St. Edith Stein of Auschwitz (1891-1942)

Artist: 
Br. Robert Lentz, OFM

Artist's Narrative:
From childhood Edith Stein was a brilliant scholar. She earned her doctorate at age 25, studying under Philosopher Edmund Husserl. Although an avowed atheist as a teenager, when she reached adulthood she became 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 convent, 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.

She also translated several important philosophical works and wrote commentaries on them which led to her giving lectures to large audiences. With Hitler’s rise to power her public influence came to an end because of her Jewish heritage, and her spiritual advisers finally relented and allowed her to enter the Carmel at Cologne.

As a Carmelite she assumed the name Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. She took her turn at various domestic chores in the convent and continued writing on Catholic subjects. She corresponded with many former students and friends, and other nuns remember her as a warm and cheerful person.

In 1938 she went to another Carmel in Holland to escape persecution but was rounded up by the Nazis in 1942 with other Jewish members of Dutch religious orders. While in the concentration camps, she and her sister Rosa cared for children abandoned by fear-crazed mothers. Witnesses recall her calm and composed countenance, while giving assistance whenever she could. On August 9, 1942, she was executed in a gas chamber with her sister at Auschwitz.

Her feast day is August 9.

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