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Sunday, January 27, 2013

A Poem by St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

From a poem by St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross [Edith Stein] on her memorial day:

You come to me as early morning's meal each daybreak.
Your flesh and blood become food and drink for me
And something wonderful happens.

Your body mysteriously permeates mine
And your soul unites with mine:
I am no longer what once I was.

You come and go, but the seed
That you sowed for future glory, remains behind
Buried in this body of dust.

A luster of heaven remains in the soul,
A deep glow remains in the eyes,
A soaring in the tone of voice.

There remains the bond that binds heart to heart,
The stream of life that springs from yours
And animates each limb.

How wonderful are your gracious wonders!
All we can do is be amazed and stammer and fall silent
Because intellect and words fail.

Today is the Memoria of St. Henry de Osso Y Cervello


Father Henry de Osso-Cervello was born in Vinebre, Spain, on October 16, 1840. He was one of those persons of whom it is said that God sends one every hundred years to help resolve the conflicts of their times.

It is not easy to sum up briefly all the details of his heroic life. We can get a glimpse by turning our attention to three of the most striking characteristics of this great apostle of the nineteenth century: he was a man of God; a man sent by Providence; a man determined to seek God’s glory in all things.


His spirit of faith was evident from his early years. It was nourished and developed until it became the hallmark of his spirituality. Osso was a man of profound spirituality. His thoughts, words, deeds — his whole life, in fact — were directed towards God. At the age of six he would stop playing and leave his friends to join the parish priest whenever he knew he was taking the Blessed Sacrament to a sick person.

His father sent him to be a clerk in a dry goods store in Reus while he was still a young boy, in the hope that he would become a successful business man. While there, Henry became concerned over the bad influence some friends, with whom he came in contact in the business, could have on him. 

Consequently, he secretly left for the Monastery of Our Lady of Montserrat, near Barcelona, where he would dedicate his life to God. In a farewell letter to his father, he wrote:
My absence will cause you sadness but Father, it is the glory of God that motivates me. Your sorrow will be turned to joy if only you remember that we will soon meet again in heaven… Give my clothes and other belongings to the poor… Life is short and riches serve no purpose unless we use them well.
Soon after this, we find him in the seminary in Tortosa and later, in that of Barcelona. In both places he was an example of virtue to his friends, who never used improper language or gestures in his presence.

He chose a spiritual director whose advice he followed always. With his director’s approval, he drew up a plan of life which he followed. He prefaced it thus:
As a help to my spiritual formation, I will, with God’s grace, engrave firmly in my mind Saint Teresa’s words: Let the world perish before I offend God because I owe more to God than to anybody else.
During the spiritual exercises that he made in preparation for his Subdiaconate, he added the following to his plan:
Learn of me, for I am meek and gentle of heart.
Goal: to imitate Jesus in my thoughts and actions so that others can say of me what they used to say of Saint Francis de Sales: This is how Jesus acted.
Prayer: Spirit of God, on the eve of Pentecost, I ask for this grace: Since I will soon consecrate myself to God in a special way as his temple and minister forever, fill me with your holy gifts. Grant me the spirit of prayer and zeal like that of the apostles. Fill me especially with the gifts of wisdom and fear of the Lord. Come, Holy Spirit.
Once ordained to the priesthood, he transformed his passionate love for God into dedicated ministry, and soon became known as a model priest. Without neglecting his classes in the Seminary, he exercised his priestly ministry everywhere, among all social classes, preaching, encouraging, giving retreats, teaching religion to the children. He communicated his apostolic zeal wherever he went. His deep spirit of faith was reflected in his prayer as well as in all that he did. His devotion while celebrating the Eucharist moved many to repentance and love of God.

“Who is that priest?” asked certain visitors who saw him celebrate Mass in Rome, so inspired were they by his fervor and devotion. At times he seemed transported out of himself. It was not unusual to hear him sigh gently, as though enraptured: My Jesus and my all. To love you or to die. Rather, to live and die loving you above everything else. Do not let me leave this world without having loved you and made you known and loved as much as I can. Give glory, honor and riches to others, but give me, your servant, only your love and that will be enough. My Jesus and my all. Praised be Jesus my love. All for Jesus! Praised be Jesus!

Such was his priestly concern, the cry of his loving heart. And such was the motto that he left to the religious that he founded, the Teresian Sisters, who often echo his words: All for Jesus! Praised be Jesus!

henry osso with angels


Another extensive field for his apostolic zeal opened up before him after his first Mass on October 6, 1876. The Revolution of 1868 resulted in a lowering of morals in Tortosa. To fight this evil, Henry obtained the permission of his Bishop, Dr. Vilamitjana, to organize twelve catechetical centers, which soon had an enrollment of 1,200 children. God poured abundant blessings on Tortosa by means of these centers.

His ministry was most effective and extensive. Among others, the following apostolic groups are better known:

The Teresian Apostolic Movement (TAM), which he founded to teach children and youth to pray according to the spirituality of Saint Teresa, spread rapidly in Spain. He established it in more than twenty parishes and the enrollment reached more than 130,000 during his life. Today it flourishes wherever the Teresian Sisters are.

The Brotherhood of Saint Joseph, a pious association for older men, started in Tortosa, enlisted some two hundred men from its beginning. Its rapid development was a sign that Father Henry’s ministry was pleasing to God.
Father Henry directed a pilgrimage to Rome, the outcome of his appreciation to the Pope and devotion to the Church. Eight hundred pilgrims went. He also organized another pilgrimage to Avila, birthplace of Saint Teresa, and to Alba, where she was buried. During this pilgrimage, he inspired everyone by his spirit of self-giving, self-sacrifice and humility, which let him forget himself and disappear at the hour of triumph — he who had been the main organizer of the pilgrimage.

