Edith Stein c. 1920
12 October 1891|
Breslau (Silesia), Germany
(now Wrocław, Poland)
|Died||9 August 1942
Auschwitz concentration camp, General Government (Nazi-occupied Poland)
|Alma mater||Schlesische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität
University of Freiburg
University of Göttingen
|Religion||Roman Catholic convert|
|Institutions||University of Freiburg|
|Metaphysics, philosophy of mind and epistemology|
|Spirituality of the Christian woman|
|St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, OCD|
|Religious and martyr|
|Venerated in||Roman Catholicism|
|Beatified||1 May 1987, Cologne, Germany by Pope John Paul II|
|Canonized||11 October 1998, Vatican City by Pope John Paul II|
|Attributes||Yellow Star of David on a Discalced Carmelite nun's habit, flames, a book|
|Patronage||Europe; loss of parents; converted Jews; martyrs; World Youth Day|
|Controversy||The canonization of a Jewish victim of Auschwitz and the Catholic Church's efforts to convert Jews|
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St. Catherine of Siena Receiving the Stigmata
by Domenico Beccafumi, c. 1513-15.
Edith Stein, also known as St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, OCD (German: Teresia Benedicta vom Kreuz, Latin: Teresia Benedicta a Cruce; 12 October 1891 – 9 August 1942), was a German Jewish philosopher who converted to the Roman Catholic Church and became a Discalced Carmelite nun. She is 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 in 1916 from the University of Göttingen, she obtained an assistantship at the University of Freiburg.
From reading the works of the reformer of the Carmelite Order, St. Teresa of Jesus, OCD, 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 Teresa Benedicta of the Cross ("Teresa blessed by the Cross"). In 1938 she and her sister Rosa, by then also a convert and an extern Sister of 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.
Edith 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, Edith 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 Edith to study at the University of Breslau (also known as "Schlesische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität").
In 1916 Edith Stein received a doctorate of philosophy from the University of Freiburg with a dissertation titled Zum Problem der Einfühlung (On the Problem of Empathy) and directed by the phenomenological philosopher Edmund Husserl. Stein's interruption of her studies for most of 1915 to serve as a volunteer wartime Red Cross nurse in an infectious disease hospital at Märisch-Weisskirchen in Moravia had informed her study of empathy. 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. In the previous year she had worked with Martin Heidegger in editing Husserl's papers for publication, and Heidegger succeeded her as a teaching assistant to Husserl in 1919. 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 caused 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.
— Edith Stein, Letter to Pope Pius XI
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
Edith 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 [C]hurch, especially for the preservation of our holy [O]rder, 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 [H]is own people and [H]is 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 an even greater subscriber to the Carmelite lifestyle. 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 created 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 denied 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 Sr. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, her sister, and many more of her people were killed in a mass gas chamber.
Legacy and veneration
Edith 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 Teresa 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 rounded up 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 Teresa Benedicta, 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.
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."
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 Edith Stein.
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 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 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.
Memorial to Edith Stein in Prague, Czech Republic
Edith Stein in a relief by Heinrich Schreiber in the Church of Our Lady in Wittenberg, Germany
Sculpture near her baptism church in Bad Bergzabern with her answer Secretum meum mihi
Writings in English translation
- Life in a Jewish Family: Her Unfinished Autobiographical Account, translated by Sister Josephine Koeppel, O.C.D., from The Collected Works of Edith Stein, Volume 1, ICS Publications, 1986
- On the Problem of Empathy, translated by Waltraut Stein, from The Collected Works of Edith Stein, Volume 3, ICS Publications, 1989
- Essays on Woman, translated by Freda Mary Oben, 1996
- The Hidden Life, translated by Sister Josephine Koeppel, O.C.D., 1993
- The Science of the Cross, translated by Sister Josephine Koeppel, O.C.D. The Collected Works of Edith Stein, Volume Six, 1983, 2002, 2011, ICS Publications
- Knowledge and Faith
- Finite and Eternal Being: An Attempt to an Ascent to the Meaning of Being
- Philosophy of Psychology and the Humanities, translated by Mary Catharine Baseheart, S.C.N., and Marianne Sawicki, 2000
- An Investigation Concerning the State, translated by Marianne Sawicki, 2006, ICS Publications
- Martin Heidegger's Existential Philosophy
- Self-Portrait in Letters, 1916-1942
- Spirituality of the Christian Woman
- Potency and Act, Studies Toward a Philosophy of Being Translated by Walter Redmond, from The Collected Works of Edith Stein, Volume Eleven, 1998, 2005,2009, ICS Publications
- Berkman, Joyce A., ed. (2006). Contemplating Edith Stein. University of Notre Dame Press.
