a Catholic during Nazi per-secution, remained faithful to the crucified Lord Jesus Christ and, as a Jew, to her people in loving faithfulness.'
Preparing to Celebrate
Editor: Prior to the start of the formal canonization ceremony and Mass, different people arose and read, in different languages,the following selections from Edith Stein's works.
Brothers and sisters, this Sunday morning we would like to welcome you very warmly, coming, as you do, from so many nations to St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, to celebrate with us the canonization of Blessed Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Edith Stein.
Edith Stein was born in Breslau on 12 October 1891, as a child of Jewish parents. She was gassed by the Nazis at the Auschwitz concentration camp, probably on 9 August 1942.
The most characteristic feature of her life seems to have been her passionate quest for truth. This quest led her from Judaism through atheism and philosophy to the Christian faith, which she chose to live out within the Roman Catholic Church. Edith Stein was baptized in 1922, joined the Carmelite Convent in Cologne in 1933 and adopted the religious name Teresia Benedicta a Cruce - Teresa Benedicta of the Cross.
Edith Stein was not broken by the stresses and upheavals of her life. She came to see life as a matter of being drawn to and carried by God, and she resolutely and single-mindedly pursued the path of truth she had found in following the cross of Christ.
Before we start the celebration of Mass, we want to give an outline of Edith Stein's life, as reflected in her own words. We shall meet her as a Jew, a philosopher, an atheist, a working woman, and as a Carmelite who pursued the way of total commitment to the very end.
I. Jewish Roots
My name is Edith Stein, and I was born in Breslau on 12 October 1891. My parents were the late Siegfried Stein, a businessman, and his wife Auguste, née Courant. I have Prussian citizenship and I am Jewish (Curriculum vitae in her doctoral thesis).
The great events of our family life included not only our family festivities but also the major Jewish holidays, particularly Passover, the New Year Festival and the Feast of Atonement.
The greatest Jewish holiday is the Feast of Atonement:it was the day when the high priest would enter the Holy of Holies and offer the sacrifice of atonement for himself and the whole nation. This day is still commemorated with prayer and fasting. I have always been fascinated by the fact that, on this day, you do not eat or drink anything at all for 24 hours and longer. As soon as first star was in thesky, the service in the synagogue would start with those beautiful old chants. On that evening, not only my mother would go, but also my big sisters, and even my brothers saw it as an honorable duty to accompany her.
The Day of Atonement had a special significance for me, because I was born on it. My mother felt that this was very important, and I believe that, more than anything else, this helped make the youngest child very precious to her (Aus dem Leben einer jüdischen Familie, pp. 38 and 40-42)
II. School girl, student and philosopher: seeker
During the first years of my life, I was as lively as quick-silver, always bubbling over with
amusing ideas, cheeky and precocious. [I turned into] an over-zealous pupil, and I almost think that I felt more
at home at school than when I was with my family. Outside school I became quiet and reserved, so that everyone
in my family noticed it.When I was in year 7 (aged 12/13), I had slackened a little in my work. This was no doubt
because I had started to take an interest in various issues, particularly philosophical ones, which were hardly
ever touched upon at school. I embarked upon a serious quest for truth. I think the decisive
My health was rather poor at the time, probably due to the inner struggle I was fighting quite
secretly and with-out any human help. The ground was burning under my feet. I was going through an inner crisis
that was hidden from my family and which could not be solved at home
Books were of no use to me until I had received clarity on this issue by myself. This struggle
for clarity was an agonizing process that left me no peace, day or night. As time went on, I worked myself up into
a real state of despair. For the first time in my life I was facing something
While in Göttingen, I had learnt to stand in awe of believers and questions of faith; I even went to the Protestant church with my friends from time to time...; however, I still had not found the way to God (Aus dem Leben einer jüdischen Familie, p. 283).
Adolph Reinach's death in the war and his wife?s attitude to it were my first encounter with
the cross and the divine power it imparts to those who bear it. For the first time I saw the tangible victory of
the Church, born of her Savior's sufferings, over the sting of death. It was the first
III. Christian working woman
When we wake up in the morning, the duties and cares of the day will crowd in on us, if they have not already driven away the peace of the night. This is when we need to get things under control and say: Calm down! None of this must touch me now. My first hour of the morning belongs to the Lord. I want to tackle the day's labor that forces itself on me, and He will give me the power to succeed.