He was also instrumental in establishing a monastery of Discalced Carmelite nuns in Tortosa. These and many other forms of ministry, to which we could not possibly give space here, filled the life of this man who spent himself to make God known and loved.

But Father Henry’s great accomplishment in life was the foundation of the Society of Saint Teresa of Jesus, which he was inspired to found while at prayer during the night of April 2, 1876. With the approval of his spiritual director and the blessing of the Bishop, he established the Society, known as the Teresian Sisters, on June 23 of the same year, at the cost of innumerable sacrifices. To the sisters of the new congregation he wrote:
What we had in mind for this work of zeal was to make you other Teresas, in so far as possible, so that you might be foremost in promoting the honor of Jesus. Praying, teaching, and sacrifice is the aim of the Society. You must work wholeheartedly to promote the honor of Jesus and to restore all things in Christ by educating women according to the spirituality of Saint Teresa of Jesus.
He started the Society with only eight young women. Soon, however, it spread throughout Spain, Portugal, Africa, as well as North and South America. More than 5,000 Teresians have passed through the fourteen novitiates of the Institute. Today, it staffs more than one hundred schools around the world, in addition to many missions in Africa, Nicaragua, Mexico and all through Central and South America. The Teresians also staff houses of prayer in different parts of the world.

In the midst of his multiple activities, Father Henry also found time to devote to the apostolate of the pen. His first effort was a weekly newspaper entitled The People’s Friend. He was editor of Saint Teresa’s Magazine until his death. Among his many writings, the following publications are significant:

The Catechist Manual
Fifteen Minutes of Meditation
Handbook of TAM
Handbook of Friends of Jesus
Treasure Chest for Children
Novena to Saint Joseph
The Spirit of Saint Teresa
Saint Teresa’s Month
A Tribute to Saint Francis de Sales
Novena to the Holy Spirit
Novena to the Immaculate Conception

He also published textbooks for the schools where the Teresian Sisters taught.
His dynamic life, clear vision, and high ideals went hand in hand with his gentleness, simplicity, and modesty, characteristics that made Henry de Osso very attractive in his ministry. His biographer states: “Whoever saw him never forgot him. His personality attracted the respect and affection of all who approached him.”

Henry’s personality was so pleasant, sincere and natural that, unaware to him, one often sensed his virtue and magnanimous heart. “Our Founder’s presence encouraged us and made us happy. I always saw him act, speak, teach, and advise others as a saint would. His conversation always energized me. His mere presence communicated a certain experience of holiness.” These are some of the reactions of those who knew him.

The one who characterized him best, however, was his intimate friend, Father Francisco Marsal, when he said: “The servant of God, Henry de Osso, was the most faithful model of Jesus Christ that I have ever seen. His speech, conduct, and actions always made me think: That is how Christ acted.”

God, who wanted to make His servant holy, gave him a taste of the bitter chalice of Jesus’ own passion. As He does with those He loves most, He made him go through Calvary before entering into glory. But the displeasures and bitter trials he underwent only served as coals to light the fire of God’s love in his heart. “Jesus is loved very little”, he said to two sisters shortly before his death. “Let the three of us write a booklet on how to increase the love of Jesus in the world.”

A few days later, on January 27, 1896, he went home to His Father, after having made a fervent retreat in his favorite place of solitude, the Franciscan monastery of Sancti Spiritus in Gilet.

On the day he died, he appeared to several persons in Spain and America. He was buried in the Franciscan cemetery in Gilet, where his body remained until 1908, when his remains were transferred to the chapel of the novitiate of the Society of Saint Teresa of Jesus in Tortosa, Spain. On October 16, 1979, he was beatified by Pope John Paul II. After the approval of a new first-class miracle in Uruguay, Father Henry was declared Saint by Pope John Paul II in Madrid, Spain, on June 16, 1993. The Church, whom he loved so much and served so faithfully, rejoices today as she offers this model of holiness to the world.

Heed St. Therese’s Advice!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Bl. Elizabeth of the Trinity

“And on the mountain of Carmel, in silence, in solitude, in prayer that never ends, the Carmelite already lives as if in Heaven for God alone.”
- Bl. Elizabeth of the Trinity

(The above picture of Bl. Elizabeth of the Trinity was taken when she was very ill and was not to long after this she went home to her Beloved.)
Her feast day is November 8th.  Below is one of Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity's most beautiful prayers...

"O my God, Trinity whom I adore, let me entirely forget myself that I may abide in you, still and peaceful as if my soul were already in eternity; let nothing disturb my peace nor separate me from you, O my unchanging God, but that each moment may take me further into the depths of your mystery! Pacify my soul! Make it your heaven, your beloved home and place of your repose; let me never leave you there alone, but may I be ever attentive, ever alert in my faith, ever adoring and all given up to your creative action.

O my beloved Christ, crucified for love, would that I might be for you a spouse of your heart! I would anoint you with glory, I would love you - even unto death! Yet I sense my frailty and ask you to adorn me with yourself; identify my soul with all the movements of your soul, submerge me, overwhelm. me, substitute yourself in me that my life may become but a reflection of your life. Come into me as Adorer, Redeemer and Saviour.  

O Eternal Word, Word of my God, would that I might spend my life listening to you, would that I might be fully receptive to learn all from you; in all darkness, all loneliness, all weakness, may I ever keep my eyes fixed on you and abide under your great light; O my Beloved Star, fascinate me so that I may never be able to leave your radiance.

O Consuming Fire, Spirit of Love, descend into my soul and make all in me as an incarnation of the Word, that I may be to him a super-added humanity wherein he renews his mystery; and you O Father, bestow yourself and bend down to your little creature, seeing in her only your beloved Son in whom you are well pleased.

