An Outstanding Daughter of Israel

Edith Stein
One good brought out of the senselessness and horror of war is that it provides the circumstances wherein many are called to exercise heroic virtue, often to the point of martyrdom. These extraordinary people give inspiration and hope in the midst of terrible evil. Today’s saint – Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, gassed at the Auschwitz concentration camp – was described as “a witness to God’s presence in a world where God is absent.” 

She was born Edith Stein into a large Jewish family, but as a young adult ceased to practice her religion. A highly intelligent woman, she devoted herself to the study of philosophy under the German phenomenologist Edmund Husserl, and after earning her doctorate became his teaching assistant. During this time her studies were interrupted by World War I and her service as a nurse in an Austrian field hospital, where she saw much suffering and death. Her academic and scholarly circle of friends included many Christians and she gradually was drawn to their faith. A pivotal point in her journey was reading the autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila. “When I had finished the book, I said to myself: This is the truth!” She was baptized into the Catholic Church on January 1, 1922, the feast of the Circumcision of Christ, and confirmed on the feast of the Purification of Mary. She now felt that she not only belonged to Christ spiritually, but that she also belonged to Him through her blood – “I had given up practicing my Jewish religion when I was a fourteen-year-old girl and did not begin to feel Jewish again until I had returned to God.” Twelve years later she joined the Carmelite Convent at Cologne and eight years after her profession, she was a prisoner in Auschwitz. The year before she had written to a friend, “One can only gain a knowledge of the cross if one has thoroughly experienced the cross. I have been convinced of this from the first moment onwards and have said with all my heart ‘I welcome you, Cross, our only hope.’”

Teresa Benedicta of the Cross
You can read a short biography of her fascinating life at the Vatican website.

Other resources: 

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The Catholic Textbook Project is one of the many projects sponsored by The Institute for Catholic Liberal Education. On July 11th – 14th, the Institute held its first conference in the Finger Lakes region of New York. Described as a teacher’s academic retreat, the ICLE invited attendees to discuss Catholic classical education and learn from the experience of other Catholic educators. President of the Catholic Textbook Project, Michael Van Hecke, MA, was one of the scheduled speakers and spoke on the place of textbooks in classical education.  Mr. Van Hecke is also the headmaster of St. Augustine Academy in Ventura, California, and hosted the Headmaster Roundtable at the conference. To sign up to receive the ICLE newsletters go here.

Catholic Classical Schools Institute Poised to Expand Work
 First Conference Highlights Growing Demand

Headmasters field questions at the Catholic Classical Schools Conference
Andrew Seeley, Luke Macik, Dan Guernsey, and Mary Pat Donoghue
field questions during the Headmasters’ Panel

CANANDAIGUA, N.Y., August 1 – The first national conference for educators who seek to renew the Catholic Church’s tradition of classical liberal arts education revealed a growing tide of enthusiasm among teachers and administrators from across the U.S. and Canada.

 “This is everything I believed that education could and should be,” said Anne Muntz, a 20-year veteran public school teacher who recently joined the faculty of St. Agatha Academy in Winchester, Kentucky, as it makes a transition to a classical model.  “[It] renews my faith that I was called to be a teacher and that we can make a difference in children’s lives.”

More than 70 educators from 35 different institutions and dioceses in the U.S. and Canada gathered here in mid-July for a conference that established ties among dozens of Catholic schools that have adopted a classical model or are exploring ways to move in that direction. Sponsored by The Institute for Catholic Liberal Education (ICLE) the conference will be held next year in the Washington, D.C., area in response to clear demand for support of the growing movement.  Designed to be both inspirational and practical, the program offers formation for administrators, teachers, board members, and superintendents.

“This conference is the start of something important for the Church,” said Dr. Kevin Roberts, founder of John Paul the Great Academy in Lafayette, Louisiana, and now President of Wyoming Catholic College.  In his opening address, “Creating Order in a Chaotic World”, Roberts emphasized the benefits of classical education on the young while giving 12 tips for succeeding in what can at times be a difficult process.

Dr. Andrew T. Seeley, Executive Director of The Institute for Catholic Liberal Education, said his organization is poised to help Catholic schools join the wider classical school movement, which includes the 230 member Association of Christian Classical Schools and the burgeoning Great Hearts’ charter school network.