Then the day's labor starts. There may not be a single hour when you achieve what you had set yourself: there is your own fatigue, unforeseen interruptions, quite a few unpleasant incidents, things that exasperate and frighten you, times when you meet unpleasant superiors, demands that cannot be fulfilled, unfair accusations, perhaps also distress of various kinds.
It is lunch time. You get home exhausted and worn out.Further attacks may be waiting for you. More ferment, more storms: anger, problems, sorrow. Don't you have to get on with things as quickly as possible? No. Even if it is only within yourself, stop short for a moment, shut everything off and take refuge in the Lord. After all, He is with you.
And so it will go on for the rest of the day, perhaps with great trouble, but in peace. And when it is night time again, and you understand, with hindsight, that all your toil has remained incomplete and that many of the things you planned are still undone, when you are ashamed and sorry about so many things: take everything as it is, place it in God's hands and leave it to him. Then you can rest, really rest, and start the new day as if it were a new life (Die Frau, ihre Aufgabe nach Natur und Gnade, volume V, pp. 88-90).
IV. Carmelite nun
About ten days after coming back from Beuron the thought came to me: isn't it time for me to join the Carmelite Order? The Carmelite Order had been my aim for nearly 12 years - ever since I had chanced upon the Life of our Holy Mother Teresa in the summer of 1921 and my long quest for true faith had come to an end. When I received the sacrament of Baptism on New Year?s Day 1922, I felt that this was merely my preparation for my entry into the order.
I had already received my religious name as a postu-lant. It was given to me exactly as requested. I understood the cross as the destiny of God's people, which was beginning to be apparent at the time. I felt that those who understood it as the Cross of Christ should take it upon themselves on everybody's behalf. Of course, I know better now what it means to be wedded to the Lord in the sign of the cross. However, one can never comprehend it, because it is a mystery. The darker it gets around us, the more we must open our hearts to the light from above (Letter to Petra Brüning, OSU,of 9 December 1938).
V. Dying with Christ
Christ is God and man, and anyone who shares in His life must share in the life of God and man. Anyone who belongs to Christ has to live out the whole life of Christ.
He must grow to the full stature of Christ, he will have to walk the way of the cross one day and go to Gethsemane and Calvary. And all the suffering that comes from outside is nothing compared with the dark night of the soul, when the divine light no longer shines and the voice of God has ceased to speak. God is there, but He is hidden and silent. Why is this so? These are God's mysteries we are talking about, and they cannot be fathomed completely.
The cross is the symbol of everything that is heavy, oppressive and, when you take it upon yourself, so much contrary to nature that it feels as though you were ap-proaching death (Kreuzeswissenschaft, volume I, p. 11).
By assuming human nature, Christ became capable of suffering and dying. His divine nature, which He has had from eternity, gave infinite value and a redeeming power to His suffering and death. Christ's suffering and death continues in His mystical Body and in each one of His members. Everyone has to suffer and die. And if he is a living member of the Body of Christ, then his death and suffering acquires redemptive power through the divine nature of the Head. In the light of the mystery of redemption, [this] is the ultimate raison d'être. Those who are joined to Christ, therefore, will unflinchingly persevere even in the dark night of subjectively feeling remote from and abandoned by God (Ganzheitliches Leben, vol. XII, pp. 196 ff.).
The way of the Son of God is to get to the resurrection through suffering and the cross. Getting to resurrection glory with the Son of Man, through suffering and death, is also the way for each one of us and for all mankind (Ganzheitliches Leben, volume XII, pp. 206 f.).
Ed. The canonization took place during a solemn concelebrated Mass in St Peter's Square. We have included here those parts of the Mass that address our new saint.