O my `Three', my All, my Beatitude, infinite Solitude, Immensity in whom I lose myself, I give myself to you as a prey to be consumed; enclose yourself in me that I may be absorbed in you so as to contemplate in your light the abyss of your greatness!"

Quote from St. Teresa of Avila

Carmel of Armstrong's "Mt. Carmel"!

When I visited the Carmel of St. Joseph in Armstrong, British Columbia, though I didn't know the name of the mountains behind the monastery, I have since named them "Mt. Carmel" - which I thought appropriate given at the base is a Carmelite monastery and St. John of the Cross's work, "Ascending Mount Carmel."

Such beautiful mountains.  What a magnificent sight for the nuns to see every day for every season of the year!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Good Friday Poem by St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

Poem written by St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross on Good Friday, 1938

"Today I stood with you beneath the cross
And felt more clearly than I ever did
That you became our Mother only there.

But those whom you have chosen for companions
To stand with you around the eternal throne,

They must stand with you beneath the Cross,
And with the lifeblood of their bitter pains,
Must purchase heavenly glory for those souls
Whom God's own Son entrusted to their care."

More of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross - Edith Stein

We bow down before the testimony of the life and death of Edith Stein, an outstanding daughter of Israel and at the same time a daughter of the Carmelite Order, Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, a personality who united within her rich life a dramatic synthesis of our century. It was the synthesis of a history full of deep wounds that are still hurting ... and also the synthesis of the full truth about man. All this came together in a single heart that remained restless and unfulfilled until it finally found rest in God." These were the words of Pope John Paul II when he beatified Edith Stein in Cologne on 1 May 1987.

Who was this woman?

Edith Stein was born in Breslau on 12 October 1891, the youngest of 11, as her family were celebrating Yom Kippur, that most important Jewish festival, the Feast of Atonement. "More than anything else, this helped make the youngest child very precious to her mother." Being born on this day was like a foreshadowing to Edith, a future Carmelite nun.

Edith's father, who ran a timber business, died when she had only just turned two. Her mother, a very devout, hard-working, strong-willed and truly wonderful woman, now had to fend for herself and to look after the family and their large business. However, she did not succeed in keeping up a living faith in her children. Edith lost her faith in God. "I consciously decided, of my own volition, to give up praying," she said.

In 1911 she passed her school-leaving exam with flying colours and enrolled at the University of Breslau to study German and history, though this was a mere "bread-and-butter" choice. Her real interest was in philosophy and in women's issues. She became a member of the Prussian Society for Women's Franchise. "When I was at school and during my first years at university," she wrote later, "I was a radical suffragette. Then I lost interest in the whole issue. Now I am looking for purely pragmatic solutions."

In 1913, Edith Stein transferred to Gottingen University, to study under the mentorship of Edmund Husserl. She became his pupil and teaching assistant, and he later tutored her for a doctorate. At the time, anyone who was interested in philosophy was fascinated by Husserl's new view of reality, whereby the world as we perceive it does not merely exist in a Kantian way, in our subjective perception. His pupils saw his philosophy as a return to objects: "back to things". Husserl's phenomenology unwittingly led many of his pupils to the Christian faith. In G6ttingen Edith Stein also met the philosopher Max Scheler, who directed her attention to Roman Catholicism. Nevertheless, she did not neglect her "bread-and-butter" studies and passed her degree with distinction in January 1915, though she did not follow it up with teacher training.

"I no longer have a life of my own," she wrote at the beginning of the First World War, having done a nursing course and gone to serve in an Austrian field hospital. This was a hard time for her, during which she looked after the sick in the typhus ward, worked in an operating theatre, and saw young people die. When the hospital was dissolved, in 1916, she followed Husserl as his assistant to the German city of Freiburg, where she passed her doctorate summa cum laude (with the utmost distinction) in 1917, after writing a thesis on "The Problem of Empathy."

During this period she went to Frankfurt Cathedral and saw a woman with a shopping basket going in to kneel for a brief prayer. "This was something totally new to me. In the synagogues and Protestant churches I had visited people simply went to the services. Here, however, I saw someone coming straight from the busy marketplace into this empty church, as if she was going to have an intimate conversation. It was something I never forgot. "Towards the end of her dissertation she wrote: "There have been people who believed that a sudden change had occurred within them and that this was a result of God's grace." How could she come to such a conclusion?

Edith Stein had been good friends with Husserl's Göttingen assistant, Adolf Reinach, and his wife.

When Reinach fell in Flanders in November 1917, Edith went to Göttingen to visit his widow. The Reinachs had converted to Protestantism. Edith felt uneasy about meeting the young widow at first, but was surprised when she actually met with a woman of faith. "This was my first encounter with the Cross and the divine power it imparts to those who bear it ... it was the moment when my unbelief collapsed and Christ began to shine his light on me - Christ in the mystery of the Cross."

Later, she wrote: "Things were in God's plan which I had not planned at all. I am coming to the living faith and conviction that - from God's point of view - there is no chance and that the whole of my life, down to every detail, has been mapped out in God's divine providence and makes complete and perfect sense in God's all-seeing eyes."

In Autumn 1918 Edith Stein gave up her job as Husserl's teaching assistant. She wanted to work independently. It was not until 1930 that she saw Husserl again after her conversion, and she shared with him about her faith, as she would have liked him to become a Christian, too. Then she wrote down the amazing words: "Every time I feel my powerlessness and inability to influence people directly, I become more keenly aware of the necessity of my own holocaust."

Edith Stein wanted to obtain a professorship, a goal that was impossible for a woman at the time. Husserl wrote the following reference: "Should academic careers be opened up to ladies, then I can recommend her whole-heartedly and as my first choice for admission to a professorship." Later, she was refused a professorship on account of her Jewishness.

