On August 9th, 1942, Edith Stein (St. Theresa Benedicta of the Cross) was gassed to death at Auschwitz along with perhaps a thousand others. This brilliant and holy woman, a Carmelite nun and convert from Judaism, was one of many Hebrew Catholics rounded up by the Nazis after the Dutch bishops protested the racist policies of Germany. Pope Pius XII had prepared a similar condemnation, but fearful that it would lead to an even larger loss of life in all areas under German control, he decided against issuing it.
I just completed this novena to St. Edith, recommended to me by Damien Fisher, and it’s powerful stuff. It follows the course of St. Edith’s journey in stark and moving detail, from her capture to her death
When we discovered the scope and scale of the Holocaust, civilization said “never again.” We didn’t reckon on those people who prowl the world outside of civilization, seeking to drag us all back into bloody barbarism. We should have known the proper response to genocide, but “never again” became, “well, maybe sometimes, as long as they’re just Christians or Africans.”
The life and death of St. Edith Stein is a witness to why that attitude must be cut from the human heart. Her novena is a prayer for our time, and as history shows us, it will, tragically, be a prayer for all times.