Quote of the day: 4 December

The whole city is truly scandalized.

In our quote of the day for 2 December we remembered the anniversary of the abduction of Saint John of the Cross from his chaplain’s quarters at the monastery of the Incarnation in Avila. We read Saint Teresa’s anguished letter to King Philip II wherein she provided the backstory and described the abduction of Saint John and his companion and fellow confessor, Fray Germán. More important, Teresa begged the king to intervene in the affair.

Saint Teresa’s letter was dated 4 December 1577. We recall that she wrote how the Carmelite vicar provincial “is holding these confessors captive in his monastery after having forced his way into their cells and confiscating their papers” (Letter 218).

 

 

2017-08-17 (1)
Saint Edith Stein wrote the Science of the Cross in the final months before her arrest in August 1942. Did a correlation between Saint John of the Cross’ abduction and the arrests of the Jews come to mind? | Photo Credit: Bundesarchiv (Creative Commons)

 

 

Today we turn to Saint Edith Stein’s Science of the Cross to provide us with more details of his abduction; we refer to her introduction, “The Message of the Cross”. Let us recall that scholars differ on the date of the abduction; by Edith’s calculation, the event occurred on the night of December 3 and Teresa wrote to the king on the very next day. Based on this knowledge, Edith recounts the story:

On the night of December 3, 1577, several of the Calced with their accomplices broke into the living quarters of the nuns’ two confessors and took them away as captives. From then on, John was missing. True, Holy Mother learned that the prior, Maldonado, had taken him away. But where he had been taken was not revealed until nine months later when he was freed.

Nine months. During nine months Saint John of the Cross would be exposed to cruel captivity in Toledo, penned up like a political prisoner. For all intents and purposes, John actually was a political prisoner, a prisoner because of the jealous machinations of the prior in the Carmelite friars’ convent in Toledo, Fray Hernando Maldonado. Maldonado: he of whom Saint Teresa wrote to King Philip, “he is more capable than the others of making martyrs.”

 

French Underground inspects blindfold in Paris Yad Vashem photo record 1460_179
After the liberation, a member of the French underground in Paris inspects a blindfold used on prisoners during interrogations | Photo credit: Yad Vashem (Creative Commons)

 

We will let Saint Edith continue the story of Saint John’s abduction:

Blindfolded, he had been brought through a lonely suburb to the monastery of Our Lady in Toledo, the most important Carmelite monastery of the mitigated Rule in Castile. He was interrogated, and because he refused to abandon the Reform he was treated as a rebel. His prison was a narrow room, about 10 feet long and 6 feet wide. Teresa later wrote: “small though he was in stature, he could hardly stand erect in it.”

At this point, the conditions of Saint John of the Cross’ confinement remind us of Saint Teresa’s vision of hell, where she wrote in her autobiography:

The entrance it seems to me was similar to a very long and narrow alleyway, like an oven, low and dark and confined; the floor seemed to me to consist of dirty, muddy water emitting a foul stench and swarming with putrid vermin. At the end of the alleyway, a hole that looked like a small cupboard was hollowed out in the wall; there I found I was placed in a cramped condition. All of this was delightful to see in comparison with what I felt there. What I have described can hardly be exaggerated (Life 32:1).

Here is what Edith has to say about Saint John’s “cramped condition”:

This cell had neither window nor air vent other than a slit high up on the wall. The prisoner had to “stand on the poor-sinner-stool and wait until the sun’s rays were reflected on the wall in order to be able to pray the breviary.” The door was secured by a bolt.

Small wonder that when Saint Teresa wrote on 4 December to King Philip, she remarked, “I would consider the confessors better off if they were held by the Moors, who perhaps would show more compassion.”

 

Dachau Frans de Wit Flickr 14997966451_3b62cd0105_o
Dachau concentration camp | Frans de Wit / Flickr

 

There was a daily routine of psychological and physical torture, as Saint Edith explains:

At first every evening, later three times a week, and finally, only sometimes on Fridays, the prisoner was brought to the refectory where, seated on the floor, he ate his meal—bread and water. He was also given the discipline in the refectory. He knelt, naked to the waist, with bowed head; all the friars passed by him and struck him with the switch. And since he bore everything “with patience and love” he was dubbed “the coward.” Throughout, he was “immovable as a rock” when they commanded him to abandon the Reform, attempting to bribe him by offering to make him a prior. Then he would open his silent lips and assure them that he refused to turn back “no matter if it cost him his life.”

He bore everything with patience and love. How rich were his counsels to Saint Teresa’s nuns in later years! When he exhorted them to practice patience, they understood that he had the bitter life experience to qualify his counsel:

Serve God, my beloved daughters in Christ, following in his footsteps of mortification, in utter patience, in total silence, and with every desire to suffer, becoming executioners of your own satisfactions, mortifying yourselves, if perhaps something remains that must die and something still impedes the inner resurrection of the Spirit who dwells within your souls (Letter 7 to the nuns at Beas, 18 November 1586).

Saint Edith tells us that “the youthful novices who were witness to the humiliations and mistreatment wept out of compassion and said “This is a saint” when they saw his silent patience.”

 

Juan de la Cruz (silence profile pic 22)
Credit: Portal Carmelitano

 

 

John of the Cross, St. 1991, The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, Revised Edition, translated from the Spanish by Kavanaugh, K and Rodriguez, O with revisions and introductions by Kavanaugh, K, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

 

Kieran Kavanaugh, K, Rodriguez, O, and Teresa, 1976, The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

 

Stein, E 2002, The Science of the Cross, translated from the German by Koeppel, J, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

Quote of the day: 2 December

To the King Don Philip II

Avila, 4 December 1577

The grace of the Holy Spirit be with your majesty, amen. I strongly believe that our Lady has chosen you to protect and help her order. So, I cannot fail to have recourse to you regarding her affairs. For the love of our Lord, I beg you to pardon me for so much boldness.

I am sure your majesty has received news of how the nuns at the Incarnation tried to have me go there, thinking they would have some means to free themselves from the friars, who are certainly a great hindrance to the recollection and religious observance of the nuns. And the friars are entirely at fault for the lack of observance previously present in that house. The nuns are very much mistaken in their desire that I go there, for as long as they are subject to the friars as confessors and visitators, I would be of no helpat least not of any lasting help. I always said this to the Dominican visitator, and he understood it well.

Since God allowed that situation to exist, I tried to provide a remedy and placed a discalced friar in a house next to them, along with a companion friar. He is so great a servant of our Lord that the nuns are truly edified, and this city is amazed by the remarkable amount of good he has done there, and so they consider him a saint, and in my opinion, he is one and has been one all his life.

