Edith Stein

Edith Stein

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Edith Stein


Edith Stein was born on October 12, 1891 , Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of Atonement in Breslau Germany now Wroclaw Poland. She was born into an Orthodox Jewish family and was the youngest of 11 children. When she was not yet 2 years of age, her father suddenly died. This left Edith's mother to raise the seven remaining children since 4 had died in childhood and manage the family business. She considered her mother an example of the woman in Proverbs 31, who rises early to care for her family and trade in the marketplace. At around the age of 13 she no longer practiced her Jewish faith and became an atheist although she admired her mother's attitude of total openness towards God.
By studying philosophy Edith came to Christianity. She was one of the first women to be admitted to university studies in Germany. She was an outstanding student. After leaving the University of Breslau, she went to the University of Góttingin to study with Edmund Husserl, the founder of phenomenology. She became interested in his philosophy and when he moved to the University of Frieburg he invited Edith to join him there as his assistant. She then received her doctorate in leading philosophers.
She went to visit one of her friends at their fruit farm. However her friend Hedwig Conrad-Martius and her husband had to go away. Her husband took her to the bookcase before their departure and told her to take her pick. Edith picked at random and took out a large book titled, The Life of St. Teresa of Avila, written by herself. She began reading the book and did not stop until she reached the end. As she closed the book she said, "That is the truth." In the morning, Edith went into town to buy two things, a Catholic catechism and a missal. She knew everything after she had studied them. She went into a Catholic Church, the Parish Church at Bergzabem, to hear Mass for the first time. After the Mass she went to the priest and asked him to baptize her. The priest told her that she needed to be prepared to be received into the Church. He asked, "How long have you been receiving instruction and who has been giving it?" The only thing Edith could say was, "Please, your Reverence, test my knowledge." Edith did not fail in her answers and the Priest agreed to baptize her.

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Edith asked her friend Hedwig Conrad-Martius to be her sponsor. The Baptism was on New Years Day, January 1, 1922. She chose the name Teresa as a thanksgiving.
She then gave up her assistantship with Husserl and left to teach at a Dominican girls' school in Speyer. While she was there she translated St. Thomas Aquinas' On Truth and became familiar with Roman Catholic philosophy. In 1932, she left and became a lecturer at the Institute for Pedagogy at Munster but had to resign in 1933 because of anti-Semitism, the discrimination and persecution of Jews. In 1934 she became a Carmelite at the convent of Cologne. She took the name Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. There she completed her first work "Endliches und ewiges Sein", trying to put together the different philosophies of Aquinas and Husserl. In 1938 the Nazi threat was growing. She was transferred to the Carmelite convent at Echt in the Netherlands taking her sister Rosa with her. There she wrote "Studie uber Joannes a Cruce: Kruezeswissenschaft" When the Nazis conquered Holland , Adolf Hitler ordered the arrest of all those who were Jewish members of the Dutch religious orders because of many Catholic protests against the treatment of the Jewish people. On July 26, 1942 Edith and her sister Rosa, also a convert, were arrested by the Gestapo and sent to the concentration camp at Auschwitz Germany now Poland. Survivors said that she helped all other sufferers with great compassion, the value that she had. On August 9, 1942 she was sent to a crowded gas chamber where she died with her sister.
The decree that approved her writings was issued in 1978. She was beatified by Pope John Paul II on May 1, 1987. She was canonized on October 11, 1998.
She showed the value of compassion because she helped anyone that was suffering whenever she could. She also showed the value of love because she showed it when she went to Holland she did it out of love for her sisters not for her safety.
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