Thursday, August 07, 2014

Saints still matter: St. Edith Stein (1891-1942), 9 August

St. Edith Stein is not included in the Episcopal calendar, but I wish she were. I got to know her on a retreat at a Redemptorist retreat center, where I had the run of the theological library (always a dangerous thing for me).

Born in 1891, Edith Stein was a German Jewish philosopher. She earned her Ph.D. at the University of Gottingen in 1918, and was a teaching assistant at the University of Freiburg. Drawn by the writing of St. Teresa of Avila, Stein converted to Roman Catholicism in 1922, and began teaching at a Catholic school.

Forced to give up her teaching position in 1933, as the Nazis began peeling away the civil rights of people who lacked an "Aryan certificate," Stein entered the Carmelite monastery in Cologne, taking as her name in religion "St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross." While in Cologne she wrote a book on Christian metaphysics entitled Finite and Eternal Being.

As the Nazi threat loomed ever larger, Stein was sent to a Carmelite monastery in the Netherlands, where her superior assumed she would be safe. Here she continued writing, producing a book on St. John of the Cross. Arrested  in early August of 1942, she died in the gas chamber at Auschwitz one week later, on 9 August.

Some controversy persists about her canonization by the Roman Catholic Church in 1998.  Was Stein murdered because she had been born Jewish, or was she a Catholic martyr? She is one of my favorites, either way, and the person I think about when I pray, "Save us from the time of trial."

You can find out more about St. Edith Stein here, in Wikipedia, just like I did.