October 14, 2016

Saint Teresa of Ávila Converted Edith Stein, [St. Teresa Benedicta] 339 Years After the Former’s Death

Saint Teresa of Ávila
St. Teresa of Ávila (left) and St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross.

Edith Stein grew up in a devout Jewish family, but espoused atheism as an academic, before her conversion to Catholicism. A young woman with immense intellectual gifts, she dedicated herself to a search for the truth. At that time, German philosophy was preeminent. Following extensive studies at major German universities, Edith became an influential philosopher in her own right, and a renowned speaker on feminism. In 1913, she enrolled in Gottingen University, to study under the guidance of Edmund Husserl. There she encountered Christians whose intellectual and spiritual lives she greatly admired.

While visiting Catholic friends, Edith came across the autobiography of the 16th century Carmelite nun, Saint Teresa of Ávila, and spent an entire night reading it. The next year, (January 1, 1922) she was baptized into the Catholic Church. After her conversion to Catholicism, she continued to be a major force in German intellectual life. Although she had intended to do so immediately following her conversion, Edith entered the Discalced Carmelites in 1933. (The Order founded by her spiritual mentor St. Teresa of Ávila.) Dear reader, never under estimate the power of your witness — in word, deed, or memory, to lead others to Christ.