who was st. edith stein?
Edith Stein was born in Breslau in the German Empire (now Wroclaw, Poland) on 12 October 1891. She was the youngest of 11 and was raised in the Jewish faith. After the death of her father at a young age, Edith lost her faith. She was a force of nature of a woman who enjoyed philosophy and teaching, and earned many degrees and accolades for her academic prowess.
In 1922 (when she was 31 years old), Edith Stein officially converted to Catholicism after reading the autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila. "When I had finished the book, I said to myself: This is the truth." Though she wanted to become a Carmelite nun immediately after being baptized, she was barred from doing so until 1934 (when she was 43 years old).
When she finally was able to join the Carmelite Convent of Cologne, she took on the name Sister Teresia Benedicta a Cruce - or Teresa, Blessed of the Cross. Commonly known as Sr. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross.
Though she eventually became a Carmelite nun, she never lost her passion and pursuit of philosophy and women's issues, and continued to pursue academia in these areas until her arrest on August, 2 1942 by Nazi soldiers.
Edith was gassed to death seven days later on August 9, 1942 in the Auschwitz concentration camp for being of Jewish descent, even though she was a Catholic convert.
She was beatified on May 1, 1987, in Cologne, Germany by Pope John Paul II and later canonized on October 11, 1998, in Vatican City again by Pope John Paul II.
Her feast day is August 9 (the day she was martyred). She is known as the patron saint of Europe, loss of parents, converted Jews, martyrs, and World Youth Day.
Learn more about her life story here.
BEST QUOTES BY ST. EDITH STEIN
(AKA TERESA BENEDICTA OF THE CROSS)
On the feminine genius
"The world doesn't need what women have, it needs what women are."
“The woman’s soul is fashioned as a shelter in which other souls may unfold.”
“Each woman who lives in the light of eternity can fulfill her vocation, no matter if it is in marriage, in a religious order, or in a worldly profession.”
"Anyone who seeks truth seeks God, whether or not he realizes it."
"My longing for truth was a single prayer."
On vocation and finding your calling
“For by doing what God demands of us with total surrender of our innermost being, we cause the divine life to become our own inner life. Entering into ourselves, we find God in our own selves.”
“Let go of your plans. The first hour of your morning belongs to God. Tackle the day’s work that he charges you with, and he will give you the power to accomplish it.”
“We will always find fundamentally the compulsion to become what the soul should be.”
"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."
“In order to be an image of God, the spirit must turn to what is eternal, hold it in spirit, keep it in memory, and by loving it, embrace it in the will.”
On rest and responsibility
“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 comes and you look back over the day and 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 with Him. Then you will be able to rest in Him – really rest – and start the next day, as a new life.”
On loving your neighbor
"Those who remain silent are responsible."
"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.”
"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)."
St. Edith Stein and Blessed Franz Jägerstätter were martyred on the SAME DAY one year apart during WWII. 😮 Edith Stein was gassed to death on August 9, 1942 in the Auschwitz concentration camp for being of Jewish descent, though she was a Catholic convert. Franz Jägerstätter was beheaded one year later on August 9, 1943 in Brandenburg, Germany for being an Austrian who refused to take the oath to serve Hitler unconditionally when called back into the military to serve as a Nazi soldier for a third time.
Read more about Blessed Franz Jägerstätter on our blog.
(If you've ever seen the film A Hidden Life directed by Terrence Malick, the film is based on the life of Blessed Franz Jägerstätter!)