Edith Stein was born in Poland, the youngest of 11 children in a Jewish family. Her father died when she was two, and although her mother worked very hard to make sure her children had everything they needed, faith was not an important part of their lives. Edith was very smart and did well in school and she was able to study for a doctorate in philosophy, which was very rare for a woman in those days.
Even though Edith wasn’t interested in religion, several things happened to make her reconsider. One day while walking past the cathedral in Frankfurt, Edith saw a woman with shopping bags stop in the church to say a quick prayer. Edith had never seen anyone go to church like that, as if stopping to talk to a friend, and this very simple act made an big impression on her. Next, some of her friends became Catholic, and they enthusiastically told Edith all about their faith. Finally, Edith found a book about St. Teresa of Avila, and she read the whole thing in one night. When she finished, she simply said to herself, “This is the truth.” Edith was baptized on January 1, 1922, and in 1934, Edith entered the Carmelite order. She took the name Teresa Benedicta a Cruce – Teresa, Blessed of the Cross.
As the Nazis came to power, they began burning Jewish synagogues and arresting Jews. Because Edith – now Sister Teresa – had been born in a Jewish family, she was in danger. The other nuns helped her get to place where they thought she would be safe, but eventually she was arrested and killed on August 9, 1942.
Today, think a little bit about how the simple, anonymous act of one woman stepping into church to say a quick prayer impacted Edith’s life. What is your faith life like when you think no one is watching?
Edith Stein wrote a lot about the unique roles that all people play in life. Even though we each have different strengths and weaknesses, she explained that we are all equal. Just like puzzle pieces are all different but fit together to create a beautiful picture, so are our families and all the members in them. You can illustrate this by making a puzzle out of a family photo. Cut the pieces apart and discuss how you all work together to make your “puzzle” complete!