Back in Breslau, Edith Stein began to write articles about the philosophical foundation of psychology. However, she also read the New Testament, Kierkegaard and Ignatius of Loyola's Spiritual Exercises. She felt that one could not just read a book like that, but had to put it into practice.

In the summer of 1921. she spent several weeks in Bergzabern (in the Palatinate) on the country estate of Hedwig Conrad-Martius, another pupil of Husserl's. Hedwig had converted to Protestantism with her husband. One evening Edith picked up an autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila and read this book all night. "When I had finished the book, I said to myself: This is the truth." Later, looking back on her life, she wrote: "My longing for truth was a single prayer."
On 1 January 1922 Edith Stein was baptized. It was the Feast of the Circumcision of Jesus, when Jesus entered into the covenant of Abraham. Edith Stein stood by the baptismal font, wearing Hedwig Conrad-Martius' white wedding cloak. Hedwig washer godmother. "I had given up practising my Jewish religion when I was a 14-year-old girl and did not begin to feel Jewish again until I had returned to God." From this moment on she was continually aware that she belonged to Christ not only spiritually, but also through her blood. At the Feast of the Purification of Mary - another day with an Old Testament reference - she was confirmed by the Bishop of Speyer in his private chapel.

After her conversion she went straight to Breslau: "Mother," she said, "I am a Catholic." The two women cried. Hedwig Conrad Martius wrote: "Behold, two Israelites indeed, in whom is no deceit!" (cf. John 1:47).

Immediately after her conversion she wanted to join a Carmelite convent. However, her spiritual mentors, Vicar-General Schwind of Speyer, and Erich Przywara SJ, stopped her from doing so. Until Easter 1931 she held a position teaching German and history at the Dominican Sisters' school and teacher training college of St. Magdalen's Convent in Speyer. At the same time she was encouraged by Arch-Abbot Raphael Walzer of Beuron Abbey to accept extensive speaking engagements, mainly on women's issues. "During the time immediately before and quite some time after my conversion I ... thought that leading a religious life meant giving up all earthly things and having one's mind fixed on divine things only. Gradually, however, I learnt that other things are expected of us in this world... I even believe that the deeper someone is drawn to God, the more he has to `get beyond himself' in this sense, that is, go into the world and carry divine life into it."

She worked enormously hard, translating the letters and diaries of Cardinal Newman from his pre-Catholic period as well as Thomas Aquinas' Quaestiones Disputatae de Veritate. The latter was a very free translation, for the sake of dialogue with modern philosophy. Erich Przywara also encouraged her to write her own philosophical works. She learnt that it was possible to "pursue scholarship as a service to God... It was not until I had understood this that I seriously began to approach academic work again." To gain strength for her life and work, she frequently went to the Benedictine Monastery of Beuron, to celebrate the great festivals of the Church year.

In 1931 Edith Stein left the convent school in Speyer and devoted herself to working for a professorship again, this time in Breslau and Freiburg, though her endeavours were in vain. It was then that she wrote Potency and Act, a study of the central concepts developed by Thomas Aquinas. Later, at the Carmelite Convent in Cologne, she rewrote this study to produce her main philosophical and theological oeuvre, Finite and Eternal Being. By then, however, it was no longer possible to print the book.

In 1932 she accepted a lectureship position at the Roman Catholic division of the German Institute for Educational Studies at the University of Munster, where she developed her anthropology. She successfully combined scholarship and faith in her work and her teaching, seeking to be a "tool of the Lord" in everything she taught. "If anyone comes to me, I want to lead them to Him."

In 1933 darkness broke out over Germany. "I had heard of severe measures against Jews before. But now it dawned on me that God had laid his hand heavily on His people, and that the destiny of these people would also be mine." The Aryan Law of the Nazis made it impossible for Edith Stein to continue teaching. "If I can't go on here, then there are no longer any opportunities for me in Germany," she wrote; "I had become a stranger in the world."

The Arch-Abbot of Beuron, Walzer, now no longer stopped her from entering a Carmelite convent. While in Speyer, she had already taken a vow of poverty, chastity and obedience. In 1933 she met with the prioress of the Carmelite Convent in Cologne. "Human activities cannot help us, but only the suffering of Christ. It is my desire to share in it."

Edith Stein went to Breslau for the last time, to say good-bye to her mother and her family. Her last day at home was her birthday, 12 October, which was also the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles. Edith went to the synagogue with her mother. It was a hard day for the two women. "Why did you get to know it [Christianity]?" her mother asked, "I don't want to say anything against him. He may have been a very good person. But why did he make himself God?" Edith's mother cried. The following day Edith was on the train to Cologne. "I did not feel any passionate joy. What I had just experienced was too terrible. But I felt a profound peace - in the safe haven of God's will." From now on she wrote to her mother every week, though she never received any replies. Instead, her sister Rosa sent her news from Breslau.

(St. Teresa Benedicta as a Novice.)

 Edith joined the Carmelite Convent of Cologne on 14 October, and her investiture took place on 15 April, 1934. The mass was celebrated by the Arch-Abbot of Beuron. Edith Stein was now known as Sister Teresia Benedicta a Cruce - Teresa, Blessed of the Cross. In 1938 she wrote: "I understood the cross as the destiny of God's people, which was beginning to be apparent at the time (1933). I felt that those who understood the Cross of Christ should take it upon themselves on everybody's behalf. Of course, I know better now what it means to be wedded to the Lord in the sign of the cross. However, one can never comprehend it, because it is a mystery." On 21 April 1935 she took her temporary vows. On 14 September 1936, the renewal of her vows coincided with her mother's death in Breslau. "My mother held on to her faith to the last moment. But as her faith and her firm trust in her God ... were the last thing that was still alive in the throes of her death, I am confident that she will have met a very merciful judge and that she is now my most faithful helper, so that I can reach the goal as well."

