Teresiae Benedicta of the Cross, V & M

+Matthew 16:13-23

You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi he put this question to his disciples, ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say he is John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ ‘But you,’ he said ‘who do you say I am?’ Then Simon Peter spoke up, ‘You are the Christ,’ he said, ‘the Son of the living God.’ Jesus replied, ‘Simon son of Jonah, you are a happy man! Because it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven. So I now say to you: You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.’ Then he gave the disciples strict orders not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.

From that time Jesus began to make it clear to his disciples that he was destined to go to Jerusalem and suffer grievously at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, to be put to death and to be raised up on the third day. Then, taking him aside, Peter started to remonstrate with him. ‘Heaven preserve you, Lord;’ he said ‘this must not happen to you.’ But he turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle in my path, because the way you think is not God’s way but man’s.’

Source: Jerusalem Bible

Catechism of the Catholic Church

The Only Son Of God

441 In the Old Testament, “son of God” is a title given to the angels, the Chosen People, the children of Israel, and their kings. It signifies an adoptive sonship that establishes a relationship of particular intimacy between God and his creature. When the promised Messiah-King is called “son of God”, it does not necessarily imply that he was more than human, according to the literal meaning of these texts. Those who called Jesus “son of God”, as the Messiah of Israel, perhaps meant nothing more than this.

442 Such is not the case for Simon Peter when he confesses Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of the living God”, for Jesus responds solemnly: “Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” Similarly Paul will write, regarding his conversion on the road to Damascus, “When he who had set me apart before I was born, and had called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles. . .” “And in the synagogues immediately [Paul] proclaimed Jesus, saying, ‘He is the Son of God.'” From the beginning this acknowledgment of Christ’s divine sonship will be the center of the apostolic faith, first professed by Peter as the Church’s foundation.

443 Peter could recognize the transcendent character of the Messiah’s divine sonship because Jesus had clearly allowed it to be so understood. To his accusers’ question before the Sanhedrin, “Are you the Son of God, then?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am.” Well before this, Jesus referred to himself as “the Son” who knows the Father, as distinct from the “servants” God had earlier sent to his people; he is superior even to the angels. He distinguished his sonship from that of his disciples by never saying “our Father”, except to command them: “You, then, pray like this: ‘Our Father'”, and he emphasized this distinction, saying “my Father and your Father”.

444 The Gospels report that at two solemn moments, the Baptism and the Transfiguration of Christ, the voice of the Father designates Jesus his “beloved Son”. Jesus calls himself the “only Son of God”, and by this title affirms his eternal pre-existence. He asks for faith in “the name of the only Son of God”. In the centurion’s exclamation before the crucified Christ, “Truly this man was the Son of God”, that Christian confession is already heard. Only in the Paschal mystery can the believer give the title “Son of God” its full meaning.

445 After his Resurrection, Jesus’ divine sonship becomes manifest in the power of his glorified humanity. He was “designated Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his Resurrection from the dead”. The apostles can confess: “We have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”


Psalm 50

A psalm of Asaph.  The LORD, the God of gods, has spoken and summoned the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting.

From Zion God shines forth. perfect in beauty.

Our God comes and will not be silent! Devouring fire precedes, storming fiercely round about.

God summons the heavens above and the earth to the judgment of his people:

“Gather my faithful ones before me, those who made a covenant with me by sacrifice.”

The heavens proclaim divine justice, for God alone is the judge. Selah

“Listen, my people, I will speak; Israel, I will testify against you; God, your God, am I.

Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you, nor for your holocausts, set before me daily.

I need no bullock from your house, no goats from your fold.

For every animal of the forest is mine, beasts by the thousands on my mountains.

I know every bird of the heavens; the creatures of the field belong to me.

Were I hungry, I would not tell you, for mine is the world and all that fills it.

Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats?

Offer praise as your sacrifice to God; fulfill your vows to the Most High.

Then call on me in time of distress; I will rescue you, and you shall honor me.”

But to the wicked God says: “Why do you recite my commandments and profess my covenant with your lips?

You hate discipline; you cast my words behind you!

When you see thieves, you befriend them; with adulterers you throw in your lot.

You give your mouth free rein for evil; you harness your tongue to deceit.

You sit maligning your own kin, slandering the child of your own mother.

When you do these things should I be silent? Or do you think that I am like you? I accuse you, I lay the charge before you.

“Understand this, you who forget God, lest I attack you with no one to rescue.

Those who offer praise as a sacrifice honor me; to the obedient I will show the salvation of God.”

Source: The New American Bible


Edith Stein, religious name Teresia Benedicta a Cruce OCD, also known as St. Teresia Benedicta of the Cross,; 12 October 1891 – 9 August 1942), was a German Jewish philosopher who converted to Roman Catholicism and became a Discalced Carmelite nun. She is canonized as a martyr and saint of the Catholic Church.

She was born into an observant Jewish family, but was an atheist by her teenage years. Moved by the tragedies of World War I, in 1915 she took lessons to become a nursing assistant and worked in a hospital for the prevention of disease outbreaks. After completing her doctoral thesis from the University of Göttingen in 1916, she obtained an assistantship at the University of Freiburg.

From reading the works of the reformer of the Carmelite Order, Teresa of Ávila, she was drawn to the Catholic faith. She was baptized on 1 January 1922 into the Roman Catholic Church. At that point, she wanted to become a Discalced Carmelite nun, but was dissuaded by her spiritual mentors. She then taught at a Catholic school of education in Speyer. As a result of the requirement of an “Aryan certificate” for civil servants promulgated by the Nazi government in April 1933 as part of its Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service, she had to quit her teaching position.

She was admitted to the Discalced Carmelite monastery in Cologne the following October. She received the religious habit of the Order as a novice in April 1934, taking the religious name Teresia Benedicta of the Cross. In 1938, she and her sister Rosa, by then also a convert and an extern sister (tertiaries of the Order, who would handle the community′s needs outside the monastery), were sent to the Carmelite monastery in Echt, Netherlands for their safety. Despite the Nazi invasion of that state in 1940, they remained undisturbed until they were arrested by the Nazis on 2 August 1942 and sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp, where they died in the gas chamber on 9 August 1942.

Early life

Stein was born in Breslau (now Wrocław, Poland), Lower Silesia, into an observant Jewish family. She was the youngest of 11 children and was born on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Hebrew calendar, which combined to make her a favorite of her mother. She was a very gifted child who enjoyed learning, in a home where her mother encouraged critical thinking, and she greatly admired her mother’s strong religious faith. By her teenage years, however, Stein had become an atheist.

Though her father died while she was young, her widowed mother was determined to give her children a thorough education and consequently sent Stein to study at the University of Breslau (also known as “Schlesische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität”).

In April 1913 Stein arrived in Göttingen in order to study for the summer semester with Edmund Husserl. By the end of the summer Edith had decided to pursue her degree as a philosopher under Husserl and “Empathy” had been chosen as her thesis topic. Her studies were interrupted in July 1914 because of the outbreak of World War I. She then served as a volunteer wartime Red Cross nurse in an infectious diseases hospital at Märisch-Weisskirchen in 1915. In 1916, Stein moved to Freiburg in order to complete her dissertation on Empathy. Shortly before receiving her degree she agreed to become Husserl’s assistant. After her dissertation entitled Zum Problem der Einfühlung (On the Problem of Empathy) was awarded on August 3, 1916, which made her a doctor of philosophy with the summa cum laude honor, she began working quite independently as Husserl’s assistant. In his 2007 thesis, “The Philosophical Contributions of Edith Stein”, John C. Wilhelmsson argues that Stein influenced the work of Husserl significantly during this period. She then became a member of the faculty at the University of Freiburg, where she worked as a teaching assistant to Husserl, who had transferred to that institution. Because she was a woman, Husserl did not support her submitting her habilitational thesis (a prerequisite for an academic chair) to the University of Freiburg in 1918. Her other thesis, Psychische Kausalität (Sentient Causality), submitted at the University of Göttingen the following year, was likewise rejected.

While Stein had earlier contacts with Roman Catholicism, it was her reading of the autobiography of the mystic St. Teresa of Ávila during summer holidays in Bad Bergzabern in 1921 that prompted her conversion. Baptized on 1 January 1922, and dissuaded by her spiritual advisers from immediately seeking entry to the religious life, she obtained a position to teach at the Dominican nuns’ school in Speyer from 1923 to 1931. While there, she translated Thomas Aquinas’ De Veritate (Of Truth) into German, familiarized herself with Roman Catholic philosophy in general, and tried to bridge the phenomenology of her former teacher, Husserl, to Thomism. She visited Husserl and Heidegger at Freiburg in April 1929, the same month that Heidegger gave a speech to Husserl on his 70th birthday. In 1932 she became a lecturer at the Catholic Church-affiliated Institute for Scientific Pedagogy in Münster, but antisemitic legislation passed by the Nazi government forced her to resign the post in 1933. In a letter to Pope Pius XI, she denounced the Nazi regime and asked the Pope to openly denounce the regime “to put a stop to this abuse of Christ’s name.”

As a child of the Jewish people who, by the grace of God, for the past eleven years has also been a child of the Catholic Church, I dare to speak to the Father of Christianity about that which oppresses millions of Germans. For weeks we have seen deeds perpetrated in Germany which mock any sense of justice and humanity, not to mention love of neighbor. For years the leaders of National Socialism have been preaching hatred of the Jews…. But the responsibility must fall, after all, on those who brought them to this point and it also falls on those who keep silent in the face of such happenings.

Everything that happened and continues to happen on a daily basis originates with a government that calls itself ‘Christian’. For weeks not only Jews but also thousands of faithful Catholics in Germany, and, I believe, all over the world, have been waiting and hoping for the Church of Christ to raise its voice to put a stop to this abuse of Christ’s name. Is not this idolization of race and governmental power which is being pounded into the public consciousness by the radio open heresy? Isn’t the effort to destroy Jewish blood an abuse of the holiest humanity of our Savior, of the most blessed Virgin and the apostles? Is not all this diametrically opposed to the conduct of our Lord and Savior, who, even on the cross, still prayed for his persecutors? And isn’t this a black mark on the record of this Holy Year which was intended to be a year of peace and reconciliation? We all, who are faithful children of the Church and who see the conditions in Germany with open eyes, fear the worst for the prestige of the Church, if the silence continues any longer.

Her letter received no answer, and it is not known for certain whether the Pope ever read it. However, in 1937 the Pope issued an encyclical written in German, Mit brennender Sorge (With Burning Anxiety), in which he criticized Nazism, listed violations of the Concordat between Germany and the Church of 1933, and condemned antisemitism.

Discalced Carmelite nun and martyr

Stein entered the Discalced Carmelite monastery St. Maria vom Frieden (Our Lady of Peace) in Cologne in 1933 and took the religious name of Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. There she wrote her metaphysical book Endliches und ewiges Sein (Finite and Eternal Being), which attempted to combine the philosophies of St. Thomas Aquinas, Duns Scotus and Husserl.

To avoid the growing Nazi threat, her Order transferred her and her sister, Rosa, who was also a convert and an extern sister of the Carmel, to the Discalced Carmelite monastery in Echt, Netherlands. There she wrote Studie über Joannes a Cruce: Kreuzeswissenschaft (“Studies on John of the Cross: The Science of the Cross”). In her testament of 6 June 1939 she wrote: “I beg the Lord to take my life and my death … for all concerns of the sacred hearts of Jesus and Mary and the holy Church, especially for the preservation of our holy Order, in particular the Carmelite monasteries of Cologne and Echt, as atonement for the unbelief of the Jewish People, and that the Lord will be received by His own people and His kingdom shall come in glory, for the salvation of Germany and the peace of the world, at last for my loved ones, living or dead, and for all God gave to me: that none of them shall go astray.”

Stein’s move to Echt prompted her to be more devout and even more observant of the Carmelite rule. After having her teaching position revoked by the implementation of the Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service, Stein quickly eased back into the role of instructor at the convent in Echt, teaching both fellow sisters and students within the community Latin and philosophy.

Even prior to the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, Stein believed she would not survive the war, going as far to write the Prioress to request her permission to “allow [Stein] to offer [her]self to the heart of Jesus as a sacrifice of atonement for true peace” and made a will. Her fellow sisters would later recount how Stein began “quietly training herself for life in a concentration camp, by enduring cold and hunger” after the Nazi invasion of the Netherlands in May 1940.