When the previous nuncio through a long report sent him by the inhabitants of the city was informed of the things that were happening and of the harm that the friars of the cloth were doing, he gave orders under pain of ex-communication that the confessors be restored to their house (for the calced friars had driven them from the city heaping abuse on them and giving much scandal to everyone). And he also ordered that no friar of the cloth under pain of ex-communication go to the Incarnation for business purposes, to say Mass, or hear confessions, but only the discalced friars and secular clergy. As a result, the house was in a good state until the nuncio died. Then the calced friars returnedand so too the disturbancewithout demonstrating the grounds on which they could do so.

And now a friar who came to absolve the nuns caused such a disturbance without any concern for what is reasonable and just that the nuns are deeply afflicted and still bound by the same penalties as before, according to what I have been told. And worst of all he has taken from them their confessors. They say that he has been made vicar provincial, and this must be true because he is more capable than the others of making martyrs. And he is holding these confessors captive in his monastery after having forced his way into their cells and confiscating their papers.

The whole city is truly scandalized. He is not a prelate nor did he show any evidence of the authority on which these things were done, for these confessors are subject to the apostolic commissary. Those friars dared so much, even though this city is so close to where your majesty resides, that it doesn’t seem they fear either justice or God. I feel very sad to see these confessors in the hands of those friars who for some days have been desiring to seize hold of them. I would consider the confessors better off if they were held by the Moors, who perhaps would show more compassion. And this one friar who is so great a servant of God is so weak from all that he has suffered that I fear for his life.

I beg your majesty for the love of our Lord to issue orders for them to set him free at once and that these poor discalced friars not be subjected to so much suffering by the friars of the cloth. The former do no more than suffer and keep silent and gain a great deal. But the people are scandalized by what is being done to them. This past summer in Toledo, without any reason, the same superior took as prisoner Fray Antonio de Jesúsa holy and blessed man, who was the first discalced friar. They go about saying that with orders from Tostado they will destroy them all. May God be blessed! Those who were to be the means of removing offenses against God have become the cause of so many sins. And each day matters will get worse if your majesty does not provide us with some help. Otherwise, I don’t know where things will end up, because we have no other help on earth.

May it please our Lord that for our sakes you live many years. I hope in him that he will grant us this favor. He is so alone, for there are few who look after his honor. All these servants of your majesty’s, and I ask this of him continually.

Dated in St. Joseph’s in Avila, 4 December 1577.

Your majesty’s unworthy servant and subject,

Teresa of Jesus, Carmelite

 


In early December 1577, St. John of the Cross was abducted from his chaplaincy at the monastery of the Incarnation in Avila. Sanjuanist scholars disagree on the exact date.

Translator and editor Father Kieran Kavanaugh, OCD indicates that “on the night of December 2, 1577, a group of Carmelites, laypeople, and men-at-arms broke into the chaplain’s quarters, seized Fray John, and took him away” (Kavanagh 1991, Introduction).

Saint Edith Stein, for example, writes, “on the night of December 3, 1577, several of the Calced with their accomplices broke into the living quarters of the nuns’ two confessors and took them away as captives” (Stein 2002, Introduction).

Teresianum professor and Sanjuanist authority Father Iain Matthew simply states this about John’s arrest: “On a cold night in early December, his chaplaincy in Avila was raided. The young man was taken away for interrogation and chastisement. Then he disappeared” (Matthew 1995, p. 9)

Whatever the date may have been, nine long months of physical and psychological torture followed with hardships that most would have found unbearable. Yet out of this darkness emerged the most profound and exquisite poetry that John of the Cross ever wrote.

 

Where have you hidden,
Beloved, and left me moaning?
You fled like the stag
after wounding me;
I went out calling you, but you were gone.

 

 

Silhouelk Mark Gunn Flickr 27703036162_53bc7c3800_o
Mark Gunn / Flickr

 

 

John of the Cross, St. 1991, The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, Revised Edition, translated from the Spanish by Kavanaugh, K and Rodriguez, O with revisions and introductions by Kavanaugh, K, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

 

Matthew, I 1995,  The Impact of God: Soundings from St. John of the Cross,  Hodder & Stoughton, London.

 

Stein, E 2002, The Science of the Cross, translated from the German by Koeppel, J, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

Quote of the day: 21 November

The vow of chastity intends to release human beings from all the bonds of natural common life, to fasten them to the cross high above all the bustle, and to free their hearts for union with the Crucified. This sacrifice, too, is not accomplished once and for all.

Of course, one is cut off, externally, from occasions that can become temptations outside but often much that distracts the spirit and the heart, robbing them of their freedom, cleaves to the memory and fantasy. Besides, there is also a danger that new ties establish themselves within the protective cloister walls and hinder full union with the Divine Heart.

When we enter the Order, we again become members of a family. We are to see and respect, as head and members of the Mystical Body of Christ, our superiors and the other sisters. But we are human, and something all too human can easily become mingled with holy, childlike, and sisterly love. We believe we see Christ in the people we look up to and fail to notice that we attach ourselves to them humanly and are in danger of losing sight of Christ.

But human attraction is not the only cloud on purity of heart. Too little love is a worse offense against the Divine Heart than too much. Every aversion, any anger and resentment we tolerate in our hearts closes the door to the Savior. Involuntary stirrings naturally arise through no fault of our own, but as soon as we become aware of them, we must relentlessly oppose them. Otherwise, we resist God who is love and do the devil’s work.

The song sung by the virgins attending the Lamb is surely one of purest love.

Saint Edith Stein

The Marriage of the Lamb
For September 14, 1940

 

JOSE-MARIA MORENO GARCIA
Clothing day at the Carmel of Consuegra (Toledo), founded in 1597 | José-María Moreno García / Flickr

 

 

Stein, E 2014, The Hidden Life: Essays, Meditations, Spiritual Texts, translated from the German by Stein W, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

Quote of the day: 18 November

Because of the work that I am doing, I live almost constantly immersed in thoughts about our Holy Father John. That is a great grace.

Saint Edith Stein

18 November 1941
Letter to Mother Johanna van Weersth
Carmel of Beek

 

Juan_writing
Image credit: Discalced Carmelites

Quote of the day: 16 October

Edith Stein was a Carmelite even while she was in the world.

In all actuality, for Edith Stein entrance into Carmel was a descent from the height of a distinguished career to the depth of insignificance. Maybe she herself did not perceive this as we see it.

But when she left behind the world at her crossing the threshold of Carmel, did not everything that gave her prominence in that world sink with it and lower her to the level of the humanly commonplace?

She was received into the Cologne Carmel as just another postulant.

Most of the Sisters had not even heard of her before. None of them was aware of her public activities; very few would have been able to follow her if she had tried to introduce them into her own intellectual world.

But no one thought about this—least of all Edith herself. Everyone assumed, quite naturally, that she should undertake the thousand and one little tasks that a postulant has to get used to from the first day. And it was moving to watch the childlike way in which Edith struggled to fall in with the regulations of the house at every point, promptly responding to all requests and trying to accustom herself to this new mode of life.

