(Article by Fabio Cittadini) Edith Stein was born in Breslau in 1891, She was the last of seven children of a wealthy Jewish family. She ran successfully studies, dealing with psychological and philosophical research in the university of her hometown and then in those of Göttingen and Freiburg. Later she became assistant to the famous philosopher Edmund Husserl. When, in 1917, she graduated, she had to his credit a number of important studies that would have opened the doors of academic career.
She was an atheist because – as she wrote – “she could not believe in the existence of God“. But Edith was “shocked” by the thought of God in the wake of some incidents. During World War I, a professor that she thought a lot died. The professor’s wife didn’t collapse under the weight of that drama, but she found in his relationship with God the strength to start a new life. Edith was greatly impressed by the woman’s faith. “It was my first encounter with the cross – she wrote recalling the fact – and with the force that the cross communicates to its wearer.” The searching of the truth led her gradually to God.
In 1921 the Edith’s personal journey came to an end. She was invited by a friend to choose a book from his library. Casually she chose the autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila who read in one breath, finding in that book her personal motto “God is enough.” In 1922 she was baptized. After her conversion to Catholicism, which put her in direct conflict with her mother, Edith taught in the college of the Dominicans Sisters in Speyer and she traveled extensively in Germany and abroad. In 1932 she held the chair of Pedagogy at the University of Münster. But the Nazi regime began to discriminate against Jews, forcing them to leave teaching. So she decided to dedicate herself to the contemplative life, leaving behind a brilliant career, entering the Carmel of Cologne, where she took the name Teresa Benedicta of the Cross.
In an anti-Semitic Germany, Edith was a danger because of his Jewish origin. Therefore she was transferred to the Netherlands. But the Nazi reached her in Netherlands the August 2 1942 and together with her sister Rosa, also a nun, Edith was deported to Westerbork. From there she was deported to Auschwitz where she died the 9th of August 1942. Edith Stein was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1998. She was also declared Patron of Europe.
A jew that escaped extermination and that witnessed the last hours of Edith, described her serenity, calm, and her unremitting efforts to give relief to people in despair. Above all she was concerned about women, consoling and helping them. She took also care for children that were abandoned by their mothers. The witness said also that “she lived in the camp serving the others and proving a great love of neighbor”
Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, who converted to Catholicism thanks to the example of the wife of her “beloved” professor, embraced with docility the cross. The same cross that was for her at a young age an obstacle to believing!