Edith Stein, also known as St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (October 12, 1891 – August 9, 1942), was a German Jewish philosopher who converted to the Roman Catholic Church and became a Discalced Carmelite nun.
Stein is a martyr and saint of the Catholic Church.
Edith Stein was born into an observant Jewish family, but was an atheist by her teenage years. Moved by the tragedies of World War I, in 1915 she took lessons to become a nursing assistant and worked in a hospital for the prevention of disease outbreaks. After completing her doctoral thesis in 1916 from the University of Göttingen, she obtained an assistantship at the University of Freiburg.
From reading the works of the reformer of the Carmelite Order, St. Teresa of Jesus, she was drawn to the Catholic Faith. She was baptized on January 1, 1922 into the Roman Catholic Church. At that point she wanted to become a Discalced Carmelite nun, but was dissuaded by her spiritual mentors. She then taught at a Catholic school of education in Speyer. As a result of the requirement of an “Aryan certificate” for civil servants promulgated by the Nazi government in April 1933 as part of its Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service, she had to quit her teaching position.
She was admitted to the Discalced Carmelite monastery in Cologne the following October. She received the religious habit of the Order as a novice in April 1934, taking the religious name Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (“Teresa blessed by the Cross”). In 1938 she and her sister Rosa, by then also a convert and an extern Sister of the monastery, were sent to the Carmelite monastery in Echt, Netherlands for their safety. Despite the Nazi invasion of that state in 1940, they remained undisturbed until they were arrested by the Nazis on August 2, 1942 and sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp, where they died in the gas chamber on August 9, 1942.