| By Candace Bryant-Lester, assistant editor, FAITH Catholic

St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

1891-1942 | Feast day: August 9

Edith Stein was born in Poland in 1891 to a devout Jewish family. She gave up practicing the Jewish faith as a teenager and began to pursue a degree in philosophy. Her studies were interrupted by World War I, where she served as a nurse. She continued her studies upon returning from the war, and is remembered today as a gifted scholar.

Although she had come into contact with Catholics in her life, when she read the autobiography of St. Teresa of Ávila, she was moved to conversion. She was baptized into the Catholic faith in 1922. Although she wished to join the Carmelites immediately, her spiritual mentors stopped her from doing so. She then taught for several years, until she was forced by the Nazis to quit. At long last, in 1934, she imitated her beloved St. Teresa by joining a Carmelite convent and took the name Teresa Benedicta of the Cross.

Throughout her life, St. Teresa continued her studies and spiritual writings. She was known for her writings on women and her dissertation on the concept of empathy; she also developed a substantial theology of the cross based on the writings of Saint John of the Cross and Saint Teresa of Ávila.

Because of the Nazi threat, Teresa and her sister, also a Carmelite, were sent to the Netherlands. In 1939, she wrote that she hoped the Lord would accept her life and death, and prayed for the salvation of Germany. She was arrested alongside the members of her religious community in 1942 in retaliation over a protest letter written by Dutch bishops denouncing the Nazis. She died at Auschwitz two days later.

When Edith Stein was beatified in 1987, the Church honored “a daughter of Israel,” as St. John Paul II put it, “who, as a Catholic during Nazi persecution, remained faithful to the crucified Lord Jesus Christ and, as a Jew, to her people in loving faithfulness.” She was canonized in 1998.