When she made her eternal profession on 21 April 1938, she had the words of St. John of the Cross printed on her devotional picture: "Henceforth my only vocation is to love." Her final work was to be devoted to this author.
Edith Stein's entry into the Carmelite Order was not escapism. "Those who join the Carmelite Order are not lost to their near and dear ones, but have been won for them, because it is our vocation to intercede to God for everyone." In particular, she interceded to God for her people: "I keep thinking of Queen Esther who was taken away from her people precisely because God wanted her to plead with the king on behalf of her nation. I am a very poor and powerless little Esther, but the King who has chosen me is infinitely great and merciful. This is great comfort." (31 October 1938)

On 9 November 1938 the anti-Semitism of the Nazis became apparent to the whole world.

Synagogues were burnt, and the Jewish people were subjected to terror. The prioress of the Carmelite Convent in Cologne did her utmost to take Sister Teresia Benedicta a Cruce abroad. On New Year's Eve 1938 she was smuggled across the border into the Netherlands, to the Carmelite Convent in Echt in the Province of Limburg. This is where she wrote her will on 9 June 1939: "Even now I accept the death that God has prepared for me in complete submission and with joy as being his most holy will for me. I ask the Lord to accept my life and my death ... so that the Lord will be accepted by His people and that His Kingdom may come in glory, for the salvation of Germany and the peace of the world."

While in the Cologne convent, Edith Stein had been given permission to start her academic studies again. Among other things, she wrote about "The Life of a Jewish Family" (that is, her own family): "I simply want to report what I experienced as part of Jewish humanity," she said, pointing out that "we who grew up in Judaism have a duty to bear witness ... to the young generation who are brought up in racial hatred from early childhood."

In Echt, Edith Stein hurriedly completed her study of "The Church's Teacher of Mysticism and the Father of the Carmelites, John of the Cross, on the Occasion of the 400th Anniversary of His Birth, 1542-1942." In 1941 she wrote to a friend, who was also a member of her order: "One can only gain a scientia crucis (knowledge of the cross) if one has thoroughly experienced the cross. I have been convinced of this from the first moment onwards and have said with all my heart: 'Ave, Crux, Spes unica' (I welcome you, Cross, our only hope)." Her study on St. John of the Cross is entitled: "Kreuzeswissenschaft" (The Science of the Cross).

Edith Stein was arrested by the Gestapo on 2 August 1942, while she was in the chapel with the other sisters. She was to report within five minutes, together with her sister Rosa, who had also converted and was serving at the Echt Convent. Her last words to be heard in Echt were addressed to Rosa: "Come, we are going for our people."

St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross: A Poem on the Holy Spirit

Today, August 9, we celebrate the feast of Edith Stein, Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (1891-1942), a Polish philosopher who converted to Catholicism and joined the Discalced Carmelite Order. Despite her noted philosophical writings, as well as her conversion and service to the Lord as a religious, Saint Teresa was killed at Auschwitz along with millions of other Jews during the second world war. Her life and writings remain, inspiring us to find hope in the Lord, even in times of great struggle and suffering. Among her final works was a poem in honor of the Holy Spirit of God, written in seven verses.

1. Who are you, sweet light, that fills me
And illumines the darkness of my heart?
You lead me like a mother's hand,
And should you let go of me,
I would not know how to take another step.
You are the space
That embraces my being and buries it in yourself.
Away from you it sinks into the abyss
Of nothingness, from which you raised it to the light.
You, nearer to me than I to myself
And more interior than my most interior
And still impalpable and intangible
And beyond any name:
Holy Spirit eternal love!

2. Are you not the sweet manna
That from the Son's heart
Overflows into my heart,
The food of angels and the blessed?
He who raised himself from death to life,
He has also awakened me to new life
From the sleep of death.
And he gives me new life from day to day,
And at some time his fullness is to stream through me,
Life of your life indeed, you yourself:
Holy Spirit eternal life!

3. Are you the ray
That flashes down from the eternal Judge's throne
And breaks into the night of the soul
That had never known itself?
Mercifully relentlessly
It penetrates hidden folds.
Alarmed at seeing itself,
The self makes space for holy fear,
The beginning of that wisdom
That comes from on high
And anchors us firmly in the heights,
Your action,
That creates us anew:
Holy Spirit ray that penetrates everything!

4. Are you the spirit's fullness and the power
By which the Lamb releases the seal
Of God's eternal decree?
Driven by you
The messengers of judgement ride through the world
And separate with a sharp sword
The kingdom of light from the kingdom of night.
Then heaven becomes new and new the earth,
And all finds its proper place
Through your breath:
Holy Spirit victorious power!

5. Are you the master who builds the eternal cathedral,
Which towers from the earth through the heavens?
Animated by you, the columns are raised high
And stand immovably firm.
Marked with the eternal name of God,
They stretch up to the light,
Bearing the dome,
Which crowns the holy cathedral,
Your work that encircles the world:
Holy Spirit God's molding hand!

6. Are you the one who created
the unclouded mirror
Next to the Almighty's throne,
Like a crystal sea,
In which Divinity lovingly looks at itself?
You bend over the fairest work of your creation,
And radiantly your own gaze
Is illumined in return.
And of all creatures the pure beauty
Is joined in one in the dear form
Of the Virgin, your immaculate bride:
Holy Spirit Creator of all!

