St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

Today the Catholic Church celebrates the memorial of Edith Stein, who was born Jewish, but, profoundly influenced by her reading of Teresa of Avila, converted to Catholicism. Upon becoming a Carmelite nun, she took the name St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. Although for a time Jewish converts to Catholicism were spared arrest, she and her sister were ultimately arrested and sent to Auschwitz, where she was put to death in 1942.

A philosopher, a feminist and a woman of deep faith, Edith wrote a poem titled Ich bleibe bei euch… (I Will Remain With You…) that expresses the depth of her relationship with Christ. Here are the final stanzas of her poem, which make for a wonderful meditation.

Full of love, you sink your gaze into mine
And bend your ear to my quiet words
And deeply fill my heart with peace.

Yet your love is not satisfied
With this exchange that could still lead to separation:
Your heart requires more.

You come to me as early morning’s meal each daybreak.
Your flesh and blood become food and drink for me
And something wonderful happens.

Your body mysteriously permeates mine
And your soul unites with mine:
I am no longer what once I was.

You come and go, but the seed
That you sowed for future glory, remains behind
Buried in this body of dust.

A luster of heaven remains in the soul,
A deep glow remains in the eyes,
A soaring in the tone of voice.

There remains the bond that binds heart to heart,
The stream of life that springs from yours
And animates each limb.

How wonderful are your gracious wonders!
All we can do is be amazed and stammer and fall silent
Because intellect and words fail.