Edith Stein Discovered: A Personal Portrait, by Pat Lyne OCDS

Edith Stein Discovered: A Personal Portrait, by Pat Lyne OCDS

Michael Daniel

by Pat Lyne OCDS

(Gracewing, 2000, 93pp, $22.00. Available from AD Books)

While most people are aware of the murder of six million Jews during World War II by the Nazis, comparatively unknown are the Catholic victims of Jewish origin who were murdered because they were racially Jewish.

One of them was the Carmelite nun, St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, better known as Edith Stein. Pat Lyne, a member of the Secular Order of Carmel, provides a short but interesting introduction to the life and spirituality of this fascinating saint.

Her account largely follows the chronological details of Edith's life. Born in 1891 into a Jewish family, by early adulthood she had drifted from her religion. As a student, she became fascinated by the work of the philosopher Edmund Husserl, which was a major factor in her intellectual journey.

The final catalyst in her conversion to Catholicism in 1922 was her reading of St Teresa of Avila.

Edith Stein continued with her teaching career until the Nazi prohibition on those classified as Jewish in 1933 prevented her from doing so. She then entered the Carmelite convent of Cologne and remained there until 1938 when, in the wake of mounting persecution of the Jews, she was transferred to the Carmelite convent of Echt in the Netherlands.

In August 1942, as a response to the protest by the Dutch bishops at the Nazis' treatment of Jews, Edith Stein, her sister Rosa and other Catholics of Jewish heritage were rounded up and deported to Auschwitz, where they was murdered.

Sensing the end was near, she completed her final work, The Science of the Cross, just prior to her deportation.

The chief strength of this work is that it provides an accessible portrait of this great saint for the average reader, as the author does not discuss the complex philosophical ideas Edith Stein explored; this however means that the reasons for her conversion are not fully explored by the author.

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