Quote of the day: 29 September

Edith Stein 1942 Echt
Echt, 1942 | Photo credit: Discalced Carmelites

 

Since September 29 we’ve had a new Mother who would like me to write something again.

Echt, 5 November 1940

 

Just now I am gathering material for a new work since our Reverend Mother wishes me to do some scholarly work again, as far as this will be possible in our living situation and under the present circumstances. I am very grateful to be allowed once more to do something before my brain rusts completely.

Echt, 17 November 1940

 

I am going about my new task like a little child making its first attempts at walking.

Echt, 16 May 1941

 

Please, will Your Reverence also pray a little to the Holy Spirit and to our Holy Father John for what I am now planning to write. It is to be something for our Holy Father’s 400th birthday (24 June 1942)

Echt, 8 October 1941

 

Because of the work I am doing I live almost constantly immersed in thoughts about our Holy Father John. That is a great grace. May I ask Your Reverence once more for prayers that I can produce something appropriate for his Jubilee?

Echt, 18 November 1941

 

Dear Mother,

… I am satisfied with everything. scientia crucis [science of the cross] can be gained only when one comes to feel the Cross radically. I have been convinced of that from the first moment and have said, from my heart: Ave, Crux, spes unica!

Echt, December 1941

 

Dear Sister Maria,

… while working on this task it often happened when I was greatly exhausted that I had the feeling I could not penetrate to what I wished to say and to grasp. I already thought that it would always remain so. But now I feel I have renewed vigor for creative effort. Holy Father John gave me renewed impetus for some remarks concerning symbols. When I finish this manuscript I would like to send a German copy to Father Heribert [Discalced Carmelite provincial in Germany] to have it duplicated for the monasteries.

The only reason I write so little is that I need all the time for Father John.

Echt, 9 April 1942

 

My dear ones,

A [Red Cross] nurse from [Amsterdam] intends to speak today with the Consul. Here, every petition [on behalf] of fully Jewish Catholics has been forbidden since yesterday. Outside [the camp] an attempt can still be made, but with extremely little prospect. According to plans, a transport will leave on Friday. Could you possibly write to Mère Claire in Venlo, Kaldenkerkeweg 185 [the Ursuline Convent] to ask for [my] manuscript if they have not already sent it. We count on your prayers. There are so many persons here who need some consolation and they expect it from the Sisters.

In Corde Jesu, your grateful

B.

Westerbork transit camp, 5 August 1942

 

Preface to Science of the Cross
Saint Edith Stein’s opening sentence of the foreword to The Science of the Cross.

 


Mother Antonia Ambrosia Engelmann, O.C.D. was elected prioress of the Carmel of Echt on 29 September 1940.  It is to her that we owe a debt of gratitude for Saint Edith Stein’s ultimate volume, The Science of the Cross. Gelber and Leuven (1993) note that although it was her final work, the manuscript was published as Vol. I in Edith Steins Werke. When Edith and Rosa were arrested in August of 1942, the completed portions of her manuscript had already been sent to a typist. Unaware of the fate that awaited her, Edith asks to retrieve that manuscript as if to continue working on it while in prison.

 

Kreuzeswissenschaft.pdf_page1-750px
Stein E 1954, Kreuzeswissenschaft, E. Nauwelaerts, Louvain. | Wikimedia Commons

 

Gelber L, Leuven R, and Stein E 1993, Self-Portrait in Letters 1916-1942, translated from German by J Koeppel, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

 

9 August: St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

August 9
SAINT TERESA BENEDICTA OF THE CROSS
Virgin and Martyr

Memorial

Edith Stein was born to a Jewish family at Breslau on October 12, 1891. Through her passionate study of philosophy, she searched after truth and found it in reading the autobiography of Saint Teresa of Jesus. In 1922 she was baptized a Catholic and in 1933 she entered the Carmel of Cologne, where she took the name Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. She was gassed and cremated at Auschwitz on August 9, 1942, during the Nazi persecution, and died a martyr for the Christian faith after having offered her holocaust for the people of Israel. A woman of singular intelligence and learning, she left behind a body of writing notable for its doctrinal richness and profound spirituality. She was beatified by Pope John Paul II at Cologne on May 1, 1987.