7. Are you the sweet song of love
And of holy awe
That eternally resounds around the triune throne,
That weds in itself the clear chimes
of each and every being?
The harmony,
That joins together the members to the Head,
In which each one
Finds the mysterious meaning of his being blessed
And joyously surges forth,
Freely dissolved in your surging:
Holy Spirit eternal jubilation!

On St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

"I even believe that the deeper one is drawn into God, the more one must 'go out of oneself'; that is, one must go to the world in order to carry the divine life into it."

On August 9, we celebrated the feast of Edith Stein, Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (1891-1942), a Polish philosopher who converted to Catholicism and joined the Discalced Carmelite Order. Saint Teresa wrote extensively about the unique and God-given feminine vocation, as evidenced by the life of Our Blessed Mother. Despite her noted philosophical writings, as well as her conversion and service to the Lord as a religious, Saint Teresa was killed at Auschwitz along with millions of other Jews during the second world war. Her life and writings remain, inspiring us to find hope in the Lord, even in times of great struggle and suffering.

Born in Breslau, Poland, Edith was the youngest child of a large observant Jewish family. From an early age, she was a gifted child who enjoyed learning and demonstrated great academic promise. She greatly admired her mother's strong faith. However, as her studies progressed, Edith had difficulty reconciling her phenomenological beliefs with that of faith. By her teenage years, she had forsaken Judaism and proclaimed herself an atheist—much to her parents’ disappointment.

Prior to the first world war, Edith attended the Universities of Breslau and Göttingen, studying philosophy. After the war ended, she continued her advanced studies at the University of Freiburg, and was awarded her doctorate in philosophy Suma Cum Laude. Despite her brilliant philosophical mind, Edith continued to struggle with what she termed her “search for the truth.” One evening, while at the home of some Catholic friends, Edith read the Life of Saint Teresa of Avila, and when she finished it she said happily: "This is truth." Her discovery of the life of Saint Teresa paved the way for her exploration of Catholicism and eventual conversion.

After her conversion, Edith spent her days teaching, lecturing, writing, and translating, and she soon became known as a celebrated philosopher and author. She spoke frequently of the vocational call of women, and the special and unique role they served in the Catholic life. For example, at a convention of Catholic Academics in 1930, Dr. Stein said: “Many of the best women are almost overwhelmed by the double burden of family duties and professional life-- or often simply of gainful employment. Always on the go, they are harassed, nervous, and irritable. Where are they to get the needed inner peace and cheerfulness in order to offer stability, support, and guidance to others?...To have divine love as its inner form, a woman's life must be a Eucharistic life. Only in daily confidential relationship with the Lord in the tabernacle can one forget self, become free of all one's wishes and pretensions, and have a heart open to all the needs of others.”

Edith presented the Blessed Virgin Mary as being the role model for all women, saying: “Whether she is a mother in the home, or occupies a place in the limelight of public life, or lives behind quiet cloister walls, she must be the handmaid of the Lord everywhere. So had the Mother of God been in all the circumstances of her life....Were each woman an image of the Mother of God, a Spouse of Christ, an apostle of the Divine Heart, then would each fulfill her feminine vocation no matter what conditions she lived in and what worldly activity absorbed her life.”

Herself, Edith was especially devoted to Our Blessed Mother, writing extensively about both her strength and her suffering. One such poem, beautiful and simple, follows:


Today I have stood with you beneath the Cross
And felt more certainly than ever before,
That you became our Mother beneath the Cross.
How faithfully an earthly mother strives
To fulfill her dying son's last wish.
But you were the handmaid of the Lord,
Subduing wholly your own life and being
To the life and being of God incarnate.
You have taken your own to your heart
And with your heart bleeding from bitter sorrow
Have purchased for each one of us new life.
You know us all, our wounds and our defacement,
But you know also the heavenly radiance
In which your Son's love eternally bathes us.
And so you carefully direct our footsteps.
You find no pain too great to bring us to our goal,
So those whom you have chosen for companions,
To stand beside you at the eternal throne,
Must stand beside you here beneath the Cross
And with hearts bleeding from bitter sorrow
Purchase heavenly radiance for the precious souls
With whom the Son of God entrusted you.

Despite her prolific writing and speaking engagements, Edith felt called to a different life—a life of quiet contemplation of the Lord as a member of the Carmelite community. When her position as a teacher at the Educational Institute of Munich was terminated due to growing pressure from the Nazis, Edith’s spiritual director have his approval for her to enter the Discalced Carmelite Nuns’ cloistered community at Cologne-Lindenthal. The following April, Edith received the Habit of Carmel and the religious name of "Teresa Benedicta of the Cross.”

When the Jewish persecution increased in violence and fanaticism, Sister Teresa Benedicta soon realized the danger that her presence was to the Cologne Carmel, and she asked and received permission to transfer to a foreign monastery. In December 1938, she secretly crossed the border into Holland where she was warmly received in the Carmel of Echt. There she wrote her last work, The Science of the Cross, an exploration of suffering she would soon experience firsthand.

Soon after her arrival, Holland ceased to be a refuge. The country was invaded by the Germans, and persecution of the Jews began in earnest. In response, the Dutch bishops protested the Nazi mistreatment and deportation of the Jews by publishing a public letter, read at all Masses. The Nazis retaliated and on August 2, all Catholics of Jewish descent were arrested, including Sister Teresa Benedicta and her sister Rosa Stein.
When the Gestapo came to the Carmel of Echt, Saint Teresa, taking Rosa by the arm, said: "Come let us go for our people." In her cell, the sisters found, written on the back of a small picture, her last will and testament: “May the Lord accept my life and death for the honor and glory of his name, for the needs of his holy Church - especially for the preservation, sanctification, and final perfection of our holy Order, and in particular for the Carmels of Cologne and Echt - for the Jewish people, that the Lord may be received by his own and his Kingdom come in glory, for the deliverance of Germany and peace throughout the world, and finally for all my relatives living and dead and all whom God has given me; may none of them be lost.”

