Friday, August 9, 2013

Friday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Deuteronomy 4:32-40: Matthew 16:24-28)

Today’s optional memorial celebrates St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, more commonly known by her name at birth, Edith Stein.  Her death amply illustrates Jesus’ gospel message, “…whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

Edith Stein was born a German Jew.  She earned a doctorate in philosophy studying with the eminent phenomenologist Edmund Husserl.  Converting to Catholicism around thirty years of age, she joined a Carmel in Germany about the time when the Nazis started their systematic persecution of Jews.  Sr. Teresa Benedicta transferred to a Carmel in Holland where the Nazi regime was more tolerant of Jewish-Catholic converts. But when the Dutch bishops spoke out against the Nazis, the authorities rounded up known Jewish-Catholics there and sent them to Auschwitz.  Sr. Teresa Benedicta died in a gas chamber in 1942.

St. Teresa Benedicta’s life and death illustrate that following Jesus can be costly.  Many today think of being Catholic as belonging to a distinguishable social group that goes to mass on Sundays and says the rosary at wakes.  St. Teresa Benedicta testifies that to live the implications of our faith, we must be ready not only to make the daily sacrifices that faith requires but also to suffer humiliation and even death if systematic persecution should begin again.