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August 9th – Feast of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein), patron of Europe

On August 9, the church in Europe celebrates the feast of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein), virgin and martyr, patron of Europe.

Edyta Stein was born in Wrocław in 1891. Raised in the Jewish religion, she was a great lecturer in philosophy for several years. Through baptism, she received a new life in Christ and, taking the name of Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, she continued it in the community of bare Carmelite nuns she joined in Cologne. Due to the persecution of Jews by German fascists, she took refuge in the Echt monastery in the Netherlands. She was arrested in 1942 and transported to the concentration camp in Oświęcim and gassed there on August 9 of that year.

Beatification of Edith Stein was made in Cologne on May 1, 1987 by Saint John Paul II.  She was canonized on October 11, 1998.  Saint John Paul II in the Apostolic Letter issued Motu Proprio of October 1, 1999, proclaimed Teresa Benedicta of the Cross – together with Saint Swedish Brigid and Saint Catherine of Siena – patron of Europe.

Pope John Paul II said about Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross:

“Today we look upon Teresa Benedicta of the Cross and, in her witness as an innocent victim, we recognize an imitation of the Sacrificial Lamb and a protest against every violation of the fundamental rights of the person. We also recognize in it the pledge of a renewed encounter between Jews and Christians which, following the desire expressed by the Second Vatican Council, is now entering upon a time of promise marked by openness on both sides. Today’s proclamation of Edith Stein as a Co-Patroness of Europe is intended to raise on this Continent a banner of respect, tolerance and acceptance which invites all men and women to understand and appreciate each other, transcending their ethnic, cultural and religious differences in order to form a truly fraternal society.”

“We conclude this solemn liturgy (canonization – ed.) with the prayer “Angelus.” Let us look at Mary through the eyes of a new saint who, contemplating the mystery of the sacrifice in the Church, wrote: “When the Virgin Mary brought the Child to the temple, she was foretold that the sword would penetrate her soul. (…). It was a harbinger of passion, the fight between light and darkness, which begins at the manger!”

St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross understood that there is a close bond between the manger and the cross.  Thanks to this inner awareness, she was able to experience deep unity with Mary.  She wrote about Her: “To remain in prayer before God, to love Him with all your heart, to beg Him for the grace of sinful people and to offer yourself as a sacrifice of atonement, to look for God’s signs carefully in the attitude of the Lord’s servant: this was the life of Mary”.  Edyta Stein, also a daughter of the Jewish people, speaks about Mary here, but at the same time she outlines – as if unconsciously – the program of her life path.

Let us ask the new saint to intercede for us to the Holy Virgin that everyone would be able to respond generously the calling that she or he will hear.