Since the days of the Early Church there
has been only one Jewish-born Christian
Her name is Edith Stein.
She was born was born in what was then
German city of Breslau (today Wroclaw
Poland), the last of seven surviving
Suffering appeared early. Before she
two, her fifty-year old father died
She was a very bright girl.
Maybe because she was the youngest
Edith grew up to be a headstrong, stubborn
child. Later on, she slipped into a
and found herself "wishing to
over by some vehicle" in the street.
Then as a teenager she decided to quit
She did this "deliberately and
Soon after she announced that she wanted
to drop out of school. This was in
she was fourteen and a half years old,
the 9th grade. She became an atheist.
When she was twenty, she entered the University
of Breslau, one of the first women students
to attend a College. She did not like psychology
because it had no soul! She enjoyed philosophy.
She was a seeker! When two years later she
transferred herself to the University of
Gottingen, she came under the influence of
Edmund Husserl, a famous German philosopher.
World War I broke out. She stopped her studies
in 1915 to go and help out in the front,
as a nurse.
When she returned from the battle ground,
she was still searching for truth.
once stunned to see the intense piety
a woman praying at the Cathedral in
Later, she writes that faith is a seizure
by God and that presupposes becoming
Her resistances finally fell on August
through a chance reading of the Life
Teresa of Avila. "When I closed
book, I said to myself, 'That is the
She had read through the night until
The Pope comments "In that night
found truth not the truth of philosophy,
but rather the truth in person, the
person of God." She was baptized
The moment she was baptized, she wanted
become a nun. Her spiritual directors
no because they felt she could do more
as a layperson involved in education.
delved into Saint Thomas and Cardinal
She started teaching at the Girls school
run by the Dominican Sisters in Speyer.
was asked to speak in different centers;
in fact she practically became in the
leader of the Catholic Women's movement
We are in the late 1930s. In Germany,
was rising in power. This simply meant
and hardships on the Jews. "I
already heard of severe measures being
against the Jews. But now on a sudden
was luminously clear to me that once
God's hand lay heavy on his people,
the destiny of this people was my own."
Confiscation of goods, pogroms, hassles…
Edith Stein was seeing and living all
And her heart ached. She wrote a letter
Pope Pius XI asking him to issue an
denouncing this blatant anti Semitism.
all, she realized that the only way
help really her people is to spend
in prayer of expiation for the sins
shed. Many speak a lot. Few do something.
Carmel was the place for her because
excels as an Order because of its joyous
reception of the Crucified Christ.
Her decision was met by a silent 'desperate
resistance' of her 84 year old mother.
last day with her family was Edith's
birthday. At breakfast her mother would
eat, she started to cry. When Edith
mother wept aloud.
In Carmel, she was "completely
in heart and mind." She was awkward
in manual duties. She wrote extensively,
mainly short studies on saintly Carmelite
women. Her joy however became more
subdued as she learnt of what was happening
outside the cloister walls.
To avoid useless trouble, on the last
of 1938, a friend drove her to the
of Echt, Holland. Edith was suffering,
face often "betrubt" sad,
sister noted. The war broke out in
Three years later, on August 2nd 1942
Gestapo came to the Convent and arrested
her. "Come, let us go for our
Edith told her sister Rosa who was
It was a Sunday. First, Amersfoort
then, the next day to Camp Westerbork.
days later, during the night of August
she was deported to Auschwitz. It was
They did not stay long in Auschwitz.
and Edith did not even enter the camp.
walked about fifteen minutes through
where they were told to disrobe and
their things. They were brought to
cottage, formerly a farmer's home,
the doors and windows were boarded
the gassing with Zyklon. They were
and burned. When she opened her eyes
she was with her risen Lord.
Every great love is a crucified love.
it is not love. How true!
(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission
hereby granted for any non-commercial
provided that the content is unaltered
its original state, if this copyright