Beaten and half-starved, the sisters were deported first to Westerbork prison camp in Northern Holland. Sister. Teresa was able to send a message to her superior that she was still wearing her Carmelite habit, and planned to keep wearing it as long as she could. However, a yellow Star of David had been sewn to the outside of the simple brown habit.

At the camp, Saint Teresa Benedicta comforted and cared for frightened mothers and their little children. Before her arrival in Auschwitz, she managed to smuggle one last message to her mother prioress: "I am content now. One can only learn the Scientia Crucis if one truly suffers under the weight of the Cross. I was entirely convinced of this from the very first and I have said with all my heart: Hail, Cross, our only hope."

It was not long after that the work camp was emptied, and those kept prisoner there put on cattle trains headed to Auschwitz. Reports from those who were close to Sister Teresa Benedicta in those final days show her to have been a woman of remarkable interior strength, giving courage to her fellow travelers and helping to feed and bathe the little ones when even their mothers had given up hope and were neglecting them. One woman who survived the war has written a description of Stein during the time their group was awaiting transportation to “the East.” She wrote, “Maybe the best way I can explain it is that she carried so much pain that it hurt to see her smile...In my opinion, she was thinking about the suffering that lay ahead. Not her own suffering — she was far too resigned for that — but the suffering that was in store for the others. Every time I think of her sitting in the barracks, the same picture comes to mind: a Pieta without the Christ.”

Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross died in the gas chambers upon arrival at Auschwitz on August 9, 1942. Out of the unspeakable human suffering caused by the Nazis in western Europe in the 1930's and 1940's, her life blossomed into a beautiful example of dedication, consecration, prayer, fasting, and penance. Even though her life was snuffed out by the evil of genocide, her memory stands as a light undimmed in the midst of evil, darkness, and suffering. "One can only learn the science of the Cross by feeling the Cross in one’s own person."

From the Homily of Pope John Paul II in October 1998, on the event of her Canonization:
"God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth" (Jn 4:24).

Dear brothers and sisters, the divine Teacher spoke these words to the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well. What He gave His chance but attentive listener we also find in the life of Edith Stein, in her "ascent of Mount Carmel". The depth of the divine mystery became perceptible to her in the silence of contemplation. Gradually, throughout her life, as she grew in the knowledge of God, worshipping Him in spirit and truth, she experienced ever more clearly her specific vocation to ascend the Cross with Christ, to embrace it with serenity and trust, to love it by following in the footsteps of her beloved Spouse: Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross is offered to us today as a model to inspire us and a protectress to call upon.

We give thanks to God for this gift. May the new saint be an example to us in our commitment to serve freedom, in our search for the truth. May her witness constantly strengthen the bridge of mutual understanding between Jews and Christians.

Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, pray for us! Amen.”

Selected Quotations of Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross
“As for what concerns our relations with our fellow men, the anguish in our neighbor's soul must break all precept. All that we do is a means to an end, but love is an end in itself, because God is love.”

”Every true prayer is a prayer of the Church; by means of that prayer the Church prays, since it is the Holy Spirit living in the Church, Who in every single soul 'prays in us with unspeakable groanings.”
”If anyone comes to me, I want to lead them to Him.”
”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.”
”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.”

”The limitless loving devotion to God, and the gift God makes of Himself to you, are the highest elevation of which the heart is capable; it is the highest degree of prayer. The souls that have reached this point are truly the heart of the Church.”

”Those who join the Carmelite Order are not lost to their near and dear ones, but have been won for them, because it is our vocation to intercede to God for everyone.”
"The way of faith gives us more than the way of philosophical thought: it gives us God, near to us as person, who loves us and deals with us mercifully, giving us that security which human knowledge cannot give. But the way of faith is dark.”
“Whatever did not fit in with my plan did lie within the plan of God. I have an ever deeper and firmer belief that nothing is merely an accident when seen in the light of God, that my whole life down to the smallest details has been marked out for me in the plan of Divine Providence and has a completely coherent meaning in God’s all-seeing eyes. And so I am beginning to rejoice in the light of glory wherein this meaning will be unveiled to me.”

“God is there in these moments of rest and can give us in a single instant exactly what we need. Then the rest of the day can take its course, under the same effort and strain, perhaps, but in peace. And when night comes, and you look back over the day and see how fragmentary everything has been, and how much you planned that has gone undone, and all the reasons you have to be embarrassed and ashamed: just take everything exactly as it is, put it in God’s hands and leave it with Him. Then you will be able to rest in Him — really rest — and start the next day as a new life.”

“Learn from Saint Thérèse to depend on God alone and serve Him with a wholly pure and detached heart. Then, like her, you will be able to say ‘I do not regret that I have given myself up to Love’.”

“O my God, fill my soul with holy joy, courage and strength to serve You. Enkindle Your love in me and then walk with me along the next stretch of road before me. I do not see very far ahead, but when I have arrived where the horizon now closes down, a new prospect will prospect will open before me, and I shall meet it with peace.”

Lord, God of our fathers,
you brought Saint Teresa Benedicta
to the fullness of the science of the cross
at the hour of her martyrdom.
Fill us with that same knowledge;
and, through her intercession,
allow us always to seek after you, the supreme truth,
and to remain faithful until death to the covenant of love
ratified in the blood of your Son
for the salvation of all men and women.
We ask this through Christ, our Lord. Amen.

