One day around 1917, a young Jewish woman, a student and teacher of philosophy, visited Frankfurt Cathedral. She noticed another woman going into the church with a shopping basket in her hands to say a quick prayer.
The Jewish woman, whose name was Edith Stein, was astounded. She said:
“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.”
Edith Stein was from a practicing Jewish family but had lost her faith in childhood. She was a brilliant mind who studied German, history, and her most beloved subject—philosophy. Her studies and providential encounters with people of faith pushed her continually towards the truth.
God built on the Frankfurt encounter with a second, more intimate one. She met with a recently widowed friend and was profoundly struck by her friend’s great faith. Edith Stein said:
“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.”
This encounter would prepare her for her own cross which she would bear later in life.
The third remarkable, grace-filled event in Edith Stein’s life came when she was visiting with Catholic friends who happened to have a copy of the biography of St. Teresa of Ávila. Stein became engrossed in the book and read it throughout the night. She later wrote of this evening, saying:
“When I had finished the book, I said to myself: This is the truth.”
It was after this last event that Edith Stein converted to the Roman Catholic Church.
Edith Stein would later join a Carmelite convent and take the name Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. Her life—characterized by a continual striving for the truth and the embrace of the mystery of the Cross—would culminate in her martyrdom at Auschwitz, where she was deported as a Jewish Christian.
The writings of St. Edith Stein are powerful, insightful, and worth reading at any point in your life! The book From the Writings of Edith Stein is a compelling, accessible introduction to the writings of St. Edith Stein. This collection of excerpts from her works reveals Stein’s love for truth, spirit of sacrifice, and gift of friendship. Pick up your copy at The Catholic Company today!