Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Father Ryan Erlenbush, Sermon on St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross - The woman who defeated Hitler

Edith Stein, a German Jew who became a Carmelite nun and took the name Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, was born to eternal life this day in 1942 in the gas chambers of Auschwitz.
She had once told her confessor, "You don't know what it means to me to be a daughter of the chosen people - to belong to Christ, not only spiritually, but according to the flesh."
St. Teresa Benedicta: a faithful daughter of Abraham, a faithful daughter of the Church.

Father Ryan's Sunday Sermons: St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross - The woman who ...


Petrus Augustinus said...


I have read your sermon and I have to argue with you on one point. The Jews are not the chosen people of God anymore. Christians are. For a Catholic, Jews are the chosen people of the Old Testament.

The history of Jews in the Old Testament was one of betrayal and forgiveness. The Jews betrayed the trust of God (idolatry etc.), Moses prayed for forgiveness and God forgave. When God sent His only son as Messiah and the Jews didn't accept Him, God ended the Old Testament (symbolised by the tearing of the curtain in the Temple) and made a New Covenant through Christ with the people of Christ (Christians). Since then, Christians are the chosen people of God.

This is illustrated by our prayers after Holy Mass on the Feast of Christ the King, where we pray the following (among many other prayers):

"Turn Thine eyes of mercy towards the children of that race, once Thy chosen people: of old they called down upon themselves the Blood of the Savior; may It now descend upon them, a laver of redemption and of life."

Thus praying that the veil falls off the souls of Jews and they turn to Christ. It is the only way to be one of God's chosen people today: be Catholic.

Please don't take this as something against St. Teresa Benedicta, I honour her very much. Also, forgive me if I have misunterstood something but this is how it came down to me; as if you would think that Jews are still the chosen people of God.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@Petrus Augustinus,
It is a difficult question ... certainly, I did not mean to discuss the current status of the Jews in my homily. When I refer to them as the chosen people, I neither mean to affirm nor deny anything about their current status.

I will say this: In the second reading for this Sunday (from Romans 11), St. Paul seems to think that the redemption of the world rests with the conversion of the Jews ... can we really say that they are no longer a "chosen people"?
[Bl. John Paul II, at the Canonization Mass, quoted St. Teresa Benedicta saying that she belonged to "the chosen people" (referring to her Jewish roots)]

Moreover, St. Teresa Benedicta said that she was confident that her mother (who died a devout Jew and not a Catholic) would be received by Jesus on account of her "faith in God".

At the same time, we do know this: There is no salvation by any other name, than by that of Jesus. Faith in Christ is alone efficacious unto salvation.
And yet, "salvation is from the Jews" (John 4:22)

Anonymous said...

While recent theology might not be very clear, the old certainly was. What did the Council of Florence say about the Jews? It didn't have such a rosy outlook. I don't know where that quote comes from St. Theresa, and I'm sure she had the right nuances in mind (invincible ignorance) but "faith in God" on its own doesn't cut it.

Salvation is from the Jews in that they prefigured the Church and prepared the way for the Incarnation. Jesus, Mary, Joseph and all the Apostles were Jews by birth. However, it doesn't seem that this carnal relation is of much importance today. Not that it is of no importance, but being baptized and Catholic is efficacious for salvation while performing "Jewish" (because the true religion of the OT has been fulfilled and continued in the Church, present day synagogue Judaism is a false religion and not the same thing as OT Judaism) rituals and being of that bloodline is not.


Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

While it is certainly true that the Jewish sacraments (n.b. St. Thomas [and the whole tradition] does call the rituals "sacraments") are not (and never were) efficacious unto salvation ex opere operato, still I am not sure that we should state "It doesn't seem that this carnal relation is of much importance today." (as you have said)

St. Teresa Benedicta (n.b. there is no "h" in Teresa Benedicta) is quite emphatic -- "You don't know what it means to me to be a daughter of the chosen people." Also, Bl. John Paul II quoted this in his homily at her Canonization Mass.
It seems that it was very important and extremely significant to both St. Teresa Benedicta and to Bl. John Paul II.

[and again, "chosen people" is used in reference to the Jews, and it does not seem to be merely a reference to the past]

I am not saying that the old covenant saves (in fact, it does not), I am not saying that the Jewish sacraments contain grace (in fact, they do not), I am not saying that a blood line guarantees salvation (again, it does not) ... I AM SAYING that St. Teresa Benedicta considered the Jews to still be the "people of God" and the "chosen people", and that Bl. John Paul II not only did not discourage this, but endorsed it!

Take a look at her poetry ... you will see how strong a sense she has of the importance of this "carnal relation".

Anonymous said...

If "Faith in Christ is alone efficacious unto salvation" why bother being Catholic? Or anything? Of what use are the Sacraments?


Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Baptism is the "Sacrament of Faith" ... it is through baptism that infants are given the three theological virtues: Faith, Hope and Love.

Confirmation is the confirming of our faith and the growing to adulthood in the faith. Moreover it strengthens us to proclaim the faith.

The Eucharist is the "mystery of faith".

Etc. etc. etc.

Hence, when we say that Faith alone saves, we do not deny the sacraments -- just as we do not deny Hope and Charity.
Could anyone think that when I say "Faith in Christ is alone efficacious unto salvation", I mean to exclude the grace of Christ? Of course not.

Rather, what I am saying is that it is only through having faith in Christ, which means believing all that he taught us (which includes the Catholic Church and the sacraments), only through this faith can anyone be saved.

Hope this clarifies things. +

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Father! Now I understand!!


Anonymous said...

True, St. Thomas did refer to them as sacraments understood as you have stated and I am certain that you do not hold the contrary.

All I'm wondering is that, considering what has been taught in the past, what is *really* important these days is to be part of the Church (the fulfillment of what the OT People of Israel prefigured). It is not that the Jews as the "chosen people" today lacks all significance, on the contrary, I do think that is is significant. However, along with St. Paul it would seem that we are no longer Jews or Greeks but one in the Lord through baptism (if we are baptized, of course).

I can certainly see why St. Teresa Benedicta found it personally significant to be of the Jewish people and also a Catholic. I would suppose it would be akin to her in what St. Paul speaks about the grafts of the olive tree.