St. Teresa of Avila Quote

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Today is the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord


Almighty ever-living God, who, when Christ had been baptized in the River Jordan and as the Holy Spirit descended upon him, solemnly declared him your beloved Son, grant that your children by adoption, reborn of water and the Holy Spirit, may always be well pleasing to you. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Baptism of Our Lord. This brings to an end the season of Christmas. The Church recalls Our Lord's second manifestation or epiphany which occurred on the occasion of His baptism in the Jordan. Jesus descended into the River to sanctify its waters and to give them the power to beget sons of God. The event takes on the importance of a second creation in which the entire Trinity intervenes.

In the Eastern Church this feast is called Theophany because at the baptism of Christ in the River Jordan God appeared in three persons. The baptism of John was a sort of sacramental preparatory for the Baptism of Christ. It moved men to sentiments of repentance and induced them to confess their sins. Christ did not need the baptism of John. Although He appeared in the "substance of our flesh" and was recognized "outwardly like unto ourselves", He was absolutely sinless and impeccable. He conferred upon the water the power of the true Baptism which would remove all the sins of the world: "Behold the Lamb of God, behold Him Who takes away the sin of the world".

Many of the incidents which accompanied Christ's baptism are symbolical of what happened at our Baptism. At Christ's baptism the Holy Spirit descended upon Him; at our Baptism the Trinity took its abode in our soul. At His baptism Christ was proclaimed the "Beloved Son" of the FClick here for commentary on the readings in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite.ather; at our Baptism we become the adopted sons of God. At Christ's baptism the heavens were opened; at our Baptism heaven was opened to us. At His baptism Jesus prayed; after our Baptism we must pray to avoid actual sin.

— Excerpted from Msgr. Rudolph G. Bandas

The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord
The mystery of Christ’s baptism in the Jordan by St John, the Precursor, proposes the contemplation of an already adult Jesus. This mystery is infinitely linked to the Solemnities of the Lord’s birth and the Epiphany that we have just celebrated, as in some ways it takes up and represents their significance to us.

At Christmas we have contemplated the human birth of the Word incarnate by the Virgin Mary. In the 4th century, the Fathers of the Church deepened the understanding of the faith with regard to the Christmas mystery in the light of Jesus’ Humanity. They spoke of the Incarnation of the Word already working like the ‘Christification’ of that humanity that he had assumed from His mother. Or put in simpler terms: Jesus is the Christ from the first instant of conception in Mary’s spotless womb because He Himself, with His Divine Power, consecrated, anointed and ‘Christified’ that human nature with which He became incarnate.

In the mystery of the Epiphany, we then meditated on Christ’s manifestation to all nations that was represented by the Magi, the wise men from the East, who came to adore the Child.

Now, in the mystery of Christ’s Baptism in the Jordan River, we again encounter and represent the truth of the Lord’s incarnation and His manifestation as the Christ. Jesus’ Baptism is in fact His definitive manifestation as the Messiah or Christ to Israel, and as the Son of the Father to the entire world. Here we find the dimension of the Epiphany which was His manifestation to all nations. The Father’s voice from heaven shows that Jesus of Nazareth is the eternal Son and the descent of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove shows the Trinitarian nature of the Christian God. The true and unique God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, shows Himself in Christ, through Him, with Him and in Him.

The Baptism in the Jordan returns to the great Christmas theme of ‘Christification’, Jesus of Nazareth’s spiritual anointing, His presentation as the Anointed One per excellence, the Messiah or the One sent by the Father for the salvation of mankind. The Spirit that descended on Jesus shows and seals in an incontrovertible way the ‘Christification’ of Jesus’ humanity that the Word had already fulfilled from the first moment of His miraculous conception by Mary. Jesus, from the very beginning, was always the Lord’s Christ, He was always God. Yet, His one, true humanity, that which is perfect in every way, as the Gospel records, constantly grew in natural and supernatural perfection. ‘And Jesus increased in wisdom, in stature, and in favour with God and with men’ (Lk2:52). In Israel at 30 years of age, one reached full maturity and therefore could become a master. Jesus came of age and the Spirit, descending and remaining on Him, definitively consecrated His whole being as the Christ.
The same Spirit, that descended on the water of the River Jordan wafted over the waters during the first creation. (Gen 1:2) Therefore, the Baptism in the Jordan presents yet another truth: that Jesus has started a new creation. He is the second man (1 Cor 15:47) or the last Adam (1 Cor 15:45), that comes to repair the first Adam’s guilt. He does this as the Lamb of God that takes away our sins. ‘Looking at the events in light of the Cross and Resurrection, the Christian people realised what happened: Jesus loaded the burden of all mankind’s guilt upon His shoulders; he bore it down into the depths of the Jordan. He inaugurated his public activity by stepping into the place of sinners.’ (J Ratzinger, Jesus of Nazareth, Bloomsbury 2007, p18)
Excerpted from the Congregation for the Clergy

Commentary for the Readings in the Extraordinary Form:
First Sunday after Epiphany

"Jesus came to Nazareth, and was subject to them" (Gospel).

"Subject to them" is the awe-inspiring phrase which sums up His Life. Humbly did He abide by the decrees of human law! Obedience to "My Father's business" must come first, as a guide to all other business, if heaven is to find our family unbrokern (Prayer).

If Jesus withdraws from us as a test of our love or if we lose Him by the commission of sin, we will not regain the joy of His Presence amid the distractions of "relatives and acquaintances;" but we will find Him "in the temple" at Confession and Communion.

So-called "modern" ideas and practices are evicting Christ from the home. As as antidote, at the family meal let us read aloud from the New Testament. "Let the word of Christ dwell" in your home (Epistle). Then will your family, even though living in "obscurity" as did the Holy Family, advance "in wisdom and. . .grace before God and men" (Gospel).

— Excerpted from My Sunday Missal, Confraternity of the Precious Blood