Edith Stein, martyr 80 years ago. The request: be a doctor of the Church

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Edith Stein – Archive

«Christ gives his life to open access to eternal life to men. Then they, in order to gain eternal life, must also despise earthly life. They must die with Christ, in order to rise again with him: the death, which lasts all life, of suffering and daily self-denial; if it is the case also the blood death of the witness of the faith for the message of Christ ». It was 1941 when the 49-year-old Sister Teresa Benedetta of the Crossto the century Edith Steinhe wrote these lines from the Carmel of Echt in Holland, in his last great work, The Science of the Cross.

A few months later, on 2 August 1942, the Gestapo would have knocked on the door of the convent, would have picked her up, taken her to the Westerbrok sorting camp and from there to Auschwitz, where the nun was presumed to have died on 9 August, exactly 80. Years ago. “The date is probable, it is certainly between 8 and 11 August – explains Father Fabio Silvestri, provincial of the Venetian province of the Discalced Carmelites, a scholar of the work of Saint Edith Stein – and was deduced from the testimonies of the other deportees. , in particular a Jewish merchant from Cologne who had met her and exchanged a few words with her ».

This 80th anniversary of martyrdom is a particular one because it is part of the centenary of Edith’s conversion to Catholicism, whose existential story continues to fascinate: the youngest of eleven children of a wealthy Jewish family from Wroclaw, who became an agnostic as a teenager, then a rising star of the German philosophy at the school of the father of phenomenology, Edmond Husserl, later converted, Discalced Carmelite, martyr.

“Edith Stein had already foreseen, starting at least from 1939, of dying from Nazism” explains Father Roberto Maria Pirastu, general definitor of the Discalced Carmelites and president of the Edith Stein Society of Austria, “already in her will, in fact from 1939 he writes: “from now on I accept with joy the death that God has reserved for me in perfect submission to his most holy will. I ask the Lord to accept my life and my death for his honor and his exaltation, for all the intentions of the most holy hearts of Jesus and Mary and of the holy Church, especially for the preservation, sanctification and improvement of Order of Carmel, particularly of the monasteries of Cologne and Echt, as expiation for the unbelief of the Jewish people, so that the Lord may be welcomed by his followers and his kingdom may come in glory, for the salvation of Germany and for the peace of the world; finally for my relatives, living and dead, and for all those whom God has given me: so that none of them gets lost ”».

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«In his search for the truth he came to identify its center in the mystery of the cross of Christ – comments Father Silvestri – from that moment on he conceived his entire life as an offering of love and with ever greater awareness with the beginning of racial persecution. To offer one’s life, like the Esther of the ancient Covenant, for the benefit of the destiny of the Jewish people and for the whole of humanity ”.

In this regard, it is worth mentioning, among other things, that Edith Stein was not the only Jewish convert to Catholicism to be deported on that August 2 roundup. The pediatrician Lisamaria Meyrowki, who had found refuge in the Trappist monastery of Berkel-Enschot, met the same fate; the Franciscan friar Wolfgang Rosenbaum, from the convent of Woerden; four Trappist sons (two monks and two nuns) of Lutz and Jenny Löb, a couple of converted Jewish traders (another son and daughter, always Trappists, would have died in a concentration camp in 1944) and numerous other names waiting to be rediscovered .

Meanwhile, today at the Center for Dialogue and Prayer located near the former Auschwitz camp, founded in 1992 on the inspiration of Cardinal Franciszek Macharski, there will be a day of commemoration of Edith Stein which will also include a moment of prayer at 1.30pm organized together with the Catholic University of Nagasaki: if the Carmelite saint was killed on 9 August 1942, on 9 August 1945 the atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, which also annihilated the most populous Catholic community in the Land of the Rising Sun.

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And on this anniversary, Father Pirastu adds a piece of news: “The process has begun to ask for the title of Doctor of the Church to be recognized to Saint Edith Stein. A commission of scholars has been formed which is already at work ».

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