Sister Teresia Renata Posselt, O.C.D.

Edith Stein: The Life of a Philosopher and Carmelite, Chap. 14

 

Flemish Emblems Humility British Museum AN01132143_001_l
Humility (ootmoedigeyt)
Anonymous Flemish, 17th c.
Engraving on paper, 1685-1686
British Museum
From the Flemish Emblems series, the emblem of humility is exemplified by a nun standing in a room near a bed, holding a ball in her hand and stepping on a crown with her foot.
Photo credit: British Museum Online Collection (Creative Commons)

 

 

Posselt, T 2005, Edith Stein: The Life of a Philosopher and Carmelite, translated from the German by Batzdorff S, Koeppel J, and Sullivan J, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

 

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.

 

Quote of the day: 14 September

September 14, 1939

Ave Crux, Spes Unica

“Hail, Cross, our only hope!”—this is what the holy church summoned us to exclaim during the time for contemplating the bitter suffering of our Lord Jesus Christ. The jubilant exclamation of the Easter Alleluia silenced the serious song of the cross. But the sign of our salvation greeted us amid the time of Easter joy, since we were recalling the discovery of the One who had passed from sight. At the end of the cycle of ecclesiastical feasts, the cross greets us through the heart of the Savior. And now, as the church year draws toward an end, it is raised high before us and is to hold us spellbound until the Easter Alleluia summons us anew to forget the earth for a while and rejoice in the marriage of the Lamb.

Our holy Order has us begin our fast with the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. And it leads us to the foot of the cross to renew our holy vows. The Crucified One looks down on us and asks us whether we are still willing to honor what we promised in an hour of grace. And he certainly has reason to ask.

More than ever the cross is a sign of contradiction. The followers of the Antichrist show it far more dishonor than did the Persians who stole it. They desecrate the images of the cross, and they make every effort to tear the cross out of the hearts of Christians. All too often they have succeeded even with those who, like us, once vowed to bear Christ’s cross after him.

Therefore, the Savior today looks at us, solemnly probing us, and asks each one of us: Will you remain faithful to the Crucified? Consider carefully! The world is in flames, the battle between Christ and the Antichrist has broken into the open.

If you decide for Christ,
it could cost you your life.
Carefully consider
what you promise.

Taking and renewing vows is a dreadfully serious business. You make a promise to the Lord of heaven and earth. If you are not deadly serious about your will to fulfill it, you fall into the hands of the living God…

Ave Crux, Spes unica!

The world is in flames. The conflagration can also reach our house. But high above all flames towers the cross. They cannot consume it. It is the path from earth to heaven. It will lift one who embraces it in faith, love, and hope into the bosom of the Trinity.

The world is in flames. Are you impelled to put them out? Look at the cross. From the open heart gushes the blood of the Savior. This extinguishes the flames of hell.

Make your heart free by the faithful fulfillment of your vows; then the flood of divine love will be poured into your heart until it overflows and becomes fruitful to all the ends of the earth. Do you hear the groans of the wounded on the battlefields in the west and the east? You are not a physician and not a nurse and cannot bind up the wounds. You are enclosed in a cell and cannot get to them. Do you hear the anguish of the dying? You would like to be a priest and comfort them. Does the lament of the widows and orphans distress you? You would like to be an angel of mercy and help them.

Look at the Crucified. If you are nuptially bound to him by the faithful observance of your holy vows, your being is precious blood. Bound to him, you are omnipresent as he is. You cannot help here or there like the physician, the nurse, the priest. You can be at all fronts, wherever there is grief, in the power of the cross. Your compassionate love takes you everywhere, this love from the divine heart. Its precious blood is poured everywhere—soothing, healing, saving.

The eyes of the Crucified look down on you—asking, probing. Will you make your covenant with the Crucified anew in all seriousness? What will you answer him? “Lord, where shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

Ave Crux, Spes unica!

 

Jesus on the Cross
Jesus on the Cross, Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, Denver Colorado | Thomas Hawk / Flickr

 


We present excerpts from the meditation for the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, a fervorino that Saint Teresa Benedicta wrote for the prioress to deliver to the nuns of the Carmel of Echt, Holland on 14 September 1939, her first opportunity to renew her vows as a Discalced Carmelite in her new community.

Edith mentions that “our holy Order has us begin our fast with the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.” Here she makes a direct reference to the Carmelite Rule of St. Albert of Jerusalem, No. 16:

You are to fast every day, except Sundays, from the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross until Easter Day, unless bodily sickness or feebleness, or some other good reason, demand a dispensation from the fast; for necessity overrides every law.

For centuries, Discalced Carmelite nuns have renewed their vows of obedience, poverty, and chastity—the order in which Edith presented the vows in her meditation—on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.

Although the Discalced Carmelite friars renew their vows and the Discalced Carmelite Secular Order members renew their Promise at Easter or during the Octave of Easter, the 1991 Constitutions of the Discalced Carmelite nuns indicate that they shall renew their profession twice each year:

“In order to give common witness to religious consecration in following Christ, every year the sisters will renew their religious profession during the Easter Vigil or the octave of Easter, and on the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, using the formula given in the Ritual. The communities may repeat this renewal on other occasions in order to strengthen their commitment to this way of life.”

No matter what legislation Discalced Carmelites may observe, the essential purpose is clear: “to strengthen their commitment to this way of life.”

 

Thicket Priory 10th anniv GBCarmelites Flickr 48393091826_a41a057804_o
The Discalced Carmelite nuns of Thicket Priory | © Johan Bergström-Allen, British Province of Carmelites / Flickr

 

Stein, E 2014, The Hidden Life: Essays, Meditations, Spiritual Texts, translated from the German by Stein W, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

Quote of the day: 13 September

Cologne-Lindenthal
13 September 1936

Pax Christi!
Dear Reverend Mother Petra,

Your kind words did me a lot of good, I know what faithful sisterly love lies behind them. Every bulletin from Breslau reports a worsening. I must be prepared to hear the worst any day. The “Scimus, quoniam diligentibus Deum…” [cf. Rom 8:28] will surely apply to my dear mother too since she truly loved “her” God (as she often said with emphasis). And, with confidence in him, she bore much that was painful and did much that was good. I also think these last months when her life was constantly in peril were particularly grace-filled days—above all, the days since she no longer troubles herself about anything in her external life. And no one but the Lord himself knows what is happening in her soul.