Rite of Introduction
Dear Brothers and Sisters, on this day consecrated to the Lord, we sing with joy to the God of our Fathers:
"The bow of the mighty has been
At this celebration, in which we commemorate the Death and Resurrection of the Lord Jesus, we contemplate the witness of the life and death of Edith Stein, Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. With hearts full of thanksgiving, yet overshadowed by sorrow at the brutal suffering and death visited upon so many of our brothers and sisters, defenseless men and women, we offer the witness of this daughter of Israel and daughter of Carmel as example for the Church, holy and Catholic. The bow of the mighty has been broken, Life is more powerful than death: from that life, let us now draw consolation, hope, and mercy.
Rite of Canonization
Most Holy Father, Holy Mother Church asks you to canonize Blessed Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Edith Stein, so that she may be invoked as a Saint by all the Christian faithful.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, let us pray to God the Almighty Father through Jesus Christ. Through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the Saints, may the Holy Spirit enlighten our minds and may the light of Christ shine forth in the Church as she proclaims the sanctity of one of her children.
Formula of Canonization
For the honor of the Blessed Trinity, the exaltation of the Catholic Faith and the fostering of the Christian life, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, and our own, after due deliberation and frequent prayers for divine assistance, and having sought the counsel of many of our Brethren in the Episcopate, we declare and define that Blessed Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Edith Stein, is a Saint and we enroll her among the Saints, decreeing that she is to be venerated in the whole Church as one of the Saints.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Glory and praise to you, Lord. Your servant Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Edith Stein, crowned with glory and honor, graciously intercedes for us from her radiant place in heaven.
Most Holy Father, in the name of the whole Church I thank you for making this proclamation and ask you kindly to decree the publication of the relative Apostolic Letter.
We so decree.
God of our fathers, you led the holy Martyr Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Edith Stein, to a knowledge of your crucified Son and called her to follow his example in death. By her prayers, bring all to recognize their Savior in the Crucified Christ and through him, to arrive at the vision of your glory.
Liturgy of the Word
First Reading: From the Book of Esther.
Queen Esther also took refuge with the Lord in the mortal peril which had overtaken her. She besought the Lord God of Israel in these words:
My Lord, our King, the Only One, come to my help, for I am alone and have no helper but you and am about to take my life in my hands. I have been taught from infancy in the bosom of my family that you, Lord, have chosen Israel out of all nations and our ancestors out of all before them to be your heritage for ever; and that you have treated them as you promised.
Remember, Lord; reveal yourself in the time of our distress. As for me, give me courage, King of gods and Master of all powers! Put persuasive words into my mouth when I face the lion; change his feeling into hatred for the enemy, so that he may meet his end, and all those like him!
As for ourselves, save us by your hand and come to my help, for I have no one but you, Lord.
Second Reading: From the Letter of Saint Paul to the Galatians.
Brothers and Sisters: It is out of the question that I should boast at all, except of the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me and I to the world. It is not being circumcised or uncircumcised that matters; but what matters is a new creation. Peace and mercy to all who follow this as their rule and to the Israel of God.
Gospel: John 4:19-24
The Samaritan woman said to Jesus: 'I see you are a prophet, sir. Our fathers worshipped on this mountain, though you say that Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship'. Jesus said, 'Believe me, woman, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; for salvation comes from the Jews. But the hour is coming - indeed it is already here - when true worshippers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth: that is the kind of worshipper the Father seeks. God is Spirit and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and truth.'
Prayer over the Gifts
Lord our God, you have brought the sacrifices of the Old Testament to completion in the one sacrifice of Jesus Christ. On this feast-day of Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Edith Stein, accept the gifts your people bring for the celebration of the New and Eternal Testament which your Son established in his Blood. We ask this through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.
Eucharistic Prayer III
Your holy martyr Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Edith Stein, followed the example of Christ, and gave her life for the glory of your name. Her death reveals your power shining through our human weakness. You choose the weak and make them strong in bearing wit-ness to you, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Holy Father's Homily
Edith Stein's sole boast was
Ed. The Holy Father gave the following homily in Italian and German. This translation (with italics) and the picture on the preceding page was taken from L'Osservatore Romano, Weekly Edition in English, 14 October 1998.
1. 'Far be it from me to glory except in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ' (Gal 6:14).
St. Paul's words to the Galatians, which we have just heard, are well suited to the human and spiritual experi-ence 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 be-lievers look with confidence to the Cross, drawing from its mystery of love the courage and strength to walk faith-fully 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 1 May 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 St. 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.
