The police van drove our Saint Edith and her sister, Rosa, from the Carmel of Echt to the police headquarters in Roermond, first station on their way of the cross. Late the same day, they were transported to the Amersfoort transit camp.
That Sunday, August 2nd, the Nazis raffled about three hundred Hebrew Catholics throughout Holland, bringing them to Amersfoort, from the north and the south of the country. The transport from Roermond in the south was composed of two police vans, one packed with thirteen, the other with seventeen persons. The one in which our Edith travelled, was taking, apart from Rosa, six other female religious, all Hebrew Catholics. These included Sister Judith Mendez da Costa, a Dominican nun, and two Trappistines, sisters germain, from the remarkable family, Löb; of their three brothers, arrested with them, two were Trappists priests and one, a lay brother of the same Order. The wife and children of the writer Herman de Man travelled in the same transport.
The journey from Roermond to Amersfoort was usually a matter of three to four hours; but, on this occasion, the driver lost his way on account of the blackout and brought the prisoners to Amersfoort only at three o’clock the next morning, Monday August 3rd.
“And Jesus said to them: ‘The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized.’” Mark 10:39
Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be
(Any suitable prayer may be said here)
Saint Edith, Pray For Us!
Saint Edith Stein, Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, offered herself as a victim of expiation and died in Auschwitz – Birkenau. This novena follows her last nine days of life as she prepares to die for her Jewish brothers and sisters and for all mankind. She gave her life during one of the darkest periods of human history – when genocide became industrialised. Ask St Edith to protect us at this time of instability.
Saint Edith pray for us at this dangerous time…
The novena was composed by Elias Friedman, O.C.D., founder of the Association of Hebrew Catholics (AHC), who recommends it to all devotees of Saint Edith. The most suitable time to observe it would be from August 1 to August 9, in annual remembrance of the days spent by our saintly martyr in the death train, accompanied by her sister, Rosa, and many other Hebrew Catholics, on the way to the gas chambers of Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Novena – Day 1, Sat. Aug. 1, 1942
Novena to Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein)
Day 1 – Saturday, August 1st, 1942
Carmel of Echt, Holland
It was the last day of freedom for Saint Edith and her sister, Rosa. By then Saint Edith had reached a clear perception of the eschatological nature of the crisis affecting the Jews of Germany and the role she was called upon to play in the drama, as a victim of expiation for her people and for mankind.
As far back as March 26th, 1939, Edith had addressed a petition to her Prioress on a used postcard (for motives of monastic poverty) asking permission to offer herself to Jesus in expiation, that the sway of Antichrist be broken and peace ensue.
“I am asking this, today, because it is already the twelfth hour. I know I am nothing, but Jesus wills it and He will call many more to the same sacrifice in these days.”
The manuscript of her book, Science of the Cross, lay on her table; it would never be finished, because the next day, the Gestapo would come to drag her away from the convent. What we read therein is proof of the clarity and courage with which she grasped the call to expiation, key to her earthly destiny.
Around her, the atmosphere was growing heavy with fear and foreboding. A few days earlier (July 28th), her brother, Paul, his wife Eva and their daughter, were sent off to the Theresienstadt Camp. Hede Spiegel, her god-daughter, depressed and distraught, came to the grille of the convent, to pour out her anxieties for the future, anxieties which were shared by Saint Edith’s fellow-Nuns in the Carmel of Echt, where Edith had been sent by her superiors to take refuge from the persecution of the Jews raging in Germany. Edith, in contrast, maintained a rock-like composure and faith in God, which impressed all those in contact with her. The Church has since defined her virtue as heroic.
“They were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, Jesus leading the way; the disciples were filled with foreboding, while those following behind were afraid. He took the Twelve aside and began to tell them what was to happen to him. ‘We are now going to Jerusalem,’ he said, ‘and the Son of Man will be given up to the Chief Priests and the doctors of the Law. They will condemn him to death and hand him over to the foreign power. He will be mocked and spat upon, flogged and killed.’” Mark 10: 32-34
Flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. Matthew 16.17
The Church’s foundation is not only Christ but the knowledge of Christ. The tragedy today is that many of us in the Church lack such foundation. We do not know Him. To us He is a theoretical or doctrinal Christ, not a revealed Christ. But theory will not prevail against hell, which is what Jesus declares his church is to do. Have we perhaps forgotten what we are for? Visiting Western homes I have sometimes seen a beautiful porcelain plate, not to put to use on the table, but wired and hung up to the wall as a treasured ornament. Many, it seems to me, think of the Church like that, as something to be admired for the perfection of its form. But no, God’s Church is for use, not decoration. An appearance of life may seem to suffice when conditions are favourable, but when the gates of hell come out against us, we know well enough, that what we each need above all is a God-given vision of His son. It is first-hand knowledge that counts in the hour of testing
Watchman Nee, A Table in the Wilderness, September 5th
The Coronation of the Virgin with Adoring Saints c1370-1 attributed to Jacob di Cione, National Gallery London
Part of the main tier of the high altarpiece of San Pier Maggiore in Florence. The altarpiece was probably designed by Niccolo di Pietro Gerini, a Florentine artist with whom Jacopo di Cione often collaborated.
The Lord himself has told us in what the perfection of charity consists: ‘Greater love has no man, than to give his life for his friends’. But how can one attain to that level of love?
Well, now we know where its perfection lies, let us see where it begins. St John says if a man is rich, and sees his brother in need and hardens his heart, the love of God is not in him. That is where charity begins. If you can’t as yet lay down your life for your brother, at least give him some of your goods – not to show off but from overflowing mercy.