That phrase I quoted from the Letter to the Romans afforded me the greatest comfort and joy during the summer of 1933, in Münster, when my future was still shrouded in total darkness. Never have I prayed the Divine Office of the Martyrs, which recurs so frequently during the Easter cycle, with greater fervor than I did at that time. Now it must be my support again. My mother was the strong bond that cemented the family togetherfour generations by now—for the common concern about her keeps us all bound to her, even the grandsons who are in far-off corners of the world. What will follow will be all the more difficult for those she will leave behind. For my whole life long I shall have to substitute for her [before God], together with my sister Rosa, who is one with me in faith…

In the love of Christ, your grateful

Sister Teresa Benedicta a Cruce, OCD

Letter 225 to Mother Petra Bruning, OSU
Ursuline Sisters, Dorsten (excerpt)


Sr. Teresa Renata Posselt, OCD—Edith Stein’s novice mistress, later prioress, and first biographer—tells us how Frau Stein’s final illness and death affected the saint. 

On 1 September 1936, Sr. Benedicta was able to put the finishing touch to the huge philosophical work that she had begun at her Provincial’s request immediately after her Clothing Ceremony. He gave the work his approval and Sr. Benedicta sought to arrange for its publication.

Meanwhile, her ailing mother’s condition became more and more serious. The year drew on to the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, 14 September, a very important day in Carmel, since it marks the beginning of the fast that lasts until the day of Our Lord’s Resurrection. Also, in accordance with the seraphic Teresa’s instructions, all the members of the Order renew their vows. This was the third time that Sr. Benedicta took part in the ceremony, held at a silent early morning hour. Afterward, she said to one of her sisters who was especially intimate with her, “When it was my turn to renew my vows my mother was beside me. I felt her presence quite distinctly.” On that same day, a telegram came from Breslau with the news that Frau Stein had died—at the very time when her daughter was renewing her vows. This circumstance greatly consoled Sr. Benedicta, who bore up nobly even when the first waves of sorrow were sweeping over her.

Edith Stein: The Life of a Philosopher and Carmelite
Chapter 16, Joys and Sorrow of the Bride of Christ (excerpt)

 

Frau Stein cameo
Auguste Courant Stein
Born 4 Oct 1849 in Lublinitz, Silesia, Prussia, Germany
Died 14 Sept 1936 in Breslau, Germany

 

Auguste Stein, known as Gustel, was born at Lublinitz, Silesia, Prussia, Germany on 4 October 1849. She was the fourth of the twelve children born to Solomon Courant and Adelheid Burchard. Her favorite brother was Eugen. Auguste married Siegfried Stein on 2 August 1871 and they had eleven children, four of whom died in infancy. For the first ten years of their marriage they lived in Gleiwitz, Prussia and Sigfried worked in the lumber business with his mother. In 1881 they moved to Lublinitz, Prussia where Sigfried established his own business in lumber and coal. In 1890 they moved to Breslau, Germany. Gustel was widowed in 1893 when Sigfried died very suddenly, her youngest child was not quite two. Gustel took on the lumber business and made a great success of it. She became much respected in the Breslau area. She was distressed in old age when her youngest daughter became a Carmelite nun and other children and grandchildren made plans to emigrate to escape the Nazi persecution. She died on 14 September 1936, two years before the import of the terror became clear to all on Kristallnacht (18 October 1938).  [Source: Wikitree]

Visit Auguste Stein’s Wikitree page to see more genealogy details, family photos, and a photo of her gravestone.

 

Posselt, T 2005, Edith Stein: The Life of a Philosopher and Carmelite, translated from the German by Batzdorff S, Koeppel J, and Sullivan J, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

 

Stein, E 1993, Self-Portrait in Letters 1916-1942, translated from the German by Koeppel, J, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

Quote of the day: 27 August

To protect the life of grace means to defend it against any influence that could extinguish it, such as loss of faith or sin. These, of course, endanger the child only when he arrives at the age of reason and freedom. Nevertheless, the child needs protection even before this, for poisonous matter can penetrate into the soul even before the life of reason has begun.

The child’s soul receives impressions from what he sees, hears, and touches; indeed, even experiences before birth can leave impressions upon the soul, and these impressions can have unpredictable consequences in later life. Therefore, the mother must keep pure the atmosphere in which the child is living.

Above all things, she herself must remain pure and faithful; she must try, as much as possible, to keep far from the children those people whom she cannot trust implicitly. Before the age of reason is reached, this nurturing of the flame of grace is ensured through the prayer of the mother, and it is also ensured because the child is thus confided to the protection of the Mother of God.

 

World Meeting of Families Wed am Mass 21644441252_f337712429_o US Papal Visit Flickr
A mother keeps her daughter cheerfully engaged during the Wednesday morning Mass at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, 23 September 2015 | Photo credit: Antoine Mekary/Aleteia for US Papal Visit / Flickr

 

With the age of reason, direct influence becomes possible. The child must learn to know and to love the Father in heaven, the child Jesus, the Mother of God, and the guardian angel. With increasing understanding, a deeper and more extensive penetration into the world of faith is possible. The pure, uncorrupted child’s heart has no difficulties in this and asks for more and more.

The sources of grace provided by the sacraments must also be made accessible. They are the strongest nourishment of the life of grace and the most efficacious safeguard against the dangers which come about almost unavoidable in this very time when, in many instances, various and uncontrollable influences encroach upon the influence of the mother and of the strictest family circle.

Saint Edith Stein
The Church, Woman, and Youth (25 July 1932)

 

Edith Stein 1931 Wien
Edith Stein, 1931 | Photo: Discalced Carmelites

 

On July 24 and 25 I attended a very enjoyable convention for young girls in Augsburg. At the leadership meeting, I had to give a talk on “The Task of Woman as Leader of Youth to the Church.”

Letter 120 (excerpt) to Sr. Adelgundis Jaegerschmid, OSB, 28 August 1932

 

Gelber L, Leuven R, and Stein E 1996, Essays on Woman, translated from German by FM Oben, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

 

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

Quote of the day: 26 August

Saint Teresa of Jesus’

Transverberation

 

During that time of unusual demonstrations of grace and of the most severe tests, Teresa also received a visible sensory image of the glowing love that pierced her heart.

“I saw beside me at my left side an angel in a physical form. . . . Because of his flaming face, he seemed to belong to that lofty choir made up only of fire and love. . . . I saw a long golden dart in his hands the end of which glowed like fire. From time to time the angel pierced my heart with it. When he pulled it out again, I was entirely inflamed with love for God.”

The heart of the saint, which has been preserved in the monastery of Alba and remains intact to this day, bears a long, deep wound.

One who loves feels compelled to do something for the beloved.