We remember all concentration
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 nu-merous 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 cornerof this world! It is a cry to everyone: to all people of good-will; 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 neighbour 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'.
Only the love of Christ makes us truly free
5. Dear brothers and sisters! The love of Christ was the fire that inflamed the life of St. 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. St. 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. St. 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'.
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.
Mystery of the Cross gradually
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, 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. Through the experience of the Cross, Edith Stein was able to open the way to a new encounter with the God of Abraham, Issac 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, worshiping
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: St Teresa
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.
St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, pray for us! Amen.
Edith Stein, a beacon of light
Angelus Message - 11 October 1998
Before imparting the final blessing at the canonization Mass of Sr Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Edith Stein, on Sunday, 11 October, the Holy Father led the recitation of the Angelus, which he introduced with a brief meditation and greetings to the pilgrims in various languages. This translation of his remarks, which were made in Italian, German, English, French, Spanish and Polish, was taken from: L'Osservatore Romano, Weekly Edition in English, 14 October 1998.
We conclude this solemn celebration by praying the Angelus. Let us look at Our Lady with the eyes of the new saint, who, in contemplating the mystery of the presentation in the temple, remarked: 'When the Virgin Mary brought the Child to the temple, she received the proph-ecy that a sword would pierce her soul.... It is the prediction of the Passion, of the struggle between light and darkness, which already appeared before the crib!'.
St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross understood that crib and Cross were closely connected. This inner awareness allowed her to become deeply attuned to the Blessed Virgin. She wrote of her: 'Praying before God, loving him with all her heart, imploring his grace for her sinful people by offering herself in reparation for this people, and, as the servant of the Lord, being attentive to every one of his signs: this was her life'. Edith Stein, also a daughter of the Jewish people, spoke of Mary and, almost without realizing it, mapped out the plan of her own life decision.
Let us ask the new saint to intercede for us with the Blessed Virgin, so that we can all respond generously to our vocation.
I extend a special greeting to the many German-speaking pilgrims. I also greet those who have come from the Netherlands. The new saint, Sr Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, never tired of seeking the truth. I ask you to follow the way of the truth. Only in the truth will your personal life and society have a solid foundation.
Edith Stein stands out as a beacon which casts its light amid the terrible darkness which has marred this century. In the martyr, St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, so many differences meet and are resolved in peace. I invoke her intercession upon all of you who have come from different parts of the world to honour her and the witness which she bore. To her prayers before God I entrust all who suffer for the sake of justice and human dignity. God bless you all.
I greet you, dear French-speaking pilgrims who are attending the canonization of Edith Stein. May the new saint be an example for you of the spiritual and intellectual life! May she help you to seek God in yourselves and to seek yourselves in God, in order to find the One who is the Truth and the source of eternal happiness!
I affectionately greet the Spanish-speaking pilgrims who are attending this solemn canonization of Edith Stein. As I entrust you to the intercession of this saint, a daughter of the Teresian Carmel, I am pleased to give you my Apostolic Blessing.
I cordially greet my compatriots, those present here and those participating in this celebration by radio and television. I rejoice with you that you have the opportunity to experience this solemn day, the canonization of Edith Stein - Sr Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, a martyr of Auschwitz.
I remember that in 1982, also in October, in this very place I was able to canonize Maximilian Mary Kolbe. I was always convinced that these two martyrs of Auschwitz together would lead us into the future: Maximilian Mary Kolbe and Edith Stein - St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross.
Today I am aware that a sort of cycle is being completed. I thank God for this and I am pleased that veneration of this saint is growing and spreading in our home land.
Praised be Jesus Christ!
The above material is taken from the program booklet used by those attending
the canonization. and reflects those parts of the ceremonies that relate specifically to Edith Stein. This appeared
in The Hebrew Catholic, No. 70, May-June & Sept-Oct 1998. I am grateful to the Association of Hebrew Catholics
for permission to reproduce this material.
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Section Contents Copyright ©; Mark Alder and Association of Hebrew Catholics 1998-2000
This Version: 8th April 2001