Ultimately, she was not safe in the Netherlands. The Dutch Bishops’ Conference had a public statement read in all the churches of the nation on 20 July 1942 condemning Nazi racism. In a retaliatory response on 26 July 1942 the Reichskommissar of the Netherlands, Arthur Seyss-Inquart ordered the arrest of all Jewish converts who had previously been spared. Along with two hundred and forty-three baptized Jews living in the Netherlands, Stein was arrested by the SS on 2 August 1942. Stein and her sister Rosa were imprisoned at the concentration camps of Amersfoort and Westerbork before being deported to Auschwitz. A Dutch official at Westerbork was so impressed by her sense of faith and calm,he offered her an escape plan. Stein vehemently refused his assistance, stating, “If somebody intervened at this point and took away her chance to share in the fate of her brothers and sisters, that would be utter annihilation.”

On 7 August 1942, early in the morning, 987 Jews were deported to the Auschwitz concentration camp. It was probably on 9 August that Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, her sister, and many more of her people were killed in a mass gas chamber.

Legacy and veneration

Stein was beatified as a martyr on 1 May 1987 in Cologne, Germany by Pope John Paul II and then canonized by him 11 years later on 11 October 1998 in Vatican City. The miracle that was the basis for her canonization was the cure of Benedicta McCarthy, a little girl who had swallowed a large amount of paracetamol (acetaminophen), which causes hepatic necrosis. The young girl’s father, Rev. Emmanuel Charles McCarthy, a priest of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, immediately called together relatives and prayed for St. Teresa’s intercession. Shortly thereafter the nurses in the intensive care unit saw her sit up completely healthy. Dr. Ronald Kleinman, a pediatric specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston who treated the girl, testified about her recovery to Church tribunals, stating: “I was willing to say that it was miraculous.” McCarthy would later attend St. Teresa’s canonization.

St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross is one of the six patron saints of Europe, together with Sts. Benedict of Nursia, Cyril and Methodius, Bridget of Sweden, and Catherine of Siena.

Today there are many schools named in tribute to her, for example in Darmstadt, Germany,Hengelo, Netherlands, and Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. Also named for her are a women’s dormitory at the University of Tübingen and a classroom building at The College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts.

The philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre published a book in 2006 titled Edith Stein: A Philosophical Prologue, 1913–1922, in which he contrasted her living of her own personal philosophy with Martin Heidegger, whose actions during the Nazi era, according to MacIntyre, suggested a “bifurcation of personality.”

Playwright Arthur Giron wrote Edith Stein, a play that was inspired by Stein’s life. It was produced at the Pittsburgh Public Theater in 1988.

In 1995, Hungarian film director, Márta Mészáros made a movie about the life and death of Edith Stein with the title A hetedik szoba (The Seventh Room/Chamber), starring Maia Morgenstern.

In 2008, a memorial Stolperstein (Polish: kamienie pamięci) was placed near Stein’s childhood home at 38 ul. Nowowiejska (formerly the Michaelisstrasse) in Wrocław.

In 2009 her bust was installed at the Walhalla Memorial near Regensburg, Germany. In June 2009 the International Association for the Study of the Philosophy of Edith Stein (IASPES) was founded, and held its first international conference at Maynooth University, Ireland in order to advance the philosophical writings of Stein.

On 6 June 2014, the 70th anniversary of D-Day, a bell dedicated to her was named by Prince Charles at Bayeux Cathedral.

Also in 2014, the book Edith Stein and Regina Jonas: Religious Visionaries in the Time of the Death Camps, by Emily Leah Silverman, was published.

Controversy as to the cause of her murder

The beatification of St. Teresa Benedicta as a martyr generated criticism. Critics argued that she was murdered because she was Jewish by birth, rather than for her Catholic faith, and that, in the words of Daniel Polish, the beatification seemed to “carry the tacit message encouraging conversionary activities” because “official discussion of the beatification seemed to make a point of conjoining Stein’s Catholic faith with her death with ‘fellow Jews’ in Auschwitz”. The position of the Catholic Church is that St. Teresa Benedicta also died because of the Dutch episcopacy’s public condemnation of Nazi racism in 1942; in other words, that she died because of the moral teaching of the Church and is thus a true martyr.

Source: Wikipedia