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The Glorious Journey of Edith Stein from Atheist to Patron Saint of Europe

"Edith Stein und Maximilian Kolbe" by Anne-Madeleine Plum - Photograph of original work.

Sr. M. Michele Jascenia, SCMC - published on 08/09/14

Following the 1940 Nazi invasion and occupation of the Netherlands, her wiling sacrifice drew closer. In response to a statement by the Dutch Bishops Conference in 1942, condemning the Nazis’ persecution and deportation of Jews, the Gestapo raided religious communities in the Netherlands to arrest and deport any Jewish converts who’d been sheltered there.

On the 2nd of August, 1942, Sister Teresa Benedicta and her sister Rosa were arrested and hauled away. As they were being taken out of the convent, Edith was overheard telling Rosa, “Come, we are going for our people.”  

What an example of heroic resignation and selflessness! St. Teresa Benedicta’s love for God was so great that it would be poured out in love for her neighbors, love for her Jewish family and friends. Edith Stein knew that God had found her worthy of a martyr’s death and faced it courageously. Evidence points to the 9th of August 1942, as the date on which Sister Teresa Benedicta, her sister Rosa and many others went to their deaths in a gas chamber at Auschwitz.  

A great intellect was gone. A noble soul taken from this world, but she left us with an extraordinary example of a determined and sacrificial life, of a faith firm enough to endure cruelty and humiliation, a love of God and neighbor that overcame human fear and ultimately proved itself in her suffering and death. Sister Teresa Benedicta could have given so much more to the world, yet her death–offered, fittingly, in atonement for the unbelief of the Jewish people, for the salvation of Germany, the coming of God’s Kingdom and peace in the world–surpassed any natural offering she could have made in this life.  

Canonized in 1998 by Pope St. John Paul II, she is one of the six patron saints of Europe.

St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, pray for us, that we may come to love God and our neighbor with your spirit of complete sacrifice.

Sr. M. Michele Jascenia, SCMCis a religious with the Sisters of Charity of Our Lady Mother of the Church and resides at their Holy Family Motherhouse in Baltic, Conn. She teaches elementary school and is a freelance writer.

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