From the common of martyrs or of virgins

THE SECOND READING

(Edith Stein Werke (Freiburg, 1987), 11:124-126)

From the spiritual writings of Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

Ave Crux, spes unica!

We greet you, Holy Cross, our only hope! The church puts these words on our lips during the time of the passion, which is dedicated to the contemplation of the bitter sufferings of our Lord Jesus Christ. The world is in flames. The struggle between Christ and antichrist rages openly, and so if you decide for Christ you can even be asked to sacrifice your life.

Contemplate the Lord who hangs before you on the wood, because he was obedient even to the death of the cross. He came into the world not to do his own will but that of the Father. And if you wish to be the spouse of the Crucified, you must renounce completely your own will and have no other aspiration than to do the will of God.

Before you, the Redeemer hangs on the cross stripped and naked, because he chose poverty. Those who would follow him must renounce every earthly possession.

Stand before the Lord who hangs from the cross with his heart torn open. He poured out the blood of his heart in order to win your heart. In order to follow him in holy chastity, your heart must be free from every earthly aspiration. Jesus Crucified must be the object of your every longing, of your every desire, of your every thought.

The world is in flames: the fire can spread even to our house, but above all the flames the cross stands on high, and it cannot be burnt. The cross is the way which leads from earth to heaven. Those who embrace it with faith, love, and hope are taken up, right into the heart of the Trinity.

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. Through the faithful observance of the vows, you make your heart open; and then the floods of that divine love will be able to flow into it, making it overflow and bear fruit to the furthest reaches of the earth.

Through the power of the cross, you can be present wherever there is pain, carried there by your compassionate charity, by that very charity which you draw from the divine heart. That charity enables you to spread everywhere the most precious blood in order to ease pain, save and redeem.

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 alone have the words of life. Ave Crux, spes unica!

RESPONSORY

We preach Christ Crucified, a scandal to the Jews
and foolishness to the pagans,
but for those who are called, whether they be Jews or Greeks,
we preach Christ, the power of God and the wisdom of God.

The desire of my heart and my prayer
rises to God for their salvation;
but for those who are called, whether they be Jews or Greeks,
we preach Christ, the power of God and the wisdom of God.

PRAYER

Lord, God of our fathers,
you brought Saint Teresa Benedicta
to the fullness of the science of the cross
at the hour of her martyrdom.
Fill us with that same knowledge;
and, through her intercession,
allow us always to seek after you, the supreme truth,
and to remain faithful until death
to the covenant of love ratified in the blood of your Son
for the salvation of all men and women.

Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever.

 

Auschwitz_main-gate
On the main gate for visitors to Auschwitz, the Nazis affixed this motto: WORK SETS YOU FREE. But for the millions who passed through the railway entrance, there was no freedom to be found and no truth in the motto.
As St. Teresa Benedicta wrote of the Nazis in a letter dated July 10, 1940:
“one must, after all, tell those poor people the real truth for once.”

Quote of the day: 3 August

The testimony of Dr. Lenig

 

I met Sister Teresia Benedicta a Cruce, known in the camp as Edith Stein, on the 2nd of August 1942, in the transit camp at Amersfoort, in barracks No. 9, if I am not mistaken.

[Nota Bene: Other sources clarified that Edith and Rosa arrived at Camp Amersfoort on August 3 after processing in Roermond]

On that Sunday all Catholics of Jewish, or partly Jewish, ancestry were arrested by the German hangmen’s helpers as a reprisal for a pastoral letter that had been read from the pulpits of all Dutch churches the previous Sunday. They were taken away and at first assembled at Amersfoort before being deported from there to the gas chambers and crematoria…

 

Amersfoort-Camp-entry
Entrance, Camp Amersfoort | faceme / Flickr

 

When your Sister, together with about three hundred men, women and children had been driven behind the barbed wire fence of the camp, they had to stand for hours on the barrack-square, where they could watch, just as a pleasant welcome, a roll call that had been in progress for two or three days. It was to punish the entire camp, so far as I rememberone of the starving internees who had “stolen” some dry bread that had been thrown away. That is to say, some of them were still standing, the rest had collapsed and were being variously mishandled to get them on their feet again.

Among those still standing I noticed an inflexible opponent of the Third Reich, Ministerial Director Dr. Lazarus, who, like the new arrivals, was a courageous and avowed Catholic. Nor can I forget how the day was one long series of kickings and beatings, although these were tolerable.

More upsetting was the condition of most of the women… It was at this moment that Edith Stein courageously showed her commitment.

It must be mentioned that, to begin with, all were released who had been brought in by mistake, Protestants, Greek (Bulgarian) Orthodox, etc., and then the monotony of camp life set in. Roll calls and nightly deportations.

With diligence, they read the Imitation of Christ that someone had smuggled in; a Trappist faithfully said Holy Mass for themhis six brothers and sisters who had all joined the same Order were with him [the Loeb family], all prepared for transport. Holy Communion was distributed diligently, and despite the harassment by the SS, every one of this flock destined for death steadfastly sang the Confiteor daily, until the last of them had gone their way…

 

Loeb Family Trappists Koningshoeven Abbey website
The martyrs of the Loeb family, Dutch Trappists who were deported from the Netherlands on the same date and in the same transport as Edith and Rosa Stein. Read the Trappist generalate’s tribute to the Loeb family martyrs here. | Photo credit: Koningshoeven Abbey

 

It was also very moving to see the response of this brave flock of believers when they heard that there were priests somewhere in the camp; immediately they gave up some of their meager rations, their tobacco, their money, etc., that were now useless to them but might help the priests to placate their torturers and so hope to experience the day of liberation.


 

Doctor Fritz Lenig  (Friedrich Moritz Levinsohn) was a native of Gelsenkirchen, Germany;  he was a physician, entrepreneur, and a refugee in the Netherlands like Edith, Rosa, and so many others. He had been arrested and was interned at Camp Amersfoort at the same time that the transport arrived carrying the Carmelite Stein sisters and the Trappist Loeb family, as well as the Dominican Sister Judith Mendes Da Costa and other Catholics of Jewish ancestry.

Saint Edith Stein’s first biographerher Cologne novice mistress and prioress Mother Teresia Renata Posselt, O.C.D.indicates that after the war the Sisters in Cologne, Echt, the friars at the Discalced Carmelite General Curia, as well as family and friends of Edith worldwide were anxiously searching for news of the whereabouts of Edith and Rosa. As far as the Order, family, and friends were concerned, the Stein sisters were still considered to be missing persons and everyone held out hope for their return:

“Neither the office of the Father General of the Carmelite Order in Rome, nor the relatives in America, nor the Carmelite convents in either Germany, Holland or Switzerland were able to discover any trace of them.”

An unexpected article published in l’Osservatore Romano at the Vatican in 1947 prompted a new flurry of activity and inquiries. Written in a very authoritative tone, the biographical article entitled “From Judaism to the University and Thence to Carmel” indicated that Edith and her sister were beaten, imprisoned, and then killed “either in a gas chamber or as some think, by being thrown down into a salt-mine.”

Mother Teresia Renata states that the source of the announcement was untraceable. Nevertheless, coming from a publication as authoritative as l’Osservatore Romano, the news item was reprinted in diocesan newspapers around the world despite errors in Sister Teresa Benedicta’s biography.

 

Mother Teresia Renata Posselt - Edith Stein Archiv
Mother Teresia Renata Posselt, O.C.D. | Edith Stein-Archiv

 

The Cologne Carmelites decided to send a circular letter, as is the custom of Discalced Carmelite nuns; except they decided to distribute thousands of copies across the globe to enlighten, edify, and correct any previous misstatements concerning Edith and Rosa.

As a direct result of the dissemination of that circular letter, the noted German physician, Professor Max Budde from Gelsenkirchen, contacted the nuns in Cologne to tell them that one of his friends from Gelsenkirchen days, Dr. Fritz Lenig was at Camp Amersfoort when Sr. Benedicta and Rosa arrived, but he had been able to escape death.

The nuns in Cologne wasted no time in contacting Dr. Lenig.

The excerpt published here presents the salient points of Dr. Lenig’s response to the inquiry from the Carmel of Cologne concerning the whereabouts of Edith and Rosa, in particular as it pertains to their arrival at Camp Amersfoort on the 3rd of August 1942.

 

Posselt, Teresia Renata. Edith Stein: The Life of a Philosopher and Carmelite (p. 212). ICS Publications. Kindle Edition.

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