St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein)

Carmelite Martyr (1891–1942)
  • Post author:
  • Reading time:2 mins read
You are currently viewing St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein)
"Relief of Edith Stein, "Memorial Plaque, photo by Daniel Ignac Trubac public domain via Wikimedia commons

Edith Stein was born into an Orthodox Jewish family in Breslau, Germany. As a teenager, she rejected her family’s faith and declared herself an atheist. A brilliant scholar, she completed a doctorate in philosophy at the age of twenty-three. Increasingly, however, her studies prompted a growing interest in religion. In 1921, after reading the autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila, she decided to become a Catholic. Though her conversion was a bitter blow to her mother, Stein felt that in accepting Christ she had been reunited—by a mysterious path—with her Jewish roots. 

With the Nazi rise to power, Stein was dismissed from the university. Entering a Carmelite convent, she took the name Sr. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross and proceeded to write many volumes on philosophy and mystical theology. But the convent was no protection from the rising tide of persecution, and her community arranged her transfer to the presumed safety of a convent in Holland. After the German invasion of Holland, Stein was required to wear the Yellow Star of David on her habit. In 1942 all Jewish Catholics, including members of religious orders, were arrested and deported. “Come, Rosa,” she said to her sister, who had joined her. “We’re going for our people.” Edith Stein died in Auschwitz on August 9, 1942. 

Stein accepted her fate in solidarity with the Jewish people, as an act of atonement for the evil of her time and a conscious identification with the cross of Christ. She was canonized as a martyr and a confessor in 1998. 

“Do you want to be totally united to the Crucified? If you are serious about this, you will be present, by the power of His Cross . . . at every place of sorrow.” —St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross 

© Liturgical Press.

Robert Ellsberg

Robert Ellsberg is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Orbis Books and the author of several award-winning books, including All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time; Blessed Among All Women; and The Saints' Guide to Happiness.

Sign up for our daily prayer emails