Thought for the Day – 9 August – The Memorial of St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (1891-1942) Martyr
“A Lesson in Love”
Her name reflects her beloved spiritual sister and fellow Carmelite, Teresa of Ávila and her fate of sharing in the Cross of Christ in a very tangible, visible way. Edith, now Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, viewed her own life as a sacrificial offering to God for her people. In 1939, she offered her life to God for all those she loved: for the Church, for the Carmelite Order, for the Jewish people, for her family, and for “the deliverance of Germany and peace throughout the world.” Rather than give in to despair, darkness and hopelessness, Edith offered her own life and sufferings to God for others—even for those who murdered her. She saw herself as her brothers’ keeper and asked Our Lord to accept her life for theirs.
A Jewish businessman from Cologne, Julius Markan, who had been put in charge of the prisoners at Westerbork Camp, remembers how she cared for those around her as they faced death. He wrote:
“Amongst the prisoners who were brought in on the 5th of August, Sister Benedicta stood out on account of her calmness and composure. The distress in the barracks and the stir caused by the new arrivals were indescribable. Sister Benedicta was just like an angel, going around amongst the women, comforting them, helping them and calming them. Many of the mothers were near to distraction, they had not bothered about their children the whole day long but just sat brooding in dumb despair. Sister Benedicta took care of the little children, washed them and combed them, attending to their feeding and other needs. During the whole of her stay there, she washed and cleaned for people, following one act of charity with another, until everyone wondered at her goodness.”
Another person who met her on the way to her death, Dr. Wielek, recalled a conversation he had with her in Westerbork just before she was transferred to Auschwitz:
“In one conversation she said to me: ‘The world is made up of opposites but in the end nothing remains of these contrasts. What only remains is great love. How is it possible for it to be otherwise?’”
Indeed in this world, we do experience such opposites,good and evil, joy and suffering, life and death. “What only remains is great love.” Edith’s final conviction teaches us how to suffer, how to offer ourselves and how to embrace a world so seemingly full of violations against the human person. Edith shows how to live as a balm for these wounds in the world—and how such a life lived for Christ will ultimately heal it.
(Angela Micali Stout)