Pope Francis invoked Edith Stein’s protection and prayer to protect Europe from heaven.
During his weekly General Audience today, August 8, 2018, in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall, due to the intense heat, the Pontiff recalled the feast day of Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Edith Stein, toward its conclusion.
“Tomorrow the feast of Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross — Edith Stein — will be celebrated in Europe: martyr, woman of consistency, woman who sought God with honesty, with love, and woman martyr of her Jewish and Christian people. May she who is Patroness of Europe pray and protect Europe from above,” said the Holy Father.
It was Saint John Paul II who gave Edith Stein — whom he beatified at Cologne on May 1, 1987 and canonized at Rome on October 11, 1998 — as Co-Patroness Saint of Europe on October 1, 1999, together with Catherine of Siena and Brigit of Sweden, to show the way of “the search for truth and of the common good.”
In fact, tomorrow, Thursday, August 9, the Church celebrates Edith Stein (1891-1942), victim of the Shoah, Carmelite and martyr.
Arrested by the SS in Holland, at the Carmel of Echt with her sister Rosa, she was imprisoned in the Westerbork camp, deported by convoy No. 587 on August 7, 1942, and murdered in a gas chamber with all the Jews of the convoy, at the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp on August 9, 1942. Because of this, she is called the “Saint without a tomb.”
When she was arrested on August 2, she said to her sister Rosa: “Come, let’s go for our people,” the Jewish people.
Her liturgical memorial invites to remember the Shoah saying, with Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, pilgrims to Auschwitz: “Never again.”
On choosing Edith Stein among the Patron Saints of Europe, Pope John Paul II explained the meaning of his decision, first of all as feminine model, then as witness of history, and as model of the union of contemplation and action. “Europe is already placed under the protection of three great Saints: that of Benedict of Nursia, Father of Western monasticism, as well as that of two brothers, Cyril and Methodius, apostles of the Slavs. To these eminent witnesses of Christ, I wished equally to associate three other feminine figures, to stress the great role that women have played and continue to play in the ecclesial and civil history of the Continent, up to our days.”
“From her beginnings, and although conditioned by the cultures in which she was inserted, the Church has always recognized the full spiritual dignity of women, beginning by the vocation and singular mission of Mary, Mother of the Redeemer. From the beginning, Christians addressed themselves to these women, such as Felicity, Perpetua, Agatha, Lucy, Agnes, Cecilia and Anastasia — as the Roman Canon attest – with such great fervor as that which they kept for men saints,” specified the Pope.
Then he emphasized the personality of the three Saints who “all have a special link with the continent’s history.” “Edith Stein who — coming from a Jewish family, left her brilliant career as researcher to become a Carmelite Religious, under the name of Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, and died in the Auschwitz extermination camp –, is the symbol of this century’s tragedies in Europe,” explained the Pontiff.
“Brigit of Sweden and Catherine of Siena, both of whom lived in the 14th century, worked tirelessly for the Church having at heart her destiny at the European level. Brigit, who consecrated herself to God after having lived fully her vocation of wife and mother, traveled Europe from North to South, spending herself without respite to realize the unity of Christians, and died at Rome. Catherine, humble and intrepid Dominican tertiary, brought peace to her native land of Siena, to Italy and to Europe of the 14th century. She dedicated all her energies to the Church and succeeded in in obtaining the return of the Pope of Avignon to Rome.”
The Pope also stressed their specific way of allying contemplation and action to better transform Europe. “All three expressed admirably the synthesis between contemplation and action. Their lives and their works witnessed with great eloquence, the strength of the resurrected Christ living in his Church: the strength of a generous love for God and for man, the strength of a genuine moral and civil renewal. In these new Patronesses, so rich in gifts under the supernatural as well as the human profile, may the Christians and ecclesial communities of each Confession be able to find their inspiration, as well as the European citizens and States, sincerely engaged in the search for truth and the common good.”
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Here is a brief biography of Edith Stein, presented by the Carmel Website in France.
Philosopher and Carmelite, Edith Stein came into the world in a Jewish family on October 12, 1891. Despite an education marked by Judaism, she distanced herself for a time from all religious belief. Her lively intelligence engaged her in researching the truth and leading a life respectful of each and all.
Edith is one of the rare women of her time to attend university. A pupil of Husserl, her philosophic works made her attentive to the religious phenomenon, and the question of faith in God imposed itself progressively on her.
In 1921, the reading of the biography of Teresa of Avila made her decide to enter the Catholic Church. Uniting her philosophic competencies to the light that gave her faith, Edith Stein dedicated herself for some ten years to teaching. Her main concern was to develop a Christian vision of the human person.
Fully lucid about the significance of the rise of Nazism, she entered the Carmel in 1933 and took the name Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. She continued her battle against the evil being unleashed in the world to a level of radical profundity: with Christ, under the sign of the Cross.
On August 9, 1942, Edith Stein died in the gas chambers of Auschwitz, a victim at the same time of the Shoah and witness of Christ.