Edith Stein (also known as Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross) was a German Jewish philosopher who abandoned Judaism in her teens and converted to Christianity and became a Discalced Carmelite nun. She is canonized as a martyr and also one of six patron saints of Europe. Her family was religious, but Edith had no interest in religion. Moved by the tragedies of World War I, in 1915, Edith took lessons to become a nursing assistant and worked in an infectious diseases hospital after completing her doctoral thesis at the University of Freiburg in 1916.
Eventually Edith became drawn to the Catholic faith after reading the autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila. She was baptized on 1 January 1922 into the Catholic Church. At that point, she wanted to become a Discalced Carmelite nun but was dissuaded by her spiritual mentor. She began to teach at a Catholic girls’ school. She then taught at a university, but was forced to resign her position by the Nazi government, which was aware of her Jewish heritage. In 1933, she entered the Discalaced Carmel of Cologne where she took the name of Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Teresia in remembrance of Saint Teresa of Ávila, Benedicta in honour of Saint Benedict of Nursia) and dedicated her life to prayer and fasting. She made her temporary vows on 21 April 1935, and her perpetual vows on 21 April 1938.
During the Nazi occupation she was sent to the Carmel in Echt, Netherlands. When the Nazis occupied the Netherlands all Jews and Jewish converts were arrested. Sr. Teresa Benedicta and her sister Rosa were also arrested and they were sent to Auschwitz and put to death on August 9, 1942. Pope John Paul II beatified Teresa Benedicta of the Cross in 1987 and canonized her in 1998.
Prayer to St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein)
O Prince of Peace, to all who receive You, You bright light and peace. Help me to live in daily contact with You, listening to the words You have spoken and obeying them. O Divine Child, I place my hands in Yours; I shall follow You. Oh, let Your divine life flow into me.
I will go unto the altar of God. It is not myself and my tiny little affairs that matter here, but the great sacrifice of atonement. I surrender myself entirely to Your divine will, O Lord. Make my heart grow greater and wider, out of itself into the Divine Life.
O my God, fill my soul with holy joy, courage and strength to serve You. Enkindle Your love in me and then walk with me along the next stretch of road before me. I do not see very far ahead, but when I have arrived where the horizon now closes down, a new prospect will open before me and I shall met with peace.
How wondrous are the marvels of your love, We are amazed, we stammer and grow dumb, for word and spirit fail us.
Novena to St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein)
Lord, God of our fathers,
you brought St Teresa Benedicta
to the fullness of the science of the Cross
at the hour of her martyrdom.
Fill us with the same knowledge;
and, through her intercession,
allow us always to seek after you,
the supreme truth, to remain faithful until death
to the covenant of love
ratified in the blood of your Son
for the salvation of all men and women.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Dear Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross,
Child of the Day of Atonement –
Daughter of Abraham,
Bride of Christ,
Seeker of truth,
Scholar of the Church,
Handmaid of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel,
Servant of the Suffering Servant,
Presence of mercy,
Victim of victimizer,
Embracer of the Cross of Christ-like love,
Martyr of Auschwitz,
Imitator of Jesus,
Conqueror of evil,
Friend of God, Edith,
Please pray for me.
Please intercede for this petition of mine.
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St Edith Stein, Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, pray for us.
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 Savior and through him come to behold you for eternity. Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, forever and ever.