August 9, 2008

Edith Stein

Today's calendar story is of Edith Stein, who changed her name to Sister Teresa Benedicta De Cruce (Blessed by the Cross). She was born in Germany in 1891 to an Orthodox Jewish family on Yom Kippur (the Jewish Day of Atonement). A child prodigy, in her teens she rejected all religion, becoming a fervent atheist, feminist, and professor of philosophy.

While nursing victims of WWI, she happened upon the autobiography of Teresa of Avila. Edith underwent a profound transformation due to the autobiography and her study of philosophy, and at the age of twenty-nine converted to Catholicism. She said, "My return to God made me feel Jewish again".

She taught school, translated some of Aquinas's writings into German, and lectured. She wrote a book: The Science (Knowledge) of the Cross. Anti-Semitic legislation was passed by Nazi governments and she was forced to resign her posts.

Though a nun, she had to wear the Star of David on her habit. She wrote letters to the Pope urging him to issue an encyclical against the persecution of the Jews. The Carmelites shifted her about to protect her from the Gestapo.

The Nazis found her and arrested Edith with her sister Rosa. Witnesses report hearing her say, "Come, Rosa, we are going for our people". Edith was gassed in Auschwitz this day, the 9th, in 1942. She was canonized in 1998 by Pope John Paul II. There exists a controversy over her canonization, maintaining that she was killed not for her Faith, but for her Jewishness.

Jews were upset at the silent Pope during the Holocaust.
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