Edith Stein was brought up in a Jewish family and attending synagogue with her mother, and yet she was a convinced atheist for the first twenty-two years of her life. Her conversion process began in 1921 after reading Saint Teresa of Avila’s autobiography. She went to the local Catholic bookshop and purchased a catechism and a missal, and studied them meticulously. For the first time in her life she went to Mass. A year later she was baptised. This was not just a conversion of the intellect. It was the start of a new life of intense spirituality, a path which was to take her far beyond anything that she or anyone else could have anticipated. In 1934, after a glittering academic career, Edith entered the Carmelite convent in Cologne. When the Nazis came to power she was moved to a convent in Holland for safety. But in 1942 Catholic priests and religious in Holland who were converts from Judaism, or who had Jewish connections were rounded up by the S.S. Sister Teresa Benedicta was arrested and transported to Auschwitz where she was immediately gassed to death. It has been reported by some who survived that even in her final ordeal Sister Teresa Benedicta never lost her spiritual serenity. She had already offered up her life to God, in reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, for the conversion of her own people. This brave convert from atheism to Catholicism has so much to teach us about the value of suffering, and the possibility of making real and lasting changes in our lives. Her search for truth led her to Christ, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. The Lord she found did what He always does with His close friends: He permitted her to share His Cross. She became a bride of Christ, and died a martyr. Saint Teresa Benedicta is a sign to us of the transforming power of love, the triumph of charity over the diabolical evils of hatred and cruelty. She was canonised in 1998, and her heroic story is one of the glories of the Church. As a young woman, Edith Stein seized the day and changed her life. She launched herself into her new vocation of single-minded discipleship. She shared in the Lord’s Passion, and He has rewarded her with a crown of unfading glory.
Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, pray for us.