Thinker, Mystic, Martyr, Saint: Weekly Message for 08-07-2018

Dear Friends in Christ,

August 9 is the feast day of St. Teresa Benedicta (Edith Stein), one of the most intriguing saints of modernity.

Born to a Jewish family in Poland, she went on to traverse a remarkable spiritual journey through atheism to Catholicism and into religious life as a Carmelite nun.

Sent to a Nazi death camp in 1942, she spent her last days, “like an angel,” moving among the other condemned prisoners to bring them comfort.

With prescience she had once written: “The greatest figures of prophecy and sanctity step forth out of the darkest night.”

Indeed, her acts of charity in her last days serve as a reminder of God’s unflagging love for the world, even amid some of its worst moments. This example of charity was but one reason that led Pope St. John Paul II in 1999 to declare this “thinker, mystic and martyr” a co-patroness of Europe.

Such an honor would have surprised St. Teresa Benedicta, who sensed that Our Lord often prefers to work through low-profile souls.

“Certainly,” she wrote, “the most decisive turning points in world history are substantially co-determined by souls whom no history book ever mentions. And we will only find out about those souls to whom we owe the decisive turning points in our personal lives on the day when all that is hidden is revealed.”

A lesson for us is that, even amid the darkness of this era, we can detect torchbearers of holiness: the parents who ceaselessly pray for the return of children to the faith; the volunteer who toils lovingly at a pro-life crisis pregnancy center; the teen who struggles to live chastely amid the ridicule of classmates.

If you need more hope in holiness, consider reading and studying Pope Francis’ “Gaudete et Exsultate.” See our new Study Circle Guide here.  And say a prayer to St. Teresa Benedicta.

In Christ,

Father Edward McIlmail, LC

Ask a Priest contributor


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