A Carmelite is called to enter into the prayer and sacrifice of Christ, who “loved the church and gave himself for her”.
We will spend this week under the patronage of St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein). A Jewish philosopher in Nazi Germany, Edith was drawn to the Catholic faith by reading the Life of St Teresa, of which she wrote: My impression was, that this was a life which had been absolutely transformed by the love of God, down to the last detail. I simply can’t imagine anything greater. I would like to see this attitude incorporated as much as possible into my own life and the lives of those who are dear to me.
She entered Carmel in 1933 at the age of 42 and died in the gas chambers of Auschwitz in 1942, having offered her life for her people and for world peace.
Read and Reflect
We bow down before the testimony of the life and death of Edith Stein, an outstanding daughter of Israel and at the same time a daughter of the Carmelite Order, Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, a personality who united within her rich life a dramatic synthesis of our century. It was the synthesis of a history full of deep wounds that are still hurting … and also the synthesis of the full truth about man. All this came together in a single heart that remained restless and unfulfilled until it finally found rest in God.” (St John Paul II at the beatification of St Teresa Benedicta)
The motive, principle, and end of the religious life is to make an absolute gift of self to God in a self-forgetting love, to end one’s own life in order to make room for God’s life. (Edith Stein. Essays on Woman)
My meditations are not great flights of the spirit, but mostly very humble and simple. The best of it is the gratitude that I have been given this place as a home on earth and a step towards the eternal home. (Letter 182)
Whoever enters Carmel is not lost to her own, but is theirs fully and forever; it is our vocation to stand before God for all. (Letter 164)
Our holy Rule and Constitutions are for us the expression of the Divine will. to sacrifice personal inclinations for their sake is to participate in the sacrifice of Christ. to conform as well to the unwritten laws, the customs of the house, and the preference of the community is demanded by love. If we do all this to give the Heart of Jesus joy it is not a restriction but the highest activity of freedom, a free gift of bridal love. (Letter 306)
(To her Prioress. March 26th 1939) Dear Mother, please will Your Reverence allow me to offer myself to the heart of Jesus as a sacrifice of propitiation for true peace, that the dominion of Antichrist may collapse, if possible, without a new world war, and that a new order may be established. I would like my request granted this very day because it is the twelfth hour. I know that I am a nothing, but Jesus desires it, and surely he will call may others to do likewise in these days.
Teresa Benedicta made the journey from Jewish faith – to atheism – to Catholic faith – to Carmel. What has been your faith journey until now?
Where do you feel God might be leading you from here?
In the darkness of her times, with war imminent, Teresa Benedicta offered her life to God. Does a life of prayer and self-giving seem to you a way of balancing the evils of our own time?
Can you understand how obedience can be an exercise of freedom? (See Letter 306 above).
Lectio Ephesians 1: 17-23
Read through all you have written in your notebook during these weeks.
Who are you, sweet light that fills me
And illumines the darkness of my heart?
You lead me like a mother’s hand,
And should you let go of me
I would not know how to take another step.
You are the space
That embraces my being and buries it in yourself.
Away from you it sinks into the abyss
Of nothingness, from which you raised it to the light.