On my journey back to the Church many years ago, I developed a number of new Christian friends, some Catholic and some Protestant. While I learned a great deal from my non-Catholic friends about the Bible, I felt they were missing something very beautiful by not having the Communion of Saints.
I can’t imagine my life without the connection I have with my favorite saints, especially St. Teresa of Avila, after whom I was named, and St. Catherine of Siena. Just recently, when I least expected it, I was given an intense and moving reminder of the importance of the saints in our lives.
I was doing my usual prep work for my talk show. Part of the prep was for an interview on a new book about Edith Stein, also known as St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. The book, “Edith Stein and Companions: On the Way to Auschwitz” (Ignatius Press, $17.95), by Father Paul Hamans, tells the chilling story of how St. Teresa Benedicta, along with hundreds of other Catholic Jews, were arrested in Holland by Nazis and soon killed at either Auschwitz or another concentration camp.
I was aware of Stein and her connection to St. Teresa of Avila. It was St. Teresa’s autobiography that led Stein to convert to Catholicism. But I wasn’t expecting to be so affected by this book. I had no idea that in October 2006 Pope Benedict XVI blessed a special statue of St. Teresa Benedicta.
“The marble figure stands next to that of St. Teresa of Jesus and shows the saint holding a cross and a Torah roll. Rabbis were also present at the blessing of the statue,” Father Hamans writes.
Many people may not be aware that St. Teresa of Avila had a Jewish grandmother. Thinking of these two incredible and extremely brilliant women, their connection to our Jewish roots, and picturing this statue — well, the images brought me to tears, and long after I finished my show preparation I could not get Edith Stein out of my mind or heart.
This saint reached out to me again the next morning. I was doing my daily Scripture meditations in the Magnificat only to find the reflection was from St. Teresa Benedicta. Some might call it a coincidence. I like to call it a “Godcidence.” After all, what are the chances? With the thousands and thousands of saints we have in the Church, why St. Teresa Benedicta, when she was so much on my mind and in my heart? I thought, well maybe it’s her feast day. But her feast day wasn’t until Aug. 9, and this occurred July 29. If that weren’t enough to give me chills, the reflection focused on the relationship between a woman and Christ, specifically in the Eucharist. The Eucharist, of course, is the source and summit of the Catholic faith. It’s also what kept me Catholic.
“Whoever seeks to consult with the Eucharistic God in all her concerns,” St. Teresa Benedicta wrote, “whoever lets herself be purified by the sanctifying power coming from the sacrifice at the altar, offering herself to the Lord in this sacrifice, whoever receives the Lord in her soul’s innermost depth in Holy Communion cannot but be drawn ever more deeply and powerfully into the flow of divine life, incorporated into the Mystical body of Christ, her heart converted to the likeness of the divine heart.”
Whether they walked among us physically 60 plus years ago or 600 years ago, the saints are still very much alive today. Even in our busy, noisy world they reach out to us and remind us that they are very aware of the needs of God’s people, still slugging it out day after day here on earth in the Church militant. St. Teresa Benedicta and all you holy men and women, thank you and continue to pray for us.
Teresa Tomeo is the host of Catholic Connection, produced by Ave Maria Radio and heard daily on EWTN Global Catholic Radio and Sirius Channel 160.