Saint Edith Stein
Love for Love (excerpt)

 

Bernini_ocd-curia-photo
L’Estasi di Santa Teresa
Gian Lorenzo Bernini (Italian, 1598-1680)
Marble sculpture, 1647-1652
Cornaro Chapel, Church of Santa Maria della Vittoria, Rome
Photo: Curia Generalizia Carmelitani Scalzi

 

Translator’s Notes

For comparison purposes, we share the corresponding translation of St. Teresa’s account of the transverberation from the 1985 edition by Fathers Kieran Kavanaugh, OCD and Otilio Rodriguez, OCD:

“I saw close to me toward my left side an angel in bodily form. . . . His face was so aflame that he seemed to be one of those very sublime angels that appear to be all afire. . . . I saw in his hands a large golden dart and at the end of the iron tip there appeared to be a little fire. It seemed to me this angel plunged the dart several times into my heart and that it reached deep within me. When he drew it out, I thought he was carrying off with him the deepest part of me; and he left me all on fire with great love of God.”

Editorial Notes

Dr. Lucy Gelber and Fr. Michael Linssen, OCD indicate in their notes that the manuscript of the article Love for Love included this addition: Leben und Werke der heiligen Teresa von Jesus. Edith also dated the manuscript at the end of the foreword: Carmel Cologne-Lindenthal, Candlemas, 1934.

Dr. Gelber and Father Linssen continue:

The article appeared in Kleine Lebensbilder, No. 84, Freiburg, Kanisiuswerk, 1934. Edith Stein mentions the appearance of the shortened article in her letter to Mother Petra Brüning of October 17, 1934 (Edith Steins Werke, Vol. IX, Letter 182): “I am allowed to send you the little book on Teresa that I wrote for our dear mother’s name day and that has now appeared—even though horribly shortened….”

These dates reveal that Edith Stein, still using her name in the world, wrote this study of St. Teresa while she was a postulant, and that this article composed during the first months of her life in the Order appeared in print after her clothing (April 15, 1934), now using her religious name. At that time the original title of the manuscript was also changed to Teresa of Jesus.

 

Gelber, L, Linssen, M and Stein, E 1992, The Hidden Life: Essays, Meditations, Spiritual Texts, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

 

Kieran Kavanaugh, K, Rodriguez, O, and Teresa 1976, The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

Quote of the day: 9 August

Passion Sunday, 26 March 1939

Dear Mother, please, will Your Reverence allow me to offer myself to the Heart of Jesus as a sacrifice of propitiation for true peace: that the dominion of Antichrist may collapse, if possible, without a new world war, and that a new order may be established? I would like it [my request] granted this very day because it is the twelfth hour. I know that I am a nothing, but Jesus desires it, and surely He will call many others to do likewise in these days.

Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, O.C.D.

 

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA
A stained glass window in Eindhoven, Netherlands seems to offer a fitting tribute to Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Edith Stein. Her lifelong journey with God from the family’s Jewish hearth to the heart of God by the path of total immolation for Christthrough the bonds of the Teresian Carmelprovides a stirring witness to the Church today. May we be inspired by her example and aided by her intercession. | pedrocaetano / Flickr

 

Edith Stein addressed Letter 296 to her prioress in the Carmel of Echt, Mother Ottilia a Jesu Crucifixo, O.C.D. (Maria Margaret Thannisch) on Passion Sunday, 1939. In her letter, we see profound continuity with Teresian spirituality; we offer for your reflection a few salient points.

Obedience

Edith’s obedience to her prioress prompts her to seek permission to make this solemn offering, rather than to enter into such a life-changing commitment by herself, a decision that could have consequences for her entire community.

Obedience is a cornerstone of all Carmelite life, beginning with the Rule of St. Albert of Jerusalem, which states, The first thing I require is for you to have a prior, one of yourselves, who is to be chosen for the office by common consent, or that of the greater and maturer part of you; each of the others must promise him obedience — of which, once promised, he must try to make his deeds the true reflection…” (Rule, 4)

St. Teresa of Avila takes up the refrain when she writes, “in matters touching on obedience He doesn’t want the soul who truly loves Him to take any other path than the one He did: obediens usque ad mortem” (Ph 2:8). (Foundations, 5:5)

 

Notting Hill Profession 2019
On 4 August 2019 Sister Sarah of Notting Hill Carmel made her First Religious Profession, and pronounced her vows of Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience during Mass, in the presence of witnesses of the Church. This photo shows her pronouncing her vows as she kneels before her prioress, who receives them as God’s representative. | Photo: Carmelite Nuns in Britain / Facebook (used by permission)

 

Self-Offering

In comparison with the Discalced Carmelite martyrs of Compiègne and St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus who preceded Edith in choosing a life of radical, holocaust offering to God, we note the following similarities and differences:


🞧  The Discalced Carmelites of Compiègne made their offering after their prioress proposed making an act of consecration “by which the community would offer themselves in holocaust to appease the wrath of God and to obtain that, through the sacrifice of their very selves, peace may be restored to the Church and to the State.” (Sr. Marie de l’Incarnation 1836, p. 67)

 

🞧  St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus was motivated by “ardent desires… to save souls” when she made her holocaust offering to merciful love on 9 June 1895. (CJ, 30 Sep 97) She wrote, 

“O My God! Most Blessed Trinity, I desire to love you and make you loved, to work for the glory of Holy Church by saving souls on earth and liberating those suffering in purgatory. I desire to accomplish your will perfectly and to reach the degree of glory you have prepared for me in your kingdom… In order to live in one single act of perfect love, I offer myself as a victim of holocaust to your merciful love, asking you to consume me incessantly, allowing the waves of infinite tenderness shut up within you to overflow into my soul, and that thus I may become a martyr of your love, O my God!” (Pri 6)

 

🞧  St. Teresa Benedicta offered herself to the heart of Jesus, a gesture of self-immolation in the furnace of the infinite love of Christ. Like St. Thérèse of Lisieux and Blessed Thérèse of Saint-Augustine, the prioress of Compiègne, St. Benedicta understood that a holocaust is consumed in the flames that spring forth from the Sacred Heart, echoing the sentiment of Thérèse: “O my Jesus! let it be me this happy victim, consume your holocaust through the fire of your Divine Love.” (Ms A, 84r)

Further, the propitiatory nature of St. Benedicta’s self-offering aligns with the consecration of the proto-martyrs of Discalced Carmelite nuns, Blessed Thérèse of Saint-Augustine and her companions “so that peace may be restored to the Church and to the State.” (Sr. Marie de l’Incarnation 1836, p. 67)

 

Adoration_of_the_Kings_Cologne Cathedral window_Robyn Fleming Flickr
This stained glass window depicting the adoration of the three kings in the Cathedral of Cologne would have been familiar to Edith Stein; the cathedral holds a reliquary which, according to tradition, contains the bones of the magi, seen here. Did Edith see her self-sacrificial offering in reference to the gold, frankincense, and myrrh offered by the travelers from the East? | Robyn Fleming / Flickr

 

Nothingness

“I know that I am a nothing,” Edith wrote. This is an ancient tune in the Teresian Carmel, beginning with St. Teresa of Avila herself: “I realized I was a woman and wretched and incapable of doing any of the useful things I desired to do in the service of the Lord.” (Way, 1:2)

