The Church Column with Father Michael Sellers

Father Michael Sellers
Father Michael Sellers

Most people are familiar with the patron saints of Britain and Ireland: St Andrew for Scotland, St David for Wales, St George for England, and St Patrick for Ireland.

We also have various men and women who have been named patron saints of Europe.

St Mary and Joseph Catholic Church, Pocklington.

St Mary and Joseph Catholic Church, Pocklington.

Last time I wrote about St Benedict and his inspiration in building a common Christian civilisation, especially through the monasteries.

This time I would like to mention a woman called Edith Stein.

She was the youngest of eleven children, her father died when she was two.

Born into a Jewish family in Germany, she lost her faith in God at an early age.

From a young age she was obviously a bright and inquisitive girl; she had a thirst for knowledge, a quest for truth which never left her.

She studied philosophy at university.

During the First World War she nursed those dying of typhus and amidst all the sufferings she saw people of faith who showed her how to find purpose in life.

She met Christians who helped her on a path of questioning which led her to find faith in Christ and be Baptised as a Catholic.

After a number of years she felt called to be a nun and entered a Carmelite monastery in Cologne.

As a sign of her new life she was given a new name; Edith Stein became St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross.

In the background to her life so far was the rise of the Nazis in Germany.

As they gained more power all people of Jewish parents were mistreated and came under threat of violence and death.

As we now know, millions were killed in gas chambers and Edith Stein was one of them.

Her monastery moved her to Holland when she was in great danger, but very soon after the Nazis invaded and all those of Jewish origin were rounded up.

She was taken to Auschwitz and was killed in August 1942.

Her life was lived during a time of great upheaval in Europe and the experience of many evil deeds done in the name of an ideology.

She seems a good patron saint to look to in our own times too.