27 January 2018


In what follows, I mean no disrespect to any of those murdered in the Nazi attempt to exterminate European Jewry. It represents one of the darkest stains on the history of our race since our First Parents were expelled from Eden. May they all, if it be God's will, come to rejoice in beholding His Face.

It is not always remembered that a number of those murdered were our fellow-Christians, 'baptised Jews' such as Edith Stein. Through the waters of Baptism they had become members of Christ's Body. Yet the shedding of their blood sealed their unity with their ancestral people.

When Stein, Sister Benedicta of the Cross, was canonised, people wondered whether she would be categorised as a 'Martyr'. She was; and it was in red vestments that S John Paul II celebrated the Mass.

She was killed, not explicitly for Christ, but out of hatred for the Jewish people.

And she is one of our martyrs.

I believe that there is some quiet and reverend and loving theologising to be done here which, to my knowledge, has not yet been done.


Randolph Crane said...

Edith Stein is a wonderful example of someone who was truly "converted". She not only accepted the fullness of revelation in Christ, but she also understood the "signs of our time", and interpreted them "sub Evangelii luce".

I coincidentally live in the very same building she resided in for some time. Unfortunately, I share this fate with Karl Rahner.

Michael Leahy said...

The Nazi hatred of the Jews was true anti-semitism, a blood hatred. There have been many other reasons for disapproval of Jewry throughout history, but these would have been non-racial. For example, it is understandable, although still very wrong, that the Hungarian people offered so much co-operation to the Nazis in handing over their Jews when one knows the history of the events of 1919, when the vicious Hungarian Soviet regime was predominantly a Jewish one, out of all proportion to their numbers in the population. On the other hand, one finds it hard to understand the enthusiasm of the French and others to hand over their Jews.

Christopher Boegel said...

I love St. Edith Stein. I have read the accounts from her fellow Carmelites who witnessed her arrest, that when she and her sister Rosa were arrested at their convent by the Nazis, her sister was gripped with fear, and Edith encouraged her with these words: "Come Rosa, let us go and die for our people."

Here is a meditation on the Holy Eucharist by St. Edith Stein, printed on a Christmas Card from the Dominican Sisters of Nashville, who run my daughters' high school, in Baltimore, Maryland (USA):

"In the heart of Jesus, which was pierced, the kingdom of heaven and the land of earth are bound together. Here is for us the source of life. This heart is the heart of the Triune Divinity, and the center of all human hearts. ...This heart, it beats for us in a small tabernacle where it remains mysteriously hidden in that still, white host."

Thank you for mentioning St. Edith. May we all be conformed to the beauty of Jesus, as was this daughter of Israel.

MaryP said...

Hatred of Jews is hatred of the flesh of Christ.

Banshee said...

The Hebrew "qahal," the assembly of all God's people, translates into Greek in the Septuagint as the "ekklesia."

So, technically....

Ave Crux said...

No, actually, Edith Stein WAS martyred for being Catholic. It was in retaliation for the Pope's pronouncements against Nazism.

The Germans expressly sought out Jewish converts to Catholicism in order to put them to death as a result.

I gave a talk on this over 25 years ago and had to research it at the time to confirm and clarify these facts.

Unfortunately, my memory is now faded on the details and my health too compromised to dig it up once again, but the executions in which Edith Stein was involved were occasioned by an explicit retaliation against the Church's opposition to Nazism; Jewish converts to Catholicism were sought out in monasteries and religious communities at the time and executed in defiance of the Pope and as a form of retribution.

Yes, Edith Stein WAS a true martyr for the Catholic faith.

Fr John Hunwicke said...

My recollection, perhaps flawed, was that initially the Nazis only picked up 'full' Jews. But after the Dutch Bishops circulated a Pastoral Letter condemning this action, the Nazis retaliated by arresting also the half-Jews, the converted Jews, etc. ...

Ave Crux said...

Perhaps that was it, Father. I just recall that it was in express retaliation against a public condemnation of the Nazis by the Catholic Church in some form (as you say, the Dutch Bishops) that they then exacted retribution by seeking out Jewish converts to Catholicism.

It seems virtually certain that those in cloistered orders would otherwise have been passed over if not for the fact that the Nazis - in a vicious act of hatred for the Church for denouncing them - expressly sought out those Jews who had converted to the Catholic Faith.

Thus, Edith Stein died as a direct consequence of an act of vengeance against the Catholic Church.

This, in some way, seems similar to The Holy Innocents who were declared martyrs for Christ when King Herod slew them in an attempt to assure the death of Christ in His infancy.

Thus, Edith Stein was a modern day "Holy Innocent" slain by the Nazis as a form of attack on the Church Herself.

