St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross: Part Five of the Summer Saints Series: Saints for the Working Catholic Mom

edith steinI have not always known St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. But since last November, I cannot stop my inquiring mind.  As a woman, of course she speaks to my feminine heart.  I am most attracted to something very different:  she was a phenomenologist!  For some of you, that means nothing, and that’s okay.  It meant nothing to me until approximately 3 years ago.  Hopefully, after this blog post, your feminine heart will yearn for more of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross.  Or, if you know more, please please please share.  There is so much to know about this modern day saint, so we are only going to scratch a very subjective surface (the things I want to talk about :)).  This beautiful holy woman of God is certainly a working Catholic momma.

Date of Birth:  October 12, 1891
Date of Death:  August 9, 1942
Canonization:  May 1, 1998
Career Path:  Philosopher, Academician
Vocation:  Carmelite Sister

The baby of 7 children, Edith Stein was born in Germany in 1891.  Her father died when she was 2, and she grew up watching her mother successfully operate her father’s lumber business.  From a devote Jewish family, Edith was allowed to pursue her academic interests at an early age.

Her sisters noticed early in her life how introspective Edith was about life.  Instead of shunning this behavior, Edith was encouraged in her inquiry about life, and eventually turned this into a calling in her life:  a calling to the academic world of the university.

In her teenage years and into college, she would proclaim atheism.

Her academic interests were most directed at philosophy and women’s issues.  Philosophy was an overwhelmingly male field, especially at the time Edith entered the university.  She wrote her doctoral dissertation on the topic of empathy, using very specific philosophical language to describe empathy.  This phenomenological language which is most concerned with the essence of a subject, meant that Edith spoke deeply about topics, and described the essence of a phenomena.

This is going to be incredibly important later in her life.  Edith wrote about many topics concerning women, but in a very particular way.  She wanted to know and describe the essence of being a woman.  Since she used phenomenology as a basis of her philosophical underpinnings, her assumptions started with the truth that women had a common experience.  This common experience she would later describe as the feminine genius, and would include maternity (physical and spiritual).  She would also purport that the body and soul essentially cannot be separated.  She was the first to say that the gender of a body tells you something about the soul of that body.

Does this sound familiar???  It should.  Blessed John Paul II would later use this philosophy to create a foundation of the theology of the body.  He honored St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, as a woman, as a philosopher, and as a woman of faith.

After studying so much truth, it is hard to turn away from what is written on your soul.  Edith could use a little extra nudge…which came in the form of St. Teresa of Avila’s biography.  This book would lead to Edith’s conversion, and eventual entry into the Carmelite order, where she became Teresa Benedicta of the Cross.

Tragedy struck as WWII began, and St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, because of her Jewish background, was sent to Auschwitz with her sister Rosa.  Her last words in the chapel where she was captured was, “Come, Rosa, we go for our people.”

It was said that on the train to Auschwitz, St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross never lost hope in a God who was with them.  When other women would lose hope and die on the journey, St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross took care of the children.  This is certainly a testament to her spiritual motherhood, which she had written about as a student and philosopher.

Quotes by St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross:

 

Let go of your plans. The first hour of your morning belongs to God. Tackle the day’s work that he charges you with, and he will give you the power to accomplish it.

 

One cannot desire freedom from the Cross when one is especially chosen for the Cross.

 

On the question of relating to our fellowman — our neighbor’s spiritual need transcends every commandment. Everything else we do is a means to an end. But love is an end already, since God is love.

 

One could say that in case of need, every normal and healthy woman is able to hold a position. And there is no profession which cannot be practiced by a woman.

 

In order to be an image of God, the spirit must turn to what is eternal, hold it in spirit, keep it in memory, and by loving it, embrace it in the will.

 

 

St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross is an AMAZING holy woman of God.  I am still learning about her, and everything I read brings me closer to the core of who I am as a woman.

 

St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, pray for us!

This concludes the Summer Saints Series:  Saints for the Working Catholic Mom.  This weekend, I will be writing a post about spiritual motherhood at work.

Next week, I want to share experiences of on-line friends turned to real friends.  It’s been a faith journey, y’all!

Until next time, Peace of Christ to you and yours!

Mary

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Comments

  1. Your blog is well laid out. God bless you, Ann
    1 Timothy 2:5, 6
    For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time.

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