St. Teresa Benedicta. Do you know her? You ought to.
Edith Stein was born in 1891 in Germany, the youngest of 11 children. She was raised Jewish but fell away from the faith and all belief in God as a teen. Highly gifted, Stein grew up to obtain her doctorate in philosophy, studying under the famous phenomenologist philosopher Edmund Husserl.
She experienced a profound intellectual conversion at the age of 29. Vacationing with friends, but alone in the house one night, Stein picked up the biography of St. Teresa of Avila and read it all in one sitting. Instantly convinced of the truth of Catholicism, she was received into the Church the following January.
Stein would remain in academia and public life for another 13 years, but finally answered a long-standing call to enter religious life in 1933 when she entered the Carmel of Cologne, taking the religious name of Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. Fearing for her safety (as an ethnic Jew) after the terror of kristallnacht (November 9, 1938), the nuns in Cologne sent her to the Carmel in Echt, the Netherlands (CatholicEducation.org). While the move preserved her safety for four years, the Nazis ultimately invaded the Netherlands, arrested her and brought her to Auschwitz, where within a week of her arrival, they executed her. She died at the age of 50, a martyr, was beatified on 1 May 1987 by Pope John Paul II and later canonized by him on 11 October 1998.
This powerhouse saint has so much to say to us today, and we recommend digging deeper, for instance by reading her explanation of the Spirituality of the Christian Woman, this mini-biography from EWTN, here, another beautiful short bio, here, this compilation of links, including her 1933 letter to Pope Pius XI expressing the dangerous rise of Nazism in Germany, and – finally – a place to find her writings for purchase, alas not yet widely available in the public domain. She understood
But, for the sake of introductions, we present today just a few gems that we think will only draw hearts and minds to friendship with this brilliant 20th century saint, co-patron saint of Europe, voice for women, martyr, who deeply grasped the full compatibility and mutual enrichment of faith and reason that our contemporary world so longs for.