The Stella Maris Carmelite Monastery and the Church stand at the Mount Carmel in Haifa. The monastery serves as a centre of Carmelite spirituality throughout the world. The symbol of the Order is mounted right above the entrance door of the Stella Maris church and shows a cross surrounded by the three stars of David – a combination of the Christian and Jewish signs.
Carmelites trace their roots and their name to Mount Carmel in the Holy Land. There, in the 13th century, a group of men gathered together to live a simple life of prayer, devotion and spirituality. They dedicated their first chapel to the Virgin Mary, and so they called themselves the Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel. This was the originating act of the Order, who took the name “Order of the Brothers of Our Lady of Mount Carmel”.
In the 16th century the Carmelite Order was reformed and the Discalced (“Barefooted”) Carmelite order was established. This reform of the Carmelite Order was initiated by two Spaniards, both of the Jewish origin, Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross.
SYMBOL OF THE CARMELITE ORDER
The beautiful statue of the Virgin Mary the Protector of the sailors placed at the center of the main altar of the Stella Maris Church (“Stella Maris” means “The Star of the Seas”), is venerated by the local Christians, many of whom connect their lives to the Haifa Port and the seas.
Underneath the altar, one can find Elijah’s cave where according to the Old Testament, the Prophet was hiding for some time from the rage of the Israel King Ahab and his Phoenician wife Jezebel who instituted the worship of the pagan gods Baal and Asherah on a national scale, triggering the rage of the Prophet who called the Israelites to restore their faith in God.
On the pilaster strips of the Basilica there are four embossments dedicated to four Catholic Carmelite Saints, three of the Jewish origin and one Catholic Arab - St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, St. Edith Stein and St. Mariam Bouardy.
The life stories of all these people are breathtaking. But today I want to tell the story of only one of these saints - Edith Stein.
EDITH STEIN AMBOSSMENT
Edith Stein was a German Jewish girl from Breslau who studied philosophy and, at some point, decided to convert to Christianity. After her conversion she went straight to Breslau: "Mother," she said, "I am a Catholic." The two women cried.
EDITH STEIN AS A JEWISH GIRL AND AS SISTER TERESIA BENEDICTA A CRUS
Soon she joined the convent of the Carmelites. She took a new name of Sister Teresia Benedicta a Cruce. And then the II World War started… Synagogues were burnt, and the Jewish people were subjected to terror. The prioress of the Carmelite Convent in Cologne did her utmost to take Sister Teresia Benedicta a Cruce abroad. On New Year's Eve 1938 she was smuggled across the border into the Netherlands, to the Carmelite Convent in Echt. This is where she wrote her will on 9 June 1939: "Even now I accept the death that God has prepared for me in complete submission and with joy ..."
Soon the Netherlands were occupied by the Nazis. And Edith Stein betrayed by the Dutch informants. She was arrested by the Gestapo on 2 August 1942, while she was in the chapel with her sister Rosa. Her last words to be heard in Echt were addressed to Rosa: "Come, we are going for our people."
Together with many other Jewish Christians, the two women were taken to a transit camp in Amersfoort and then to Westerbork. On 7 August, early in the morning, 987 Jews were deported to Auschwitz. It was probably on 9 August that Edith Stein - the Sister Teresia Benedicta a Cruce, her sister Rose and many other of her people were gassed and their bodies burned…
…When Edith Stein was beatified on 1 May 1987, the Church honoured " an outstanding daughter of Israel and at the same time a daughter of the Carmelite Order”. Pope John Paul II said “as a Catholic, she remained faithful to the Jesus Christ and, as a Jew, to her people in loving faithfulness." In 1998, this Jewish woman was declared a Catholic Saint.