71 years ago today, on August 9, 1942, St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein) was gassed to death at the Auschwitz death camp. In the eyes of the Nazi government, which had taken over Poland three years before, Edith and her sister Rosa were prime targets for “mandatory re-education” by the state because they were Catholics who had converted from Judaism. Both committed Christians and Jews were obvious threats to the supremacy of the state because both groups believed in God, who is above the power of the state.
Of course the term “mandatory re-education” was a euphemism for prison without trial or parole and/or death. One of the first maxims of tyrants is to use words to mask rather than enlighten. Edith Stein understood this, of course. A well-educated philosophy teacher, she was very careful to precisely define terms and precepts.
Before the Nazis took control of Poland in September 1939, she offered her life to God for the Jewish population. She said that it was evident to her that “the Cross had fallen on my people” and she asked to help carry it for them. The morning that the Nazi police banged on the door of the Carmelite convent where the Stein sisters lived and dragged them out, Edith was prepared. She turned to her sister and said simply, “Come, Rosa, let us go for our people.”
In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus tells us clearly, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his Cross and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
Jesus couldn’t have said it more clearly but, in general, we have become deaf to his teaching. We pay much more attention to the constant advertising that assures us that we cannot be happy without a new car or a chin lift than we do to the Lord.
When the Holy Father exhorts us over and over to live more simply, to stop wasting food, to not buy new cars, we dismiss his teaching with comments like, “He’s not speaking to lay people” or “Other popes never told us to do that.” We refuse to take to heart the teaching that less is more, that to lead we must follow, that to live we must die.
We began the Year of Faith nine months ago with little idea how much we needed to grow in our faith. Like St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, our Faith is becoming an increasing threat to the State. Like her, we would be wise to come to before the Lord today and take to heart his teaching and offer to take up our Cross for our families, for our country, for our Faith.
St. Teresa Benedicta, pray for us!
Copyright © 2013, Glenna Bradshaw