He, your brother, was redeemed as you were by the blood of Christ: he is hungry, in need, perhaps pressed by a creditor and you have plenty of this world’s goods. You say ‘That’s no affair of mine. Am I expected to rescue him from distress with my money?’
If that is your attitude, your heart is empty of God’s love, you are not a child of God.
Your glory in being a Christian – yes, that is what you are called but not what your deeds answer to. If you don’t live like a Christian, what is the point of being called one?
The Heart at Rest – Daily Readings with Saint Augustine – edited by Dame Maura See OSB
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
A couple of nights ago there was the most terrible fire in a twenty-three storey tower block in London called Grenfell Tower. The fire was started by an electrical fault in someone’s fridge and should have been contained within a few flats but it was a hot night and windows were open so flames leapt onto cladding that had recently been installed on the outside of the block. The flames leapt up the side of the building as if a flame thrower was being used and, within 15 minutes, much of the building had been engulfed. The residents at the top of the tower block had no chance of escape because that sort of fire was not supposed to happen and there was no way to rescue them. The whole country is still in shock.
Donations started to flood in and community leaders asked for help during the next day. I don’t live in London but I live nearby and I was able to get to the community centre within an hour to help sort the donations of food and clothes. Everyone was still in shock but I knew that anger would soon follow. The residents in the block were mostly the poorest of the poor and questions were being asked how such a tragedy could occur in a first world country.
On my way home I stood in front of the incinerated block. The experience was nothing like seeing it on the news or in a newspaper. It was an eerie tomb. The police were already saying that the severity of the fire was such that they may not even find remains for identification. The tower block had become a living crematorium. I was shaken to my core. On my way home I stopped in a catholic church near the railway station and went to see Jesus. I was angry and asked him over and over again – “Where were you? Where were you?” I have often asked for the gift to be able to pray ‘in the mind of God’ so that my prayers are always in His will but I couldn’t find Him at all that night.
The next morning it was announced that the cladding used in the refurbishment of the building was illegal in the US for buildings over about three or four stories because the cladding core was made from inflammable polyethylene. The block cost about 10 million pounds (just under 13 million dollars) to refurbish and it would have cost another 5000 pounds (about 6400 dollars) to buy the more fire resistant panels. I realised that I could have paid that from my savings and saved all those lives.
Suddenly I became very angry – so angry that I wanted to punch someone. I do not know anyone involved and I am not personally affected by the tragedy but my anger was overwhelming. Then I realised that this was God’s anger. He was telling me that He was not distant from what was happening but that His anger was as incandescent as had been the fire.
I went to Mass still looking for answers but I was overcome with sorrow. Weeping I left Mass having found no comfort. Then Jesus spoke to me – “You asked me where I was during that fire? I was there with each and every victim. I experienced the fear, the panic, the pain; I was with every little child calling for Superman to come and rescue his family and with every parent crading their child as the smoke got thicker and the flames got nearer. I experienced everything just as I experience the hunger of the famine victim and the panic and fear of the war refugee. I wasn’t just crucified once. You asked to pray in the mind of God? Well this is what it’s like – so be careful what you ask for.”
I’m not sure I find this message comforting because the emotion is still too raw but I have my explanation. This was not an act of God but an act of man at his most venal. God is angrier than all of us put together and Jesus is bearing the pain.
The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire.His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters.In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance. Revelation 1: 14-16
In the book of Revelation God shows us an aspect of His Son not shown to us in the gospels. In the gospels we see Him as Saviour, in Revelation we see Him as King. The one displays His love, the other His majesty. In the upper room Jesus girds Himself about His waist for service: at Patmos He is discovered girt about the breasts for war. In the gospels His mild eyes melt Peter; in Revelation they are as a flame of fire. There His voice is gentle, calling His own sheep by name, and gracious words proceed out of His mouth; here His voice is terrible as the sound of many waters, and from His mouth a sharp two-edged sword strikes death to His foes. It is not enough that we know Jesus as Lamb of God and Saviour of the world; we must also know Him as God’s King, God’s Judge. When we see Him as Saviour we exclaim “How lovable!” and lean on his bosom. When we see Him as Monarch we cry “How terrible!” and fall prostrate at His feet.
Watchman Nee, A Table in the Wilderness, June 9th
Jesus pours out His love on us but He also fights our corner.
Ugolino di Nerio, Panel from the Santa Croce Altarpiece, c1324-5, National Gallery London
This panel comes from an altarpiece painted for the high altar of the Franciscan church of Santa Croce in Florence. The altarpiece was dismantled in the 16th century but its original appearance was recorded in an 18th century drawing. Many of the panels are now lost.
Only deep can answer deep. Nothing that is merely of the shallows can respond to the depths, and only what goes deep in us can meet the deep needs of others. If we want to help those who are passing through floods, we must have been through floods ourselves. Have we a history of God’s secret dealings, or does what men see represent all we have got? Many of us are shallow. We only seem to grow outwardly, with nothing in reserve. If we choose to live on the surface of things, we may be of some help to folk in need, but the happiness we bring them will pass. We shall not have been really able to meet them where they are. Paul had a secret he kept for fourteen long years, and what help has its eventual disclosure brought! When we have found God speaking to us in the depths, then it is we possess treasures of darkness to share with others in their hour of trial
Watchman Nee – A Table in the Wilderness, June 8th.