Blessed Thérèse of Saint-Augustine counseled abandonment as a remedy to her daughters and directees: “I’m speaking of perfect abandonment to the divine wishes of our good Master. We are in his hands like children in the arms of a tender Father, who knows well what we need” (Letter 4 from Blessed Thérèse of Saint-Augustine to Mademoiselle de Grand-Rut, Holy Thursday, April 1790). (Sr. Marie de l’Incarnation 1836, p. 137)

St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, immersing herself within her own Carmelite identity“of the Child Jesus”through spiritual childhood,  explores the frontier of nothingness through love. While she stated in Manuscript A that it is “the property of love… to lower itself,” (Ms A, 2v) in her magisterial Manuscript B, she plumbs the abyss: “So that Love may be fully satisfied, it must lower itself, lower itself all the way to nothingness and transform this nothingness into fire.” (Ms B, 3v)

Are these three Carmelite martyrs exaggerating? No, insists the Discalced Carmelite friar who is the foremost expert on the theology of the saints, François-Marie Léthel, OCD—professor of the same at the Pontifical Theological Faculty “Teresianum”. His teaching is crystal clear:

It is “a rule in the theology of the saints: the saints never exaggerate, but simply tell the truth in dimensions that always seem exaggerated to us as they do for all those who aren’t yet saints!” (Léthel 2011, p. 144)

 

Star Cluster NGC 6611 Hubble star clusters NASA Hubble Flickr
This collection of dazzling stars is called NGC 6611, an open star cluster that formed about 5.5 million years ago in the well-known Eagle Nebula (or Messier 16). It is a very young cluster, containing many hot, blue stars, whose fierce ultraviolet glow make the surrounding Eagle Nebula glow brightly. Astronomers refer to areas like the Eagle Nebula as HII regions. This is the scientific notation for ionized hydrogen from which the region is largely made. Extrapolating far into the future, this HII region will eventually disperse, helped along by shockwaves from supernova explosions as the more massive young stars end their brief but brilliant lives. In this image, dark patches can also be spotted, punctuating the stellar landscape. These areas of apparent nothingness are actually very dense regions of gas and dust, which obstruct light from passing through. Many of these may be hiding the sites of the early stages of star formation, before the fledgling stars clear away their surroundings and burst into view. For more information, visit: http://www.spacetelescope.org/images/potw1101a/ |ESA/Hubble & NASA / Flickr

 

Divine Will

St. Teresa Benedicta minced no words when she declared her firm belief that God was calling her to make this radical self-sacrifice: “Jesus desires it.”

St. Thérèse was more poetic:

Divine Word! You are the Adored Eagle whom I love and who draws me! It is you who, soaring toward this land of exile, willed to suffer and die in order to draw souls into the heart of the Eternal Home of the Blessed Trinity. It is you who, ascending once again to the inaccessible Light, which will be henceforth your abode, still remain in this vale of tears, hidden beneath the appearance of a white host.

Eternal Eagle, you desire to nourish me with your divine substanceme, poor little creaturewho would return to nothingness if your divine gaze did not give me life each and every moment.

O Jesus, in the excess of my gratitude, let me tell you that your love is crazy. Given this craziness, how can you not want my heart to soar to you? How can my trust have any limits? 

Ah! For you, I know, the saints have done some crazy things, they’ve done some great things because they were eagles… Jesus, I’m too little to do great things… and my own craziness is to hope that your Love will accept me as a victim… My craziness consists in begging the Eagles my brothers, to obtain for me the favor of flying toward the Sun of Love with the Divine Eagle’s own wings… (Ms B, 05v)

For Blessed Thérèse of Compiègne, the divine inspiration to make the act of consecration came to her during mental prayer, those moments in the life of every Discalced Carmelite nun where even in the midst of dryness and darkness, she communes with God alone.

Mother Thérèse shared an apartment with the most senior members of the monastic community in Compiègne city after they were expelled from their cloister by the secularizing legislation of the French revolutionary government. It was to these most mature members of the community that one morning she first proposed a community act of holocaust consecration (probably in 1792); but their immediate reaction was to recoil in fear.

Historian William Bush notes that their reaction startled the prioress and she immediately regretted the proposal. Yet, after an entire day of contemplation, here were “two tearful 76-year-old nuns coming to ask forgiveness of their prioress for their lack of courage.” (Bush 1999, p. 107)

Again, what did Edith say? “Jesus desires it.”

 

Ratgeb martyrdom of the Carmelites
“Deus Vult” (God wills it) was the rallying cry associated with the Crusades, in particular the first crusade in the 11th century. The first Carmelite hermits, for whom St. Albert of Jerusalem wrote his Rule of Life, were believed to be crusaders who chose to lead a life of penance and prayer on the Mediterranean slope of Mount Carmel, rather than return to their homes in Europe. Ultimately, many of them gave their lives as witnesses to Christ when they were martyred at the hands of the Saracens in 1291.
Martyrdom of the Carmelites
Jörg Ratgeb (German, 1480-1526)
Wall painting, 1517
Carmelite Cloister, Frankfurt

 

Universal Call

When Blessed Thérèse of Saint-Augustine proposed the act of consecration to the entire community, she reminded her nuns in Compiègne to “note well, my Sisters, that we didn’t enter religious life except to put ourselves to work on our sanctification through the total immolation of our selves, which are so precious to us.  It shouldn’t cost us much to do this.” (Sr. Marie de l’Incarnation 1836, p. 67)

With her typical audacity, St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus dared to ask this of the Lord: “I beg you to lower your divine gaze upon a great number of little souls. I beg you to choose a legion of little victims worthy of your love!” (Ms B, 5v)

Yes, St. Thérèse begged for holocaust victims; and, St. Benedicta felt certain that Christ would call others to follow such a rugged path that she trod: “surely He will call many others to do likewise in these days.” (Stein, E 1939, Letter 269)

 

OLMC Haifa 2019 Procession photo OCDinform 01
Thousands of pilgrims accompanied the Pilgrim Virgin statue of Our Lady of Mount Carmel on the slow, arduous climb from Saint Joseph Latin Catholic Parish in the City of Haifa up to the Stella Maris Church and Monastery of the Discalced Carmelite friars on the promontory of Mount Carmel on 5 May 2019. It was the 100th anniversary of the procession, which began as an act of gratitude for the liberation of the city from Turkish rule at the end of the first World War. | Discalced Carmelite General Curia / Facebook (used by permission)

 

“In these days…”

In our time, self-sacrifice and courage never must be lacking. “Jesus desires it” still today. What time is it now? Is it still “the twelfth hour”? Are we too late to respond to his call? In the words of a meditation written for the Elevation of the Holy Cross, 14 September 1939, Saint Edith Stein still speaks to us today:

The world is in flames. Are you impelled to put them out? Look at the cross. From the open heart gushes the blood of the Savior. This extinguishes the flames of hell. Its precious blood is poured everywhere—soothing, healing, saving.

