Friday, August 09, 2013

Saint Theresa Benedicta Feastday

Today it is Number Seven's Name Day. Saint Theresa Benedicta, who was known before religious life as Edith Stein, is a modern saint whom Husband and I met by reading a biography we found quite accidentally at a book sale. I don't think she was even a Blessed yet back then!

She was a Jewish woman who loved her large family but lost all her faith as a young adult. A brilliant scholar and thinker, she studied and published works of Philosophy under Edmund Husserl who is known for his writing on Phenomenology.

Her intellectual, scholarly circle of friends included people of different denominations. One day she was at a Catholic friends' home and casually picked up the biography of Saint Teresa of Avila as she had some waiting to do. The story goes that she read the whole thing until dawn, and upon closing the book she said to herself, "I am a Catholic".

From that day on she grew in knowledge and Faith and discerned her calling to the religious, contemplative life. For personal, charitable family reasons she delayed entering Carmel for many years, and when she finally did the world was near War again. She felt connected to the Jewish people and was taken to Auschwitz where she died. Her death is considered a martyrdom for her people, whom she deeply loved. One of the best parts of her biographies is the witnesses' accounts of how generous, cheerful and encouraging she was to others during her time at the Concentration Camp until her death in a gas chamber.

What attracted Husband and I to her was the fact that her discovery and personal fulfillment in the Faith came out of her academic, scholarly, brilliant intellect. I loved reading about her family, home life, and then later about how even her intellectual abilities were given to God upon entering Carmel.

The kids many times have essays where they have to answer the question about whom they would like to meet. I would like to have met her. To have a cup of tea and listen to her insights as she discovered the luminous life of faith, flooding her heart and soul after a life of darkness and godlessness as a young adult. I would like to sit at the Carmel chapel and pray alongside her. And may God allow that I can do still in this life, to others, a fraction of the good she brought to her fellow prisoners in Auschwitz.

Saint Theresa Benedicta, Virgin and Martyr, pray for us!
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