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The Saintly Life of Edith Stein and Solidarity


"Our neighbor's spiritual need transcends every commandment. Everything else we do is a means to an end. But love is an end already, since God is love." -Edith Stein

St. Teresa Benedict of the Cross (Edith Stein)

(1891-1942) Nun, Discalced Carmelite, Martyr

Edith Stein was born a Jew in what is now Wroclaw, Poland, in 1891. She spent much of her adult life without practicing any religion, but rather based her beliefs on science and philosophy. However, after reading the writings of St. Teresa of Avila, she was quickly converted to Roman Catholicism and was baptized on January 1, 1922.

When she was 43 years old, she entered a Carmelite monastery, and became Sister Teresia Benedicta of the Cross.  During World War II, the Nazis declared that all Jews, even those who had converted to Catholicism would be put into concentration camps. Since Edith would not renounce her Jewish background, she was sent to Auschwitz with other Jews. Because of her solidarity with the oppressed Jewish people, she too was killed in the gas chambers at Auschwitz.

Edith Stein is now recognized as a martyr and saint of the Roman Catholic Church.  She was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1998 and is known as St. Teresa Benedict of the Cross.

Catholic Social Teaching tells us that to live in solidarity is to believe and live in the world as members of one human family - a family in which we must all take care of one another and recognize the worth, rights and responsibilities of ourselves and others.

One way in which we can learn to live in a community more centered on solidarity is by participating in a Journey to Justice retreat. Journey to Justice is a retreat developed by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development that focuses on building relationships (solidarity) among the poor and non-poor. One way they do this is by breaking down myths and stereotypes about poverty and those who are poor. On the retreat, participants interact with members of an empowered low-income group. The Journey to Justice experience does not end with the retreat rather the goal is to help middle to upper income Catholics develop a deeper commitment to live as one human family. 

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