The eyes of the Crucified look down on you—asking, probing. Will you make your covenant with the Crucified anew in all seriousness? What will you answer him?

“Lord, where shall we go?
You have the words of eternal life.”

Ave Crux, Spex unica!

 


Reference List

Agnès of Jesus, 1897, The yellow notebook of Mother Agnès, Archives du Carmel de Lisieux, viewed 8 August 2019, <http://www.archives-carmel-lisieux.fr/english/carmel/index.php/carnet-jaune/2385-carnet-jaune-septembre>.

Albert of Jerusalem, c. 1206-1214, The Rule of St. Albert, Carmelnet, viewed 8 August 2019, <http://carmelnet.org/chas/rule.htm>.

Bush, W 1999, To Quell the Terror: The True Story of the Carmelite Martyrs of Compiègne, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

Foley, M., & Teresa. 2012, The book of her foundations: a study guide, Institute of Carmelite Studies, Washington, D.C.

Gelber, L, Linssen, M & Stein, E 1992, The Hidden Life: Hagiographic Essay, Meditations, Spiritual Texts, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

Kavanaugh, K, Rodriguez, O & Teresa 2000, The Way of Perfection, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

Léthel, F-M 2011, La Lumière du Christ Dans le Coeur de l’Église: Jean-Paul II et la théologie des saints, Éditions Parole et Silence, Les Plans-sur-Bex.

Marie de l’Incarnation 1836, Histoire des religieuses carmélites de Compiègne conduites a l’échafaud le 17 juillet 1794, Ouvrage posthume de la soeur Marie de l’Incarnation, Thomas-Malvin, Sens.

Stein, E. 1993, Self-Portrait in Letters, 1916-1942, Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Discalced Carmelite, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face 1895, Manuscript A 02v, Archives du Carmel de Lisieux, viewed 8 August 2019, <http://www.archives-carmel-lisieux.fr/english/carmel/index.php/02-10/02/02-verso>

Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face, 1895, Manuscript A 84r, Archives du Carmel de Lisieux, viewed 8 August 2019, <http://www.archives-carmel-lisieux.fr/english/carmel/index.php/81-86/84/84-recto>.

Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face 1896, Manuscript B 03v, Archives du Carmel de Lisieux, viewed 8 August 2019, <http://www.archives-carmel-lisieux.fr/english/carmel/index.php/b03/b03v>

Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face 1896, Manuscript B 05v, Archives du Carmel de Lisieux, viewed 8 August 2019, <http://www.archives-carmel-lisieux.fr/english/carmel/index.php/b05/b05v>

Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face, 1895, Prayer 6 from Thérèse of Lisieux, Archives du Carmel de Lisieux, viewed 8 August 2019, <http://www.archives-carmel-lisieux.fr/english/carmel/index.php/pri-6>.

 


Sine qua non

The blogger wishes to acknowledge the invaluable guidance, instruction, example, encouragement, and friendship of the following Discalced Carmelites:

Bishop Silvio José Báez, Auxiliary Bishop of Managua
Sister Marie Josephine Fagnoni, Carmel of Haifa
Father Emilio José Martínez González, Pontifical Theological Faculty “Teresianum”
Father François-Marie Léthel, Pontifical Theological Faculty “Teresianum”
Sister Thérèse Wilkinson, Thicket Priory

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: 6 August

You reign at the Father’s right hand
In the kingdom of his eternal glory
As God’s Word from the beginning.

You reign on the Almighty’s throne
Also in transfigured human form,
Ever since the completion of your work on earth.

I believe this because your word teaches me so,
And because I believe, I know it gives me joy,
And blessed hope blooms forth from it.

For where you are, there also are your own,
Heaven is my glorious homeland,
I share with you the Father’s throne.

Saint Edith Stein
I Will Remain With You . . . (excerpt)

 

Transfiguration icon by Theofan the Greek Tretyakov gallery
Transfiguration icon by Theofan the Greek from Spaso-Preobrazhensky Cathedral in Pereslavl-Zalessky 15th c. Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow | Jim Forest / Flickr

 

The Hidden Life: Essays, Meditations, Spiritual Texts
The Collected Works of Edith Stein, Vol. 4
ICS Publications, Washington DC
© Washington Province of Discalced Carmelites, Inc.

Quote of the day: 5 August

August 5

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 [of the Science of the Cross] 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.

 

Saint Edith Stein
Letter 341 to Mother Ambrosia Antonia Engelmann, OCD, Echt
Drente-Westerbork Transit Camp, Barracks 36

5 August 1942


Who were “the Sisters” to whom Edith refers in her closing comment?

In Letter 340 to her prioress, Mother Ambrosia Antonia dated August 4, St. Teresa Benedicta states:

All the Catholics are together and in our dormitory, we have all the nuns (two Trappistines, one Dominican)… 

In our Quote of the Day for 3 August 2019, the eyewitness Dr. Lenig identified that there was a Trappist priest who offered Mass in the Camp; his six brothers and sisters who had all joined the same Order were with him.

Dr. Lenig, being Jewish, can be forgiven for not being aware of the difference between religious orders. The Trappistine abbey at Berkel-Enschot themselves confirmed that only two nuns were arrested on 2 August 1942: Mother Hedwigis (Lina Löb) and Mother Marie-Thérèse, also known as Theresia (Door Löb). The third sister was not a Trappist, but may have been Sister Judith Mendes Da Costa, who was from the Dominican community that managed the sanitarium Berg en Bosch in Bilthoven, Holland; she worked in administration there.

To learn more about the third Trappistine in the Löb family, Mother Veronika, O.C.S.O. (Wies Löb, Doors twin sister), who escaped deportation in August 1942 because she was ill with tuberculosis, consult the excellent research by Peter Steffen in Can a seamless garment be truly torn?: questions surrounding the Jewish-Catholic Löb family, 1881-1945.

Based upon Sr. Judiths journal from her years in Nazi internment, Steffen indicates that there were other religious in the camp, as well: this group of religious also included a postulant from the Good Shepherd Sisters, a Sacred Heart Sister, Sr. Miriam of the Franciscans of Saint Joseph (who was dressed as a nurse), and the Polish-German doctor,  Lisamaria Meirowsky,” who was a portress and doctor at the Trappistine Abbey (Steffen 2014, p. 423).

 

Westerbork barracks
Interior of prisoner barracks at the Westerbork transit camp in the Netherlands | The Holocaust Explained

 

Further, Sr. Judiths journal indicates that the two Carmelites and the two Trappistines kept to themselves in Barracks 36, creating a kind of cloistered environment of silence and seclusion, replicating their former way of life to every possible extent.

