Message: Trust God no matter what. Like Edith Stein, St. Teresa Blessed by the Cross, we want to cling to Him.
This weekend we come to the final homily in our series: Trust No Matter What. We began with saints from the 17th and 7th centuries: Lorenzo Ruiz and Bede. Then we moved to the 20th century: St. John Paul - called the "Man of the Century" because he effectively fought Nazism and Communism. Last week we saw one of the young men he inspired - Blessed Jerzy Popieluszko - a diocesan priest who played a key role in the overthrow of Communism.
Our final saint, like Blessed Jerzy, died as a martyr in Poland - in her case murdered by the Nazis. Her name is Edith Stein. Born in Silesia (Germany) in 1891, Edith was the youngest of 11 children. Although raised in a pious Jewish household, as an adolescent she stopped believing in God - but she did not give up searching. When she went to the university, she threw herself into the study of philosophy.
Perhaps the person-centered philosophy she learned laid the groundwork, but in the summer of 1921 (she was 29 at the time) things changed radically. In a library she happened upon the autobiography of St. Theresa of Avila. It grabbed her deeply and she spent the night reading it. "When I had finished the book, I said to myself: This is the truth." Edith kept reading and praying. Six months later - at great personal cost - she received baptism and entered the Catholic church.
For the Nazis it did not matter that she had become a Christian. They hated the Jews not so much for their religion but for their "race." When the Nazis began persecuting Jews, Edith could have gone to America, as did most of her family. But she didn't; she resisted the Nazis in the deepest possible way - by becoming a Carmelite Sister. For nine years she dedicated herself to contemplative prayer, to living today's Gospel: love God with one's heart, soul and mind.
To protect Edith from the Nazis, in 1938 they sent her to a convent in Holland. When the Nazis invaded the Netherlands in 1940, they registered all Jews, including those who had become Christians. The Dutch bishops publicly protested the persecution of Jews. On July 20, 1942, they had a letter read from all Catholic pulpits.
Two weeks later the Nazis retaliated by rounding up all the Jewish Catholics on their register - including priests and sisters of Jewish background. They came to the convent of Edith Stein - now Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (or "Blessed by the Cross").* Her sister, Rosa, was also there - she had become a Third Order Carmelite. The Gestapo gave them thirty minutes to gather clothes and three days food. Edith was calm, but Rosa was high strung. One of the Carmelite Sisters heard Edith say, "Komm, Rosa, wir gehen für unser Volk!" Come, Rosa, we are going for our people. After the bureaucratic formalities, they put the two sisters on a cattle train to the Auschwitz death camp. Fr. Bob Barron narrates how at a stop someone recognized Sister Teresa. She said, "We are going to the east." On August 9, 1942, Edith, her sister, Rosa, and about 100 other Jewish Catholics from Holland were murdered with poisonous gas. Their ashes are buried in a mass grave.
With Edith Stein I conclude this homily series. I have saved the best till the last. Edith Stein - now known as St. Teresa Blessed by the Cross - gives a remarkable witness to trust in God in the midst of confusion, hatred and terrible suffering. Trust no matter what. Love God with your whole heart, soul and mind. As we make a transition into the month of November, I ask you to remember her words, "Come, we are going for our people." And the simple phrase, "We are going to the East." The East is Bethlehem where we experience Jesus' birth. The East is Galilee where we hear Jesus' teaching and miracles. Above all, the East is Jerusalem where Jesus died for our evil and triumphed over darkness and death.
We are going to the East. We are going for our people. This year we have a unique opportunity. Two important Feasts fall on Sunday: next week All Soul's Day and on November 9 the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica. These two feasts speak of solidarity - a word so important to Blessed Jerzy and St. John Paul. Edith Stein lived solidarity: by her life of contemplative prayer as a Carmelite and her death for her people. Not only the Jewish people, but you and I who in Christ have become branches grafted on to the Jewish tree.
Edith Stein, St. Teresa Blessed by the Cross, wrote: "Learn from St. Thérèse (of Lisieux) to depend on God alone and serve Him with a wholly pure and detached heart. Then, like her, you will be able to say 'I do not regret that I have given myself up to Love'." Yes, depend on God alone. As our Psalm says, "My God, my rock of refuge, my shield...my stronghold. The Lord lives and blessed be my rock." Amen.
*Benedicta a Cruce
Trust No Matter What Week 1:
Trust No Matter What Week 2:
Trust No Matter What Week 3:
Trust No Matter What Week 4:
Trust No Matter What Week 5:
From Archives (for Thirtieth Ordinary Sunday, Year A):
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)
Are these homilies a help to you? Please consider making a donation to St. Mary of the Valley Parish.
Fr. Brad's Homilies (well worth listening)
Bulletin (St. Mary's Parish)
Parish Picture Album
(Octubre de 2014)
MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru