In 1933 as Hitler was coming to power, she joined the Carmelites and made final vows in 1938. In order to protect her from the Nazis who were arresting all Jews, even converts like herself, she was sent to Holland where Jewish Christians were somewhat protected until the bishops spoke out against the persecution of the Jews. To retaliate, the Nazis arrested all Jewish-Christians including St. Teresa and her sister Rosa. She was sent to Auschwitz in 1942 and died in the gas chambers there. In 1999, she was named co-patron of Europe along with Bridget of Sweden and Catherine of Siena.
What an adventurous faith life! From orthodox Jew to atheist to Roman Catholic nun to martyr’s death to patron of Europe! There is much to admire in someone who continues to search for her truth no matter where it took her—even to death in a gas chamber.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus is again exploring with His disciples their responsibility to the State. Rather than risk a run-in with civil authorities until His time for that final encounter had arrived, Jesus sent Peter off to fish for the tax that was due and indeed Peter found twice what was owed in the mouth of the first fish that was caught. In fact, Jesus avoided negative encounters with civil authorities, even to the end when Pilate said the famous words: “I am innocent of this man’s blood. It is your concern.” And then, Pilate buckled under to the pressure of the religious authorities who most feared the message of Jesus and handed Him over to be scourged and ultimately crucified.
St. Teresa Benedicta and Pilate stand in stark contrast to one another. She stood with the truth as she came to know it; he refused to use the authority he had and succumbed to the political pressure that resulted in the horrid death of Jesus.
Truth in our lives: Are we running to it or away from it? Are we settling for sound bytes when living in truth demands becoming more informed despite the complexity of the issues of today? The upcoming election presents a call to prepare ourselves responsibly for casting informed votes based on reading, reflecting, prayer, and reasoned input wrapped with the values that propelled Jesus and His daughter, St. Benedicta of the Cross.
There’s still time. Let’s get to it!
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