The Trappistines (Hedwigis and Theresia Löb) and the two Carmelites (Rosa and Edith Stein) stayed in their barrack, though, just as they had previously stayed within the enclosure of their monasteries. They got up quite early the next morning, as they were accustomed to in their monasteries, but they were not allowed to leave the barracks. Later they did some cleaning in the barracks and then in the afternoon they had to line up again for roll call (Steffen 2014, p. 424).

It was on the morning of August 5 that Edith, Rosa, and the Löb family learned their fate: they would all be sent to Auschwitz without reprieve.

The next morning, all the new arrivals had to report to the commandant. It was a really big group, and they all had to wait in a tiny little room until they were called, one by one, to go into the next room where they would find out whether or not they would be granted a reprieve or be put on transport. Many came out of that room disappointed, and there was already talk of all reprieves being rescinded. The Löb brothers and sisters were not granted a reprieve.

Edith Stein and her sister Rosa underwent the same fate as the Löbs. Sr. Judith saw Edith leaving the commandant’s small office: she looked “really pale but resigned, and she was still comforting her fellow sufferers.” Lucie Bromberg had contact with Edith Stein several times while they were in Westerbork and she regarded her as being really silent, calling her a “Pietà without a Christ” (Steffen 2014, pp. 424-425).

 

Pieta_Helen V. Mackay 1932
Pieta: Jesus Christ with outstretched legs supported by the Virgin Mary, Helen V. Mackay, 1932 | Wellcome Collection

 

STEFFEN, P. (2014). Can a seamless garment be truly torn?: questions surrounding the Jewish-Catholic Löb family, 1881-1945. http://public.eblib.com/choice/publicfullrecord.aspx?p=4546377_0.
Excerpt from Edith Stein's Self-Portrait in Letters, 1916-1942, Sister Teresa
Benedicta of the Cross, Discalced Carmelite, translated by Josephine Koeppel
(The Collected Works of Edith Stein, vol. 5)
Copyright © 1993 by Washington Province of Discalced Carmelite Friars, Inc. 
Published by ICS Publications, Washington DC

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.
Dutch Bishops 1943 in Utrecht
The Dutch episcopal conference meeting in the Bishop’s Palace in Utrecht, 14 December 1943.
From left to right: Bishop J.P. Huybers (Haarlem), Bishop P. Hopmans (Breda), Archbishop Dr. J. de Jong (Utrecht), Bishop G. Lemmens (Roermond, in which diocese the Carmel of Echt was located), Bishop W.P.A.M. Mutsaerts (Den Bosch).
Photo credit: NIOD Photo Archives (used by permission) 
Pastoral letter of the Dutch Bishops

July 20, 1942

We live in a time of great affliction, both spiritual and material. In recent times two specific afflictions have come to the fore: the persecution of the Jews and the unfortunate lot of those who are sent to work in foreign countries.

These afflictions must also be brought to the attention of those who are responsible for them. To this end, the venerable Dutch Episcopate, in communion with nearly all the churches in the Netherlands, approached the authorities of the occupying forces concerning, among other things, the Jews, in a recent telegram of Saturday, July 11. The telegram stated the following:

The undersigned Dutch churches, already deeply shocked by the actions taken against the Jews in the Netherlands that have excluded them from participating in the normal life of society, have learned with horror of the new measures . . .

Read the full text of the telegram and the pastoral letter here

 

With gratitude to the translator at Rorate Caeli blog

 

EDITH - Woman emanated from man IGsize
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.

 

 

Quote of the day: 5 July

On Saturday, 4 July 1942, the Chapter nuns of Le Pâquier were assembled for a meeting at which the Reverend Mother Prioress proposed to them that Sister Teresia Benedicta of the Cross, in the world Edith Stein, a professed Sister of the Cologne Carmel who is at present in the Carmel of Echt in Holland, be received as a member of the community, either permanently or temporarily according to circumstances.

In 1938, because of her Jewishness, Sr. Benedicta was forced to leave the Carmel where she had made her profession. The German authorities who have conquered Holland are now compelling her to leave that country. The Sister in question has obtained the necessary permission for her transfer from the Most Reverend Father Provincial in Holland; our Most Reverend Bishop has agreed to her reception into our Carmel, and a petition has been made to our Most Reverend Father General for the Indult.

On the fifth of the same month, a Sunday, the nuns were assembled once again and the Reverend Mother Prioress made the same proposal, after which it was unanimously resolved by a secret vote to receive Sister Teresa Benedicta into the community for an unlimited time.

We, the undersigned, testify that the above account is exact,
Sr. Marie Agnès of the Immaculate Conception, Prioress;
Sr. Marie-Françoise of the Most Sacred Heart, 1st Key-Bearer

Executed on 5 July 1942, at Le Pâquier


Record of the vote by the Chapter nuns of the Carmel of Le Pâquier in Switzerland to receive Saint Edith Stein as a member of their community. Their prioress shared the news of their unanimous approval in a 17 July letter to Mother Antonia, the prioress of the Carmel of Echt, Holland. Read an excerpt from Edith’s thank-you letter here. Explore the website of the Carmel du Pâquier here (French and German) and their Facebook page here (French).

 

Carmel du Paquier
Tucked away in the mountains of Fribourg, the Carmel du Pâquier was the first community of Discalced Carmelite nuns in Switzerland, founded in Lully in 1921. In 1936, Mother Marie Agnès de Wolf oversaw the construction of a new monastery in Le Pâquier, to which the growing community transferred. | Photo credit: Discalced Carmelites

 

Posselt, Teresia Renata. Edith Stein: The Life of a Philosopher and Carmelite (pp. 200-201).
ICS Publications, Washington DC. © Washington Province of Discalced Carmelites, Inc.

Quote of the day: 4 July

Before considering the matter of the ordination of both women and men into the service of God, we must examine the following question. Are both men and women equally capable of, or entitled to, exercise all ministries and jobs in general, or are there ministries, professions and occupations which are exclusively for men and others for women?

I believe that this question also must be answered in the negative, considering strong individual differences between those women who have more masculine traits and those men who exhibit feminine traits. The most important thing is that those professions or jobs which are considered to be “masculine” should be available to women and vice versa. Both women and men can achieve the same degree of expertise at the same job.

Therefore I think it imperative that there should be no legal impediment on this matter…

Here we arrive at the very difficult and much-disputed question of the priesthood of women.

If we consider our Lord’s own conduct on this point, we can see that he readily accepts women in the loving service of himself and his family and that women are among his friends and also among his disciples and closest confidants. But to them, he has not conferred the priesthood. Not even given to his mother, the Queen of the Apostles, who was elevated above the whole of the human race; in human perfection as well as in the fullness of grace.

Saint Edith Stein
Beruf des Mannes und der Frau nach Natur- und Gnadenordnung
Die Frau: Fragestellungen und Reflexionen

 

Edith Stein 1931
Dr. Stein in 1931

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