Born: Oct. 12th, 1891
Died: Aug. 9th, 1942
FEast: Aug. 9th
Europe, loss of parents, world youth day, converts
St. Edith Stein
Edith was born in Germany (in an area that is now Poland) to a Jewish family in 1891. She was the youngest of 11 children, and was though her father died early, her mother encouraged all the children to think critically and question their world, and was able to send Edith to University. Edith was very talented and hard-working when she was young and was excited to go to school, despite the fact that she at this point had become atheistic.
At University, Edith chose to study philosophy until World War I began, during which she served as a nurse. After graduating school and finishing an important thesis on empathy, she became a University professor. She continued to keep reading and questioning the world, and, after reading a biography about St. Teresa of Avila, she became interested in learning about Catholicism. She described her changing ideas like the changing life cycle of a silkworm, full of tough, but beautiful transformations.
She was baptized not long after, and, because fellow teachers asked her not to enter a secluded religious life immediately, she was able to teach at a Dominican school.
While in this post, Edith accomplished so much. She translated books, wrote more, and worked closely with other philosophers discussing important ideas. None of it was easy, however, because it was still so uncommon for women to have such positions and to have the opportunity to create such meaningful works. Many people dismissed her, and she was denied many positions because of her gender and Jewish heritage. She had just been finally promoted to a new position when, in 1933, we was forced to resign because of the Nazi rise in power.
Edith, outraged and fearful of what the Nazis might do, wrote a letter directly to the Pope demanding that he condemn them and their actions. He never responded, but did do something similar in a later letter to the Church.
Edith then decided at this time to formally enter the religious order of the Discalced (shoeless) Carmelites, and took the name Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. With the Nazi threat growing, however, she and her sister, who had also converted and become part of the order, were transferred to Holland for safety.
Edith continued her teaching roles while there, until it became clear that her safety would not last. She predicted that she would not make it through the war, and even began preparing for what life would be like in the concentration camps.
After religious life did finally condemn Nazism, in retaliation, all people who had previously been Jewish, even if they had converted, were rounded up and taken to the camps.
Because Sister Teresa had been so calm and faithful, a camp guard who was impressed by her offered her an escape plan, which she refused. She said that if she had to be taken away from her fellow prisoners, who needed her most, it would be devastatingly unfair. She stayed, until all were executed in the gas chambers in Auschwitz. She was canonized 11 years later.
You had a curiosity, a love of learning, and a desire to know just how and why this earth works and what our role is as humans within it. You questioned, and studied and searched until at last you had answered as much as you could. You answered questions of your own for the rest of us, too. May you guide us never to be afraid to question in search of truth.
AS with each icon I paint of people who were modern enough for us to have photographs of them, I chose to use Edith's photograph for only one of many references, to keep with the way I paint the rest of the icons basing their look mainly off of what I gain from their story. For this one, I also used my sister as one reference, since Edith is her Confirmation saint, and definitely shares her curiosity and love of knowledge, learning, and teaching. I wanted her expression to be thoughtful, fearful, and determined all at once. She also bears the star patch on her dress for her Jewish heritage, more symbolic than realistic as she likely was not made to wear one in the death camps.