Seeley expressed his excitement in his closing remarks to the conference.  “Non-Catholics in classical education ask me, ‘Where are the Catholics?  This is your tradition.’  Now I can say, ‘Here we are!’  And we’re bringing the full tradition of the Church, her liturgical life and her educational experience to enrich the classical model.”

ICLE plans to expand its services to offer more in-service programs, drawing on experienced teachers from established Catholic classical schools, according to Seeley. Collaborative relationships with institutions like the Circe Institute and the Institute for Excellence in Writing will help provide specific training where needed.  Planned upgrades to the website will offer further resources and a job posting page.

“I believe our Institute will be an important instrument in forming school communities with a clear Catholic educational vision, whose examples will be a blessing for all Catholic schools and parishes,” Seeley said.

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Ninety-nine Years Ago

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Pope Saint Pius X
August 4th marked the 99th anniversary of the beginning of World War I. Pius X was reigning in the See of Peter and, while he feared that the fierce nationalism of the European countries would explode into a great conflict, he hoped that Christians would not resort to killing Christians. “I would gladly give my life if I could ransom the peace of Europe,” he declared and died heartbroken eighteen days after the outbreak of war. While the “Great War” was senseless and led to the loss of a whole generation of young men, it also witnessed the actions of great men such as Benedict XV and his papal nuncio, Eugenio Pacelli (later Pius XII), and Blessed Karl of Austria.

The following is an excerpt from CTP’s Light to the Nations II relating the event which ignited the conflagration.

Europe at War

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Archduke Franz Ferdinand
and his wife Sophie
y 1914, Franz Josef had reigned for 65 years over Austria-Hungary—the third-longest reign in European history. Having come to the throne after the 1848 revolutions, Franz Josef had been a determined opponent of Liberal parliamentarian government. And though he eventually established a parliament for Austria and approved universal suffrage, Franz Josef remained what he called himself—the last of Europe’s traditional kings.

In his private life, Franz Josef had suffered many tragedies. In 1867, Mexican revolutionaries had executed his younger brother, Ferdinand Maximilian, who had become emperor of Mexico with the help of Emperor Napoleon III of France. Then, in 1889, Franz Josef’s only son and heir, Archduke Rudolf, committed suicide. Eight years later, an Italian anarchist assassinated the emperor’s wife, Elisabeth of Bavaria. To Franz Josef, a shy, lonely man with few friends, Elisabeth had given companionship, affection, and support. Suddenly, she was gone. “The world does not know how much we loved one another,” said Franz Josef.

Read the rest here.

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The Back-to-School Giveaway Continues

Two more days are left to enter the Back-to-School Giveaway.. If you don’t feel comfortable leaving your contact information on the blog, you can e-mail it to You may leave a comment without your contact information, but remember to check the blog later in the week for the winner.

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This article from Crisis Magazine shows why good Catholic history books are needed in every Catholic school and home.

New Gates History Curriculum Closes Young Minds to God

There seems to be no limit to the ambition of Bill Gates.
Bill Gates
After making tens of billions in the personal computer revolution, Gates has become a full-time cheerleader for leftist causes on a global scale—whether it’s reducing carbon emissions to zero by mid-century or reducing the world population by spending billions to pay for contraceptives in poor countries.
Now Gates is hoping to transform education. The Microsoft co-founder has recently made headlineshere and elsewhere for backing a new nationalized curriculum known as the Common Core. But his ambitions for education are even bigger. Gates has recently teamed up with historian David Christian to launch the Big History Project, a free online curriculum piloted last year in 55 high schools—45 in the United States, including four Catholic ones, and ten in other countries, from China to the Netherlands.
Big History lives up only to the first part of its name. It encompasses a 13.7 billion year-timeline in a bold effort to tell the entire history of the universe.
But it is not really history in any recognizable sense of the word. History traditionally takes as its starting point recorded history beginning with stories of Egyptian mummies and pyramids, or perhaps in the cradle of civilization, Mesopotamia. Big History, on the other hand, begins with the Big Bang. The ten-unit course devotes nearly half its time to covering the formation of stars and the solar system, then turns to the birth of life and the appearance of the earliest humans, before arriving at history proper, in the seventh unit. It’s tailor-made for the attention-challenged student of today, with the typical unit featuring minutes-long video lectures, interactive exercises, and floridly illustrated articles.
Read the rest here.
To help us get good Catholic history books into more schools go here.

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