Edith Stein was born on October 12, 1891 , Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of Atonement in
Breslau Germany now Wroclaw Poland. She was born into an Orthodox Jewish family and was
the youngest of 11 children. When she was not yet 2 years of age, her father suddenly
died. This left Edith's mother to raise the seven remaining children since 4 had died in
childhood and manage the family business. She considered her mother an example of the
woman in Proverbs 31, who rises early to care for her family and trade in the marketplace.
At around the age of 13 she no longer practiced her Jewish faith and became an atheist
although she admired her mother's attitude of total openness towards God.
By studying philosophy Edith came to Christianity. She was one of the first women to be
admitted to university studies in Germany. She was an outstanding student. After leaving
the University of Breslau, she went to the University of Góttingin to study with Edmund
Husserl, the founder of phenomenology. She became interested in his philosophy and when he
moved to the University of Frieburg he invited Edith to join him there as his assistant.
She then received her doctorate in leading philosophers.
She went to visit one of her friends at their fruit farm. However her friend Hedwig
Conrad-Martius and her husband had to go away. Her husband took her to the bookcase before
their departure and told her to take her pick. Edith picked at random and took out a large
book titled, The Life of St. Teresa of Avila, written by herself. She began reading the
book and did not stop until she reached the end. As she closed the book she said, "That is
the truth." In the morning, Edith went into town to buy two things, a Catholic catechism
and a missal. She knew everything after she had studied them. She went into a Catholic
Church, the Parish Church at Bergzabem, to hear Mass for the first time. After the Mass
she went to the priest and asked him to baptize her. The priest told her that she needed
to be prepared to be received into the Church. He asked, "How long have you been receiving
instruction and who has been giving it?" The only thing Edith could say was, "Please, your
Reverence, test my knowledge." Edith did not fail in her answers and the Priest agreed to
baptize her. Edith asked her friend Hedwig Conrad-Martius to be her sponsor. The Baptism
was on New Years Day, January 1, 1922. She chose the name Teresa as a thanksgiving.
She then gave up her assistantship with Husserl and left to teach at a Dominican girls'
school in Speyer. While she was there she translated St. Thomas Aquinas' On Truth and
became familiar with Roman Catholic philosophy. In 1932, she left and became a lecturer at
the Institute for Pedagogy at Munster but had to resign in 1933 because of anti-Semitism,
the discrimination and persecution of Jews. In 1934 she became a Carmelite at the convent
of Cologne. She took the name Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. There she completed her first