09Aug 9 August. Friday. St Teresa Benedicta (Edith Stein), Patron of Europe

Hos 2:16-17, 21-23. Knowing the Lord as our intimate friend, the spouse of our soul.

Mt 17:22-27. Carrying the cross; and paying the Temple tax.

First Reading: Hosea 2:16-17, 21-23

On that day, says the Lord, you will call me, “My husband,” and no longer will you call me, “My Baal.” For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be mentioned by name no more.

On that day I will answer, says the Lord, I will answer the heavens and they shall answer the earth; and the earth shall answer the grain, the wine, and the oil, and they shall answer Jezreel; and I will sow him for myself in the land. And I will have pity on Lo-ruhamah, and I will say to Lo-ammi, “You are my people;” and he shall say, “You are my God.”

Gospel: Matthew 17:22-27

As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised.” And they were greatly distressed.

When they reached Capernaum, the collectors of the temple tax came to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the temple tax?” He said, “Yes, he does.” And when he came home, Jesus spoke of it first, asking, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tribute? From their children or from others?” When Peter said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the children are free. However, so that we do not give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook; take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a coin; take that and give it to them for you and me.”

Edith’s Life and Death

(excerpts from www.kilmacudcarmel.ie/edith.html)

Edith Stein was born to a Jewish family at Breslau (today, Bratislava) on October 12, 1891. She was the youngest of 11 children. Her father died when she was two years old, and her hard-working and devout mother took over the care of her large family and timber business. However, Edith did not keep the strong faith of her mother, and eventually declared herself an athiest, saying: “deliberately and of my own free-will, I turned away from prayer”. She was a talented student, and after finishing school with top results, she chose to study philosoply in Gottingen where she encountered many new ways of thinking which challenged her religious experiences and decisions.

Edith graduated and continued her philosophical study, achieving a doctorate degree. During this time, she went into Frankfurt Cathedral one day and saw a woman with a shopping basket going in to kneel for a brief prayer. She said later: “This was something totally new to me. In the synagogues and Protestant churches people simply went to the services. Here, however, I saw someone coming straight from the busy marketplace into this empty church, as if she was going to have an intimate conversation. It was something I never forgot”. She found herself searching after the truth. One day she went to visit a young Protestant widow, uneasy about what to say to comfort her. However, she was surprised at the faith of the young woman and said: “this was the moment when my unbelief collapsed and Christ began to shine his light on me”. One night during the summer of 1921 she found herself spending several weeks at the home of a fellow philosopher and his wife. She happened to pick up the autobiography of St Teresa of Jesus (of Avila) and read it all through the night, saying to herself as she finished reading at dawn: “This is the truth”.

On 1st January 1922 Edith was baptized and received into the Catholic Church. It was a decision that her mother never accepted as long as she lived. Edith continued teaching philosophy and writing, and held dreams of finding a husband and a happy marriage. However, as darkness began to break over Germany in the 1930’s, she sensed another call; to unite her life with the fate of her own Jewish people. Nazi law made it impossible for her to continue teaching, so she entered the Carmelite monastery of Cologne on 14 October 1933, saying: “Human activities cannot help us, but only the suffering of Christ. It is my desire to share it”. Edith took the name Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. Edith as a Carmelite nun

As the the anti-Semitism of the Nazis grew, in 1938 Edith was smuggled across the border into the Carmelite Convent of Echt in Holland. However, as the war escalated and Holland was occupied, the danger for Jews spread to that country. In August 1942, as retaliation against the protests of Dutch bishops to the treatment of Jews, many Jewish Christians were arrested, including Edith and her sister Rosa (who had also converted and was living at the Carmel in Echt). They were transported to the concentration camp at Auschwitz where Edith was gassed and cremated on 9th August 1942.

Eye-witness account of Edith’s Arrest by the Nazis in 1942

In 1940 war also invaded the Netherlands and the persecution of the Jews, hitherto in Nazi Germany, spread to my country. Nobody feared for the Carmelite nun because, as everyone said, the Germans would respect an innocent nun. If dates serve my memory well, at the end of July 1942 the Dutch Bishops took a stand, and from the chancel in every parish church of the country sounded a loud protest and condemnation of the injustice to the Jews of the country and elsewhere in occupied countries.Edith around the time of her arrest

Revenge could be expected, but nobody thought of Sister Benedicta… in an enclosed convent… a nun… a Carmelite. Yet this was exactly what happened, the Sunday after, in the early afternoon. All of a sudden sounded the war songs of the SS while a group of some forty soldiers marched through the Grote Straat and halted at the Carmel. The villagers were forced to clear the streets and withdrew behind the windows of their houses from which they watched the scene, praying and weeping. Sister Benedicta appeared after some 15 minutes in choirdress with the David Star; proudly walking right in the middle of the road with her sister a little behind her and the German SS forming a “guard of honour” on the sidewalks of the street. From the windows came the farewell shouts of the people (“Sister Benedicta”, “Sister Benedicta”) which Sister acknowledged as far as the end of the road where a Panzer lorry was waiting. What a lonely scene! What a lonely scene! I witnessed the scene from the windows of the first storey of my aunts’ house in the Grote Straat of Echt. I knew I had seen something historic, and whenever I revisit the Grote Straat at Echt I see in my memory’s mind a martyr who still lives on not only with God but also in the hearts of people.

One Response

  1. Chidi Iloamaeke

    Today’s reading tells us that we should be obedient to constituted authorities.

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