St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein) (1891-1942)

October 12, 1891–Born on the Day of Atonement

Boston-Carmel_244b“My Mother laid great emphasis on the occurrence, and I think, more than anything else, it made her youngest child especially dear to her. ..The Day of Atonement is the most solemn of all Jewish holidays, the day when the high priest entered the Holy of Holies, taking along the sacrifices to be offered in  atonement for himself and all the people, after the scapegoat burdened with the sins of the nation, had been driven into the wilderness.” –Life in a Jewish Family


Early Faith

9690203-family-of-edith-stein-1891-1942-philospher-and-carmelite-nun-circa-1912“There was little actual (religious ) education to talk of in our lives. We children learned how to behave by watching our Mother as though she were a mirror of virtue…” –Life in a Jewish Family


1896 -1911–School Years

“School played a major role in our childhood, I could almost say I felt more at home there than in my own house.” –Life in a Jewish Family

A schoolmate observed: “She worked very hard without being pushy or competitive; even though there was a real quality of reserve about her.  I always thought that she was older than us and not just smarter, probably because she was more serious and mature…I remember her as quiet, thoughtful and a truly likable person…” –Edith Stein, A Biography

 


1906–Fifteen Years Old

Always the first in her class she lost interest in school and her mother sent her to her married sisters for some time…

“It was not difficult for me to leave home. That was the time in which I lost what faith I had had as a child and began to withdraw, as an independent person, from all direction by my mother or brothers or sisters….Consciously I decided to get out of the habit of praying. I gave little thought to my future, but continued to live with the conviction that I was destined for something big.” –Life in a Jewish Family


1912–University Years

Boston-Carmel_245bA search for truth led her to philosophy, a classmate remembers…

“At the University, we were among the first women they admitted, so I think we formed a fairly select group…Not only did we take all the seminars in  philosophy and education, we also worked together for the Democratic Party (women at that time still didn’t have the vote).

Edith had a deep love for truth. She was the most gifted woman I have met in my life-and I have known many extraordinary women. She had a penetrating and creative mind that kept working at a problem until the truth came to light.” –Edith Stein, A Biography


1914–World War l Red Cross Nurse

Boston-Carmel_247bMy life isn’t my own anymore. All my energies belong to this great undertaking.  When the war is over, if I’m still alive, then there will be plenty of time to think about my own affairs again… Naturally I offered my services without restriction. If there is anything I wanted, it was to be sent out as soon and as far as possible…preferably to a field hospital on the front.” –Letter


1919–A Profound Faith Experience

“We went into the cathedral for a few minutes, and as we stood there in respectful silence, a woman came in with her shopping basket and knelt down in one of the pews to say a short prayer. That was something completely new to me. In a synagogue, as in Protestant churches  I had visited, people only went in at the time of the service. But here was someone coming into the empty church in the middle of the day’s work as if to talk with a friend. I have never been able to forget that.” –Life in a Jewish Family


1921–“This is Truth!”

As a guest in her friend’s house she was urged to read anything she wanted from the bookcase, while her friends were at a business meeting.

“I reached in at random and brought out a hefty volume. It carried the title: Life of Saint Teresa of Avila, written by herself. I began to read, was captivated immediately, and did not stop until I had read to the end. As I closed the book, I told myself: “This is Truth.” From that moment on Carmel was my goal…” –Life in a Jewish Family


1922–Teacher

edith-stein-640x392bHer Spiritual Director asked her to wait and become ”at home” in the Catholic Faith before entering Carmel                                                                                                   

“The most important thing is that teachers really possess the Spirit of Christ and embody it in a living way. But they also have the further responsibility of becoming familiar with the kind of life their students will have to face. ”  –Edith Stein, A Biography


A Student's Recollection

“I had my first look at Fraulein Doctor Stein from the window of my classroom as she crossed the courtyard with a pile of books under her arm. Without having any idea of who this person was, I was so impressed…I can’t forget it even today. In a very few words-mostly by her personality and everything she did-she succeeded in setting the course not only for my studies but for all my future aspirations. With her you sensed you were in the presence of something pure, sublime, and noble, something that elevated you and brought you to its own level.” –Edith Stein, A Biography


1922-1934–Lecturer/Writer

 Boston-Carmel_248b“I don’t use any extraordinary means to extend my worktime. I just do whatever I can. Apparently, what I can do increases in proportion to the number of things that have to be done. When nothing urgent is called for, my energy gives out much faster. Heaven has a sense of economy….It all depends on having a quiet little corner where you can talk to God on a daily basis as if nothing else existed…and regarding yourself completely as an instrument, so that you treat your most frequently demanded talents, not as something that you use, but as God working through you.“ –Edith Stein,  A Biography


1933–Carmel

A Carmelite Nun’s Reflection

“Once at recreation we started to talk about dying. I got all excited and called out, ‘When I die, the sisters have to sing aSalve Regina!’ She looked thoughtfully at me and then, very seriously, she said ‘When I die, I think the sisters will be able to sing a Te Deum.'” –Edith Stein, A Biography


1935–Prayer for the Church

Boston-Carmel_250bHer Carmelite Reflections     

“The unbounded loving surrender to God and God’s return gift, full and enduring union, this is the highest elevation of the heart attainable for the highest level of prayer. Souls who have attained it are truly the heart of the church and in them lives Jesus’ High priestly prayer…

For those blessed souls who have entered into the unity of life in God, everything is one: rest and activity, looking and acting, silence and speaking, listening and communicating, surrender in loving acceptance and an outpouring of love in grateful songs of praise.”–The Hidden Life


1938–Self-Offering

A letter to her Prioress

“I firmly believe that the Lord has accepted my life as an offering for all. It‘s important for me to keep Queen Esther in mind and remember how she was separated from her people just so that she could intercede for them before the king. I myself certainly am a poor and insignificant little Esther, but I take comfort from the fact that the King who has chosen me is infinitely kind and merciful.”  –Edith Stein,  A Biography


1942–Deportation

stein14bA Holocaust Surviver’s  Recollection

“It was Edith Stein’s complete calm and self-possession that marked her out from the rest of the prisoners. There was a spirit of indescribable misery in the camp; the new prisoners, especially suffered from extreme anxiety. Edith Stein went among the women like an angel, comforting, helping, and consoling them. Many of the mothers were on the brink of insanity and had sat moaning for days, without giving any thought to their children. She immediately set about taking care of these little ones. She washed them, combed their hair, and tried to make sure they were fed and cared for.” –Edith Stein,  A Biography


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