Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

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Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein)

Feast Day August 9

Saints Stories for All Ages

As she was growing up, Edith prayed at home with her family and went to religious services. While this could be said about many Catholic saints, Edith’s family was a little different. She was from a devout Jewish family. Then when Edith was about 13 years old, she gave up faith in God altogether. Edith grew up in Breslau, Germany, the youngest of seven children. Her father died when Edith was young, so she became very close to her mother. Edith was a very intelligent girl. She was so smart that the teacher sent her home from kindergarten; there was nothing for her to learn there. Edith didn’t just study when there was going to be a test in school. She studied because she loved to learn. She always got high marks in everything except math. Edith continued her studies at the university, where she earned a doctorate degree in philosophy.

Then as an inquisitive young woman, she picked up the autobiography of Saint Teresa of Ávila. Edith was so captivated that she couldn’t put the book down, and she completed reading it in one night. The next day she bought a Catholic catechism and read it. Edith felt that she had finally found the truth she had been looking for since she was 13.

When Edith was baptized, her mother cried. Edith did not have the heart to tell her mother that she also wanted to be a Carmelite nun. So she waited. She taught school, translated books, and gave lectures—and she prayed. Finally in 1934, she entered the convent and received the name Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. She shared in the domestic work of the nuns, but also continued to write about philosophy. In 1938 the persecution of Jews became so intense in Germany that it became dangerous for the rest of the sisters in the convent. They could be killed simply for giving shelter to a Jewish person. Edith and her sister Rosa, who had also become Catholic, went to Holland.

Four years later Holland was occupied by the Nazis, and one day, without warning, soldiers came to the convent door. They gave Edith and her sister 10 minutes to pack before they put them on a train to Germany. From there they were sent to the concentration camp at Auschwitz in Poland. Two days later, on August 9 or 10, Edith and Rosa died in a gas chamber. Edith was canonized in 1998. One of her favorite sayings was “Far be it from me to glory except in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Edith found her glory in the cross.


from Saints and Feast Days, by Sisters of Notre Dame of Chardon, Ohio

Image credit: By Manuelredondoduenas (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons