August 9, Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, virgin and martyr

Where are we going

“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones, when taking their lamps, brought no oil with them, but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps. Since the bridegroom was long delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep. At midnight, there was a cry, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil …’ But the wise ones replied, ‘No, for there may not be enough for us and you. Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.’ While they went off to buy it, the bridegroom came and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him. Then the door was locked. Afterwards the other virgins came and said, ‘Lord, Lord, open the door for us!’ But he said in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.  Mt 25,1-13

Edith Stein (1891-1942), the eleventh child of a jewish family, was born in Wroclaw, Poland. Although she was still a child, she declared herself atheist and, when being fifteen years old, she decided not to pray anymore, although her heart was in a careful search for the truth. She followed her university studies, she had the occasion to read The Interior Castle of st.Teresa of Avila and at the end of the book she said: “This is the truth”. She converted to the christianity, she was baptized in 1922 and by 1938 she took the vows in the order of the Sisters of the Carmel under the name of Teresa Benedicta. As a woman of jewish origin she was persecuted by the german regime of Hitler and she was subject to the Nuremberg racial laws. While in the convent of the Carmelitanes in  Echt (Netherlands), Teresa Benedicta was arrested with her sister Rosa. On leaving the convent she took the hand of her sister and she said: “Let’s go, we are with our people”. She died in Auschwitz, on August 9th, 1942. She was beatified and declared saint patron of Europe in 1999. By the parable of the ten virgins who are out to meet the bridegroom, today the Lord outlines the vicissitude of the disciple in this world, helping to answer the eternal question: where are we going? The life, in the light of this parable, is an active expectation, as it has been for st Teresa Benedicta, who, while she was persecuted in the Netherlands, wrote the book The knowledge of the cross. Her cross has been the german persecution and the door which was opened for her was that of the gas chamber in the camp of extermination of Auschwitz, where she entered with the lamp of the faith in Jesus Christ on. Saint Teresa Benedicta is a saint whom we can pray to help us to do the will of God, even in the persecution. She wrote: “The sufferings faced with the Lord are his same sufferings and bring great fruits in the work of redemption”.

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