A Litany of Intercessions for Peace and Reconciliation: Based on the Life of St. Edith Stein

Article excerpt

"It was the season of darkness . . . it was the winter of despair." Such were the times of St. Edith Stein. When she died in 1942, the world seemed morally and spiritually insane. Yet her life during that time was one of profound prayer for all those caught up in that madness. Not only is it sad to say our world has learned little from the lessons of World War II, we still teeter on the edge of that same despair and darkness. Yet we as Christians are called to be a people of hope. Our hope helps us to find meaning in every here and now situation as well as helps us to realize that tomorrow is another day. Because we are called to be people of hope, St. Edith can be our model as well as our prayer companion for a world we are called to embrace.

She herself wrote of that calling, "It is our vocation to stand before God for all." Even though she wrote it originally about the Carmelite vocation, it applies to all who pray. Edith also lived a life that continues to mirror the lives of so many people in our hurting world. Because she did, her life can become the basis for our own gift of prayer for others.

For those who have not been introduced to her life, a rudimentary biography is in order. Born into a Jewish family on Oct. 12,1891, she was the last of 11 children, of which seven survived. Her father died suddenly before she was two. At 14 she "stopped praying" as she put it. Even though she was brilliant at school, she dropped out and stayed with an older sister for some months. She later finished high school and went to college. She began her studies in psychology but switched to philosophy and later earned a doctorate with highest honors. Her studies were interrupted during World War I. At this point she volunteered as a nurse for the Red Cross and served in a military hospital. Later, when she applied to be a university lecturer, she was refused because she was a woman. During this time, she also struggled spiritually in her search for truth.

In 1921 she discovered that truth while reading the autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila. Baptized on January 1,1922, she wanted to enter Carmel almost immediately. However, her spiritual advisor advised her to continue her work and, as a result, she became a highly sought-out speaker as well as a noted author. She also refrained from entering the convent because of her mother's painful response to her conversion.

When Hitler's laws prohibited Jews from teaching, Edith felt free to join the Carmelites in 1933. However, when the danger to her other sisters increased, Edith was taken from Cologne, Germany, to Echt, Holland, in 1938. On July 26,1942, the Dutch bishops issued a pastoral letter "condemning the anti-Semitic measures of the German occupation forces." (Edith, Stein [Teresa Benedicta of the Cross], St., by John Sullivan, OCD, "New Catholic Encyclopedia," 2nd Edition, vol. 13, p. 506) In retaliation, the Nazis arrested a large number of Jewish Christians, including Edith and her sister Rosa. They left their convent on August 2 and were taken to Auschwitz where they died on August 9. Edith was canonized in 1998.

If you would like to pursue the idea of Edith as a prayer companion, consider praying on a regular basis this litany based on her life.

Part 1

Edith was born on the Jewish observance of Yom Kippur. Often called the Day of Atonement, this holy day is the time set aside for the community's acknowledgement of its need for forgiveness and reconciliation. Edith wrote, "There is no other way to free oneself from sin but to become reconciled with God."

For those who refuse the offer of reconciliation,

St. Edith, pray for us. /Lord, have mercy.

For those whose apology means nothing,

St. Edith, pray for us. /Lord, have mercy.

For confessors in their ministry of reconciliation,

St. Edith, pray for us./Lord, have mercy.

For those involved in mediation,

St. Edith, pray for us. …