Monday, 10 August 2015

Photo of the Month - August 2015

We are continuing our celebration of sixty years of ministry at the National Shrine of Saint Jude with our photo of the month. This month, we are pleased to show the icon of Saint Albert.

In 2004 a fire broke out in the Shrine Chapel destroying the murals which once hung there and damaging much of the other artwork. Happily, the windows and ceramics could be repaired, but the murals had to be replaced.

The decision was made to install icons depicting saints inspired by the Carmelite Rule of Saint Albert, in commemoration of the 8th centenary of the Carmelite Rule in 2007. The icons were written by Sister Petra Clare, a Benedictine hermit living in Scotland.

Below is the icon of Saint Albert giving the Carmelite 'way of life' (Rule document) to Saint Brocard on Mount Carmel. Other icons in the Shrine, include: Blessed John Soreth and Blessed Frances d'Amboise; Saint Elias Kuriakos Chavara and Blessed Isidore Bakanja; Blessed Titus Brandma and Saint Edith Stein.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Thoughts from the Chaplain - St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

On Sunday, 9 August, it is the Feast Day of Teresa Benedicta of the Cross or as she was before becoming a Carmelite: Edith Stein.  Edith Stein was born in Breslau in the then Prussian province of Silesia, the daughter of strict Jewish parents who ran a business buying and selling wood.  The day she was born was the Jewish feast of Yom Kippur or the Day of Atonement.  Although brought up as a practising Jew Edith Stein had lost her faith by her teens and described herself as an atheist.

Edith was a very gifted pupil and always had an enquiring mind and this led to her being accepted as a student at the University of Breslau.

Though her father died while she was young, her widowed mother was determined to give her children a thorough education and consequently sent Edith to study at the University of Breslau and then the University of Göttingen where, with the aid of her mentor Edmund Husserl she received a doctorate in 1916.  During her university years Edith had the occasional contact with Catholics but had never had any serious interest in their faith.  This was to change while she was on holiday with friends in the Rhineland, near the town of Landau on the German/French border.  He she started to read the autobiography of Teresa of Jesus or Teresa of Avila as she is better known. 

Edith was so impressed by the life of the Spanish mystic she started to take instruction in Catholicism and this started a process which was to lead to her baptism and entry into full communion with the Catholic Church on 1st January 1922.  Despite an initial wish to enter religious life her spiritual advisers told her to wait.  She went to the Cathedral town of Speyer and began to teach at the Dominican School there from 1923 - 1931.    But her academic work didn’t stop and she translated Thomas Aquinas’ book on Truth, something which Edith searched for all her life.  In 1933 the Nazi party came to power in Germany and their anti-Semitic laws forced her to give up her career.   It was at this stage that Edith Stein felt it was time for her to follow her vocation and she applied for entry into the discalced Carmelite convent in Cologne taking the name Teresa Benedicta a Cruce.  In the convent Teresa continued to write and published her book “Finite and Eternal Being”.  However, with every work she published the risk of her coming to the attention of the Nazis increased and so her Prioress moved both her and her sister Rosa to the convent of Echt in Holland.  Although she continued with her work as an academic it is in Echt that she began to enter more and more into the Carmelite way of life becoming more and more devout and taking joy in the silence and prayerful following of Christ as her namesake Teresa of Avila would have wanted.  This increased as the restriction of writing and publishing by any Jew became more and stricter until in the end it was totally banned.  But Teresa of the Cross didn’t stop teaching but instead turned to instructing the sisters in Latin and Philosophy.  In 1940 the Nazis occupied Holland but even before this Teresa realised that she would never be safe and would not survive the war.   She asked her Prioress for permission to “offer herself to the heart of Jesus as a sacrifice of atonement for true peace”.  After the Nazi occupation he sisters wrote that Teresa had started to prepare herself for life in a German concentration camp by “enduring cold and hunger”.   

On 2nd August 1942 the long feared knock came on the convent door and Teresa Benedicta a Cruce was arrested by the Gestapo along with her sister Rosa Stein who was an extern sister in Echt; they were sent to Amersfoort and Westerbork two Dutch camps prior to their deportation on 7th August 1942 to Auschwitz.  As they left the convent in Echt she said to her sister “come Rosa, let us go for our people”.   The transport went through the town of Speyer and during a halt there Edith managed to scribble a note and throw it out of the wagon.  It was found by the station master who read “We are going east” and signed Edith Stein.  All of the 987 Jewish deportees died with Edith and her sister Rosa in mass gas chambers on 9th August 1942.

St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross pray for us

Icon of Bl. Titus Brandsma (left) and St. Edith Stein (right) in the National Shrine of Saint Jude