Fr John Hunwicke said...

I'm not sure you are right in implying that they sought out only the 'converts' because these were Catholics . They also sought out the half-Jews and the Jews married to Gentiles, whether or not they were were Catholics. Their motive was clearly hatred towards Jews, even if they were motivated to do it by irritation at the Pastoral Letter.

I think we've dealt adequately with this matter!

Ave Crux said...

To address with greater clarity the point you've made about both Catholic converts and half Jews alike being executed following the Bishops' statement, none of the Holy Innocents were baptized... They were all full blooded Jews.

And yet the Church considers them martyrs because they died in connection with an attack on Christ.

Like the Holy Innocents, Jewish converts and half Jews alike where executed as a direct retaliation to the Church's condemnation of Nazism.

The cause-and-effect are clear regardless of the victims, just as it was with the Holy Innocents... who also were killed just for being Jewish!!

Edith Stein was a martyr of the Church.

Randolph Crane said...

@Ave Crux:

I know you mean well, but you are wrong. The Holy Innocents did not die for being Jewish. They happened to be Jewish, as our God took flesh from a Jewish woman (and Herod, of course, would kill the Jewish babies for that cause). The Church says about the innocent children that they were martyrs of Christ, they have been baptized by their own blood (baptismum sanguinis). They became Christians the moment they died. Also, as is with every child that is being baptized, there was pre-supposed Faith in them, effectively making them Christians "ex voto" even before being killed (as was their baptism "ex voto", since they couldn't yet utter the wish for baptism themselves).

Unknown said...

Sorry to be coming to this a bit late. Regarding her martyrdom, it can be both a martyrdom for being Jewish and Catholic. While Paul and Chrysostom may be correct in rejecting Judaicization (if that is right spelling of the appropriate word) of gentiles grafted onto the stalk of Jesse, I don't know of any precept demanding that the Jews stop being Jews upon conversion, and indeed I wonder how this would be possible.

When I think of people who disdain the Mosaic Covenant (the sort of person who believe their observances and ours were mere works-righteousness) and the Jews for adhering to the Mosaic Covenant, I think of Papa Ratzinger's beloved teaching: What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful. The Law of God given to Moses was part of a plan of salvation awaiting completion, perhaps, but not Evil. Fulfilled in our Saviour, certainly, but never Evil.

Very importantly, I think much of the deformation of the liturgy was effected by expunging it of its Hebraic elements and types. If the types are removed, one cannot see the anti-types in the Old Testament, and we are deprived of a means of understanding our Faith and a means of protecting ourselves of innovative abuses of our Faith and worship. In trying to adequate our liturgy to that of the Calvinists and Lutherans - so as not to be a stumbling block as they say, we have both reaped the harvest of their foundational anti-Semitism and acceded the falsification-by-obliteration of our own past as kohal/ecclessia (as pointed out above), a falsification of which Orwell admonished us, which admonition you have rightly cited recently.

In the World to Come, may God forbear we be remembered as damned for damning our memories of our forebears.

Amanda Achtman said...

In the essay linked below, I first sketch martyrdom in Jewish tradition, followed by an overview of martyrdom within the Catholic faith. As a result of this exploration, I propose there are at least three ways to understand the martyrdom of Edith Stein, engaging: the ordinary significance of a Catholic martyr; the special significance of the martyrdom of a Jewish convert to Christianity; and thirdly, the need for empathy toward Jewish self-understanding insofar as the occasion for this need can deepen and nurture the extent to which Edith Stein is a personal exemplar for Catholics.

This analysis reveals why Stein cannot be considered a Jewish martyr according to any religiously serious Jewish self-understanding. She is, however, a Catholic martyr who was Jewish and this fact of her existence can influence and enrich her witness to Catholics.


Amanda Achtman said...

It is amazing that the Vatican website only has John Paul II's beatification address available in Italian and German. Here's the crucial part:

In the beatification speech, JPII said:

Im Vernichtungslager ist sie als Tochter Israels ”zur Verherrlichung des heiligsten Namens (Gottes)“ und zugleich als Schwester Teresia Benedicta vom Kreuz - als vom Kreuz Gesegnete - gestorben.

In the extermination camp, she died as the daughter of Israel "for the glorification of the Most Holy Name (God)" and at the same time as Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross - as Blessed of the Cross.

That is, John Paul II used the German translation of the Jewish term for martyrdom which literally translated means to die sanctifying God's name.

It is noteworthy, also, that in the canonization address, JPII said, "Dear brothers and sisters! Because she was Jewish, Edith Stein was taken with her sister Rosa and many other Catholic Jews from the Netherlands to the concentration camp in Auschwitz, where she died with them in the gas chambers."