Sunday, August 01, 2010


Chastity is the moral virtue by which, with the help of God’s grace attained by prayer and the Sacraments, human beings are enabled to refrain from all misuse of their sexual faculties. Chastity is called the angelic virtue, and the Sixth Commandment forbids sins against Chastity.

“Chastity means the successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus the inner unity of man in his bodily and spiritual being. Sexuality, in which man’s belonging to the bodily and biological world is expressed, becomes personal and truly human when it is integrated into the relationship of one person to another, in the complete and lifelong mutual gift of a man and a woman. The virtue of chastity therefore involves the integrity of the person and integrality of the gift.” (C.C.C. 2337)

"All the baptized are called to chastity.  The Christian has 'put on Christ,'  the model for all chastity.  All Christ's faithful are called to lead a chaste life in keeping with their particular states in life." (C.C.C. 2348)


Feast Day: August 9
Patroness of Europe and Martyrs

St. Teresa, Blessed of the Cross, was born in 1891 in Breslau to a Jewish family and named Edith Stein.  She died in a gas chamber in Auschwitz on August 9, 1942 as a Carmelite of Jewish ancestry.

She is a remarkable saint for today's Catholics of all ages.  She lived a chaste life as a young woman who was one of the first German women to enter a university.  She enjoyed her fellow students, served as a nurse in Austria during World War I, joined world famous philosopher Edmund Husserl as his teaching assistant, and then earned her Doctorate in Philosophy as a Summa cum Laude.

Her conversion story from a Jewish girl, to a teenaged atheist, to a Catholic demonstrated Edith's interior search for Love.  When  in 1921 she happened to read the autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila while visiting with a Christian friend, she began her mission to find that Love that St. Teresa had described.  Finishing the book overnite, she bought a Catholic catechism the next morning, attended her first Mass, and soon asked to be baptized.  (1)

She taught at a Dominican school and her students recalled the "little kindnesses she showed to homesick and lonesome girls." (2)  During that time she took personal vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience  and sought to join the Order of Reformed Carmelites whose foundress was  St. Teresa of Avila.  Her spiritual advisors advised her to wait.  They realized that her gifts as a philosopher were very needed in the world.  One personal factor was her own Mother's oppostion to Edith's conversion to Catholicism.  So Edith lectured at the University of Munster, translated works of Thomas Aquinas and John Cardinal Newman.  "She successfully combined scholarship and faith in her work and her teaching, seeking to be a 'tool of the Lord' in everything she taught. 'If anyone comes to me, I want to lead them to Him.' " (3)

By 1933 the climate in Hitler's Germany presented a setback.  She lost her position because of the anti-Semitic laws.  Now it was time to enter the Carmelite convent in Cologne. She was 43 years old and took the name of Teresa Benedicta of the Cross.  The "Cross" was a recognition of the power of St. John of the Cross in her spiritual life, as well as St. Teresa of Avila.  She was allowed to continue with her intellectual interests and her writings.  She wrote pamphlets and booklets on Catholic subjects and continued her correspondence with many friends and former pupils.

In 1938 Sister traveled to Holland to join a Carmelite Convent away from the persecution of Jews in Germany.  "She prayed and suffered that God would comfort the Jewish people in their sufferings and lead them to the Catholic Church."    She wrote to he new prioress, "Dear Mother, I beg you, give me permission to offer myself to the Heart of Jesus as a [sacrifice] of atonement for the sake of true peace, that the Antichrist's sway may be broken."  (4)

Shortly after that in 1940, Germany invaded the Netherlands.  Partly as  retribution for the Dutch Archbishop protesting the Nazi treatment of Jews, all Jewish members of Dutch orders were arrested and taken to concentration camps.  In 1942 Sister Benedicta and her own sister Rosa, now a Carmelite who had joined her in Holland, were apprehended by the German Gestapo.  They were taken in cattle cars to Auschwitz where they were killed.

Pope John Paul II beatified her in 1987 and canonized her in 1999.  His own words beautifully tell the heroic and virtuous life of this martyr.  "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." These were the words of Pope John Paul II when he beatified Edith Stein in Cologne on 1 May 1987. (5)


 "During the time immediately before and quite some time after my conversion I ... thought that leading a religious life meant giving up all earthly things and having one's mind fixed on divine things only. Gradually, however, I learnt that other things are expected of us in this world... I even believe that the deeper someone is drawn to God, the more he has to 'get beyond himself' in this sense, that is, go into the world and carry divine life into it." (6)

In 1938 she wrote: "I understood the cross as the destiny of God's people, which was beginning to be apparent at the time (1933). I felt that those who understood the Cross of Christ should take it upon themselves on everybody's behalf. Of course, I know better now what it means to be wedded to the Lord in the sign of the cross. However, one can never comprehend it, because it is a mystery."  (7)

Edith Stein's entry into the Carmelite Order was not escapism. "Those who join the Carmelite Order are not lost to their near and dear ones, but have been won for them, because it is our vocation to intercede to God for everyone." In particular, she interceded to God for her people: "I keep thinking of Queen Esther who was taken away from her people precisely because God wanted her to plead with the king on behalf of her nation. I am a very poor and powerless little Esther, but the King who has chosen me is infinitely great and merciful. This is great comfort." (31 October 1938)  (8)


Oh my God, fill my soul with holy joy, courage and strength to serve You.  Enkindle Your love in me and then walk with me along the next stretch of road before me.  I do not see very far ahead, but when I arrived where the horizon now closes down, a new prospect will open before me, and I shall meet it with peace.   (9)


Your body, you know, is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you since you received him from God. You are not your own property; you have been bought and paid for. That is why you should use your body for the glory of God. (1Corinthians 6:18-20)

For all that is in the world is the concupiscence of the flesh and the concupiscence of the eyes and the pride of life, which is not of the Father but is of the world. (1 St. John 2:16)

The sensual man perceiveth not these things that are of the Spirit of God. (1 Cor. 2:14)

1)  Modern Saints,  by Ann Ball.  1983, pg. 375
2)  op cit., pg.375
4) Modern Saints, pg.376
6) op cit.
7) op cit.
8) op cit.
9) Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives, Group 2-58