St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

Posted by on Aug 9, 2017 in courageous saints | Comments Off on St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

Edith Stein

Today is the feast of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, an extraordinary woman and an inspirational Saint. She is one of my favorite saints from the 20th century. I was drawn to her story while researching saints for my first book a few years ago, and I was so delighted to be able to include her in Super Girls and Halos.

One of the best parts about writing books that feature canonized saints is the encouragement I get as I read about women and men who pursue lives of holiness. I kind of expect these Saints to live their lives on an epic scale. In reality, they are usually regular people so inspired by Christ, so in love with the Lord, that they become extraordinary.

A Heroine

St Teresa Benedicta was already a formidable woman long before she converted to Catholicism and joined the Carmelites.

Edith Stein was born on October 12,1891 in Breslau, Poland. She enjoyed the perks of being the youngest of 11 children although her father’s death when she was a child brought challenges to the family. Her mother was able to take over the family business and make it successful. The example set by her mother no doubt influenced Stein’s later views on the role of women in society.

This sense of independence and self-sufficiency seemed to drive the young Edith. Although the Steins were observant Jews, Edith began to distance herself from the faith over the course of her teenage years, culminating in her declaration of atheism. She became an ardent student of philosophy, and while she maintained her atheism throughout her studies, she discovered the writings of St. Teresa of Avila and was convicted almost immediately. In fact, St. Teresa was so influential in Stein’s conversion that after being baptized Catholic, Stein pursued a desire to join the Carmelites.

Stein’s conversion proved to be a difficult situation for her family, especially her mother. This was further complicated by the socio-political climate in Germany in the 1930s which persecuted Jews. Stein’s conversion appeared to be a rejection of her roots. Because the conversion caused such anguish for her mother, Stein’s spiritual advisor recommended that she delay her entry to the Carmel, a delay that she respected for many years.

A Saint

In the end, her entry to the Carmel proved a devastating blow to her mother, who didn’t understand. The separation from family was deeply felt. Unfortunately, tensions continued to rise in Germany. Stein, now Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, transferred from Cologne to the monastery at Echt in the Netherlands for her safety, taking her further from family. Tragically, she was unable to escape the Nazis, and was arrested, along with her sister, and transported to the death camp at Auschwitz. She was murdered on August 9, 1942. Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross went to her death with quiet heroism, and died a martyr of the Church.

I paired St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross with Special Agent Dana Scully from The X-Files. I was inspired by Scully’s quest for Truth in the television series and her prudence in seeking answers. I was struck by the same qualities in Stein, coupled with her dedication to the faith.

“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.”

One of the things I enjoy about discovering saints and reading about their lives is when I find small nuggets, a thoughts or teachings that I can adopt and apply to my life. I may never be a canonized saint, but in adopting something from the saints, I feel like I am moving closer to living a life of holiness as modeled by them.

 

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