Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Edith Stein

She became St. Benedicta of the Cross, a remarkable woman whose feast day was yesterday.

She was a Jew who converted to Catholicism and was captured and killed by the Nazi's in the gas chamber at Auschwitz on August 9, 1942.

Here is an excerpt about her life from the St Anthony Messenger.

“EDITH STEIN hardly seemed Catholic-saint material. She, a precocious Jewish child, rejected God as a teen at the turn of this century in Breslau, Germany (now Wroclaw, Poland). But even as a child Edith was, at heart, a radical, one who goes to the radix, the roots. When she became convinced of the truth of an idea, her life fell into place around it.

“Her youthful unruliness ended, for example, when she became intellectually convinced that her mother’s and sister’s guidance would be good for her—that at age seven. But she rejected her mother’s Jewish piety. She later rejected God because she saw little evidence that most believers, whether Jew or Christian, really believed. If there was nothing there, she wasn’t going to play the game.

“But there was something there for Edith, even as World War I unfolded and then the Nazi movement. That something led to a remarkable life of faith, cut short at age 51 by her gas-chamber murder at Auschwitz.

“This month, on October 11, the universal Church will celebrate the life and death of Edith Stein when Pope John Paul II canonizes her as St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, confessor and martyr.

“Is canonizing a Jew-turned-Catholic an insult to Judaism? Some Jewish people think so. The tragedy of the Holocaust is so great that efforts to memorialize Edith Stein’s death at Auschwitz have been controversial. What did her life and death mean?

“St. Anthony Messenger interviewed three people who have been deeply involved in the life of St. Teresa Benedicta. One is the father of Teresia Benedicta McCarthy, a Boston-area child who was miraculously cured in 1987 through St. Teresa Benedicta’s intervention. That miracle, verified by the Sacred Congregation for the Causes of Saints, allowed this month’s canonization.

“The second interview is with Carmelite Sister Josephine Koeppel, whose life work has been translating the writings of Edith Stein into English.

“Finally, philosopher and scholar Dr. Marianne Sawicki explains that Edith Stein’s philosophical insights offer an ongoing contribution to Western thinking. That intellectual gift might have been on Pope John Paul’s mind over the years as he has encouraged her cause.”