St. Edith Stein

Artist: 
Br. Robert Lentz, OFM

Artist's Narrative:
From childhood Edith Stein was a brilliant scholar. She earned her doctorate at 25, studying under Edmund Husserl. Although an avowed atheist as a teenager, when she reached adulthood she was impressed by the inner strength of her Catholic friends and was captivated by the writings of St. Teresa of Avila. Seeking to follow St. Teresa's example, she became a Catholic, but waited 12 years to enter the Discalced Carmelites, heeding the advice of her confessors and out of compassion for her Jewish mother. During those 12 years she taught at the Dominican school in Speyer. She cared for the poor and developed her own life of prayer. With Hitler's rise to power, her public influence came to an end, because of her Jewish heritage, and her spiritual advisers finally allowed her to enter the Carmel at Cologne.

As a Carmelite nun she took the name Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. She took her turn at the various domestic chores in the convent and continued writing on Catholic subjects. In 1938 she was sent to another monastery in Holland, to escape persecution, but was rounded up by the Nazis in 1942 with other Jewish members of Catholic religious orders. While in the concentration camp, she and her sister Rosa cared for children abandoned by fear-crazed mothers. Witnesses recall her calm and composed countenance, while giving assistance wherever she could. On August 9, 1942, she died in a gas chamber with her sister at Auschwitz.

In this icon she wears the yellow Star of David that the Nazis forced all Jews to wear, as a symbol of her solidarity with her people. The wood cross in her arms refers to her last great work, The Science of the Cross, which she wrote in her years as a Carmelite nun. This book is her testament to the world, as the culmination of her entire life.

Her feast day is August 9.

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