At the Carmel of Cologne Germany, home to the community Edith Stein joined in 1933, there is now a modern archive housing texts, studies, and memorabilia related to Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross.

Herr Thomas Schuld supervises the collection and welcomes persons who ask to use the services available.

Even before this archive was installed in a separate wing of the monastery (outside the enclosure and accessible to scholars) anyone who wanted to do research on the writings of her most famous nun sister would be permitted by the archivist-prioress Mother Amata Neyer (+2019) to examine the writings of Saint Edith.

Once, Mother Amata showed me a manuscript containing a poetic meditation “From a Pentecost Novena.” (Subsequent to that reading the 1992 ICS Publications Volume 4 of the Collected Works of Edith Stein included a translation of it by her great-niece Waltraut Stein.)

Some sketches by the Saint placed at the end of the stanza for each day of her novena (actually 7 in all) are worth reproducing here along with the fourth stanza of the poem that I found most gripping–both the thought/emotion of the stanza and the sketches demonstrate how sensitive a person Saint Edith was. That first reading in the old conventual archive left me thinking it conveyed real dark foreboding just as it was “a most moving” work of poetry.

Saint Teresa Benedicta gave the hand-written copy of the novena as a Pentecost gift to Mother Antonia Engelmann, her Prioresss in 1942, some three months before German agents in the Netherlands arrested her and her sister Rosa for deportation to Auschwitz. Forebodings and fears in her heart seemed only too normal during the distressing Nazi persecution of their victims. But she did not leave it at that level: she gave a festive copy of her novena meditation to express reliance on the abiding Spirit—the “victorious power” of the Trinity–who was helping her carry on and face the future.

And this year, almost 8 decades from her sharing that novena, the world needs divine strength to shoulder the affliction of COVID-19, the “Coronavirus” so threatening in our midst. Through the saint’s inspiration in the central stanza and drawings (reproduced from the 2004 Spanish Discalced Carmelite edition of the Obras Completas de Edith Stein, vol. V “Escritos Espirituales,” pp. 768-75) may we be able to pass on to the next phase of history in the knowledge the Spirit is with us, and be confident that God’s plan will turn out for all of us for the best.  The work of the Spirit, after all, has always aimed at renewal as “heaven becomes new, and new the earth.”