Speak of strange and unexpected fulfillment of prophetic pronouncements. Edith Stein wrote that “what did not lie in [her] plan lay in God’s plan.” Years later as a contemplative nun living in a cloister in Cologne Germany she helped her Jewish sister Rosa prepare to follow her into the Catholic Church by receiving the sacrament of Baptism just as Edith did back on the first day of the year 1922.
Rosa came to her in the monastery parlor to receive instructions in the faith from her younger sister Edith (or as she was known then, from Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross). Rosa was a layperson. She would be baptized somewhere else in Cologne not in the Carmelite monastery, and in a private ceremony so as not to attract great attention and thereby display notoriety that could disturb their family members back home in Breslau. But contrary to all expectations Sister Teresa Benedicta, the cloistered nun, was able to attend the Christmas Eve baptismal ceremony in the chapel of Cologne’s St. Elizabeth Hospital. Close to the ceremony day she took a fall in the monastery and had to be taken to the same hospital for treatment for her broken hand and foot. Arrangements were made for her to stay overnight and be present when Rosa was given the sacrament of admittance to the Church and acceptance by Christ into his flock of believers.
Teresa Benedicta later wrote a beautiful poem in remembrance of the night of Rosa’s baptism. A portion of this poem is quoted here as we reflect on our own baptisms, preparing to again welcome the infant Jesus into the mangers of our hearts this Christmas:
My heart has become Your manger,
But not for long!
Maria, Your mother and also mine
Has given me her name.
At midnight she will place her newborn child
Into my heart.
Ah, no one’s heart can fathom,
What You’ve in store for those who love You.
Now You are mine, and I won’t let You go.
Wherever my life’s road may lead,
You are with me.
Nothing can ever part me from Your love.
Further events in their lives brought Rosa and her sister back together again while Sister Teresa Benedicta was in exile in a monastery in the Netherlands. Nazi persecution of the Jews had driven them from their native Germany and landed them in the nearby Netherlands. They were both deported from the Netherlands to Auschwitz by Nazi forces in the summer of 1942.
A sure sign of how Rosa accepted the will of God for them through the Fascist persecution has come down to us, and it takes the form of a P.S. that Rosa wrote at the end of her sister Teresa Benedicta’s hurried note from a concentration camp back home to Echt. Not only was it significant because it was the last trace we have of Rosa Stein. It also importantly displays sentiments that show us she assimilated into her own life the spiritual wisdom in her sister’s pregnant sentence prizing the “plan of God.” She let that plan win out, and was therefore able to give these consoling words to her acquaintances in her place of refuge in Echt, still on her way to her death alongside Teresa Benedicta in the gas chamber of Auschwitz/Birkenau.
Sincere greetings to all. We are very sorry not to have seen Mother Otilia any more. In this brief time we have experienced a great deal: one lives together with the others and everywhere people help each other. We have slept very little, but have had a lot of good air and much traveling. Many greetings to Sophie [Meuwissen], Maria [Delsing] too, and to everyone. They were upset; we not at all.
In Corde Jesu we all find ourselves in gratitude.