Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Ave Crux, Spes Unica

Today is the feast day of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein), who on this day seventy-five years ago, perished, alongside her sister Rosa and the other Dutch Jewish deportees on her transport, in the gas chambers of  the Auschwitz death camp.  Raised in a devout Jewish home in the German city of  Breslau, she lost her faith in God during her adolescence .  As a young woman she studied philosophy and was part of the circle of the Phenomenologist Edmund Husserl.  She was a prolific writer on philosophical topics and education, especially the education of girls and women. Her most personal book, 'Life in a Jewish Family' was an autobiography that was unfinished at the time of her martyrdom.
 Edith Stein sought baptism as a Catholic after reading the works of St.Teresa of Avila.  Eventually she entered the Carmelite Order.  With the intensification of the Nazi persecution of the Jews in November 1938, she took refuge in the Carmel of Echt, in the Netherlands.  It was from the Echt Carmel that she and her sister Rosa were arrested and deported to their deaths at Auschwitz.

On this, her feast day, we recall her death and the murder of millions of Jews in the Shoah, commemorate the terrible anniversary of the atomic attack on the city of Nagasaki, and pray that "the fire and fury" threatened by our President on the people of North Korea may never come to pass.

From a talk she gave to her fellow Carmelite sisters, read today in the Office of Readings, these words particularly stood out for me:
"The world is in flames: do you wish to put them out?  Contemplate the Cross: from his open heart the blood of the Redeemer pours, blood which can put out even the flames of hell."

She concluded her talk with these words:
"The eyes of the Crucified gaze upon you.  They question you and appeal to you.  Do you wish seriously to renew your alliance with him?  What will your response be?
"Lord, where shall I go?  You have the words of life."
Ave Crux, spes unica!  (We greet you, Holy Cross, our only hope)

St. Teresa Benedicta, pray for us.

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