- Borden, Sarah R. (2003). Edith Stein (Outstanding Christian Thinkers). Continuum.
- Calcagno, Antonio (2007). The Philosophy of Edith Stein. Duquesne University Press.
- Lebech, Mette (Winter 2011). "Why Do We Need the Philosophy of Edith Stein?" (PDF). Communio. 38: 682–727. Archived (PDF) from the original on July 1, 2016.
- Lebech, Mette (2015). The Philosophy of Edith Stein: From Phenomenology to Metaphysics. Peter Lang.
- MacIntyre, Alasdair C. (2006). Edith Stein: A Philosophical Prologue, 1913–1922. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.
- Posselt, Teresia Renata (1952). Edith Stein: The Life of a Philosopher and Carmelite. Sheed and Ward.
- Sawicki, Marianne (1997). Body, Text and Science: The Literacy of Investigative Practices and the Phenomenology of Edith Stein. Dordrecht: Kluwer.
- Book of the First Monks
- Carmelite Rule of St. Albert
- Constitutions of the Carmelite Order
- Emmanuel Charles McCarthy
- "Edith Stein" at EWTN.com.
- "Patron Saints Index: Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross" Accessed 26 January 2007.
- "Teresa Benedict of the Cross Edith Stein". Vatican News Service.
- MacIntyre, Alasdair (2006). Edith Stein: A Philosophical Prologue 1913-1922. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 71.
- 1Lebech, Mette. "Study Guide to Edith Stein's Philosophy of Psychology and the Humanities" (PDF). Faculty of Philosophy, NUIM, Maynooth.
- Popham, Peter (February 21, 2003). "This Europe: Letters reveal Auschwitz victim's plea to Pope Pius XI". London: The Independent. Retrieved 2003-02-21.
- Mosley, J. (2006). The Ultimate Sacrifice. In Edith Stein: Modern Saint and Martyr (pp. 43-52). Mahwah, N.J.: HiddenSpring.
- Garcia, Laura (June 6, 1997). "Edith Stein Convert, Nun, Martyr". Catholic Education Resource Center. Retrieved December 3, 2014.
- Scaperlanda, María Ruiz (2001). Edith Stein: St. Teresia Benedicta of the Cross. Huntington, Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor Press. p. 154.
- "Jewish-born nun gassed by Nazis is declared saint; Prayer to Edith Stein sparked tot's 'miraculous' recovery". The Toronto Star. May 24, 1997. pp. A22.
- . Ess-darmstadt.de. 2012-12-04 http://www.ess-darmstadt.de. Retrieved 2012-12-26. Missing or empty
- http://www.edithsteincollege.nl. Missing or empty
- "St. Edith Stein Elementary School". Dpcdsb.org. Retrieved 2012-12-26.
- "Edith-Stein-Studentinnen-Wohnheim". Edith-stein-heim.de. Retrieved 2012-12-26.
- MacIntyre, Alasdair C. (2006). Edith Stein: A Philosophical Prologue, 1913-1922. Lanham, Md: Rowman and Littlefield. p. 5. ISBN 9780742559530.
- "The International Association for the Study of the Philosophy of Edith Stein". edithsteincircle.com. Edith Stein Circle.
- Abraham Foxman, Leon Klenicki (October 1998). "The Canonization of Edith Stein: An Unnecessary Problem", Anti-Defamation League.
- Cargas, Harry James (ed.) (1994). The Unnecessary Problem of Edith Stein. Studies in the Shoah. IV. University Press of America.
- Thomas A. Idinopulos (Spring 1998). "The Unnecessary Problem of Edith Stein". Journal of Ecumenical Studies.
- "Canonization Homily". Vatican.va. Retrieved 2012-12-26.
- http://www.karmel.at/ics/edith/stein.html Unsafe website per Norton Systemsworks
- Stein, Edith; Lebech, Mette, Translator; McDonnell, Cyril, Issue Editor; Kelly, Thomas A. F. (2007). "Martin Heidegger's Existential Philosophy" (PDF). MAYNOOTH PHILOSOPHICAL PAPERS: An Anthology of Current Research from the Department of Philosophy, NUI Maynooth. from Stein, Edith (2006 ‘Anhang’). Endliches und Ewiges Sein. Versuch eines Aufstiegs zum Sinn des Seins, Gesamtausgabe, bd. 11/12. Freiburg: Herder. pp. 445–500. Check date values in:
- "Edith Stein". ewtn.com. from The Collected Works of Edith Stein, Volume Two, Essays on Woman, 1987, ICS Publications
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