St. Teresa Benedicta de la Cruce (Edith Stein)

The period of the Second World War will go down as perhaps the darkest period of human history because of the great evils inflicted as a result of terrors of war and genocide.   The wounds of this war still resonate not only in Europe and America but throughout the world.   So offense to human dignity was the atrocities of this war that a new term was introduced into our vocabulary, “crimes against humanity”, especially as a result of the holocaust against the Jewish people.   However, even in humanities greatest evils, God always finds a way to shed his light of goodness into our world.   On Tuesday the Church honors one of the greatest heroes of World War II, St. Teresa Benedicta de la Cruce who was martyred in the Nazi concentration camp of Auschwitz on August 9, 1942.   


She was born of a Jewish family and given the name Edith Stein in Breslau Germany in 1891.   By the time Edith was a teenager she had become an atheist, convinced in her youthful naiveté that the evil in the world can only exist if there is no all-powerful and benevolent God.   Edith began her universities studies und the famous philosopher Edmund Husserl and ultimately becoming a professor of phenomenology at the University of Freiburg in 1916.   She had to overcome the anti-woman bias in the world of academia and which ultimately made her one the greatest proponent of true Christian feminism, tearing down walls of discrimination in old Europe.   Edith was introduced to the Autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila by which her brilliant intellect was opened to the world of the famous Carmelite mystic who’s profound faith opened the door for Edith to be baptized into the Church and ultimately entering the Carmel where she took the name Sister Teresa Blessed of the Cross.    As a religious, she became instrumental in the intellectual formation of the sisters and teacher in a school for girls in Speyer.   In 1933 Sr. Teresa sent a letter to Pope Pius XII beginning him for a response to the anti-Semitic laws spreading throughout Europe ultimately paving the way for the holocaust.    In July of 1942 Edith and her sister were arrested during the Jewish roundup in the Netherlands and shipped to Auschwitz where she met her death in the gas chambers.


The courage of the martyrs always inspires us to greater faith and trust in God.   In a particular way, this woman presents her life as an inspiration a sincere desire to understand the truths of faith and discover God in those who suffer injustices.   For women, Edith Stein is a model not only of holiness but helps women to discover for themselves their authentic vocation and advocates of the feminine genius as Pope John Paul II described the dignity of woman.    All of us but in a particular way the women of this community should find in Edith Stein a true inspiration of Christian courage, virtue and strength.  She was a voice for the defenseless, a promoter of education, a defender of human dignity and a champion for women’s true rights, never seeking to define women outside of the dignity that God had bestowed on them.  Let us pray that through the intercession of St. Teresa Benedicta de la Cruce we too will stand for the truth of human dignity and rights, speak for those who suffer the cruelty of the world and courageously profess our Catholic faith to the end.     


In the Lord Jesus,

Fr. Vasquez 


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