Blessed Titus Brandsma
Blessed Titus was born Anno Brandsma on February 23rd, 1881 at Oegekloster in Friesland (northern Netherlands). His parents, Titus and Tjitse, were farmers and committed Catholics. Having taken advice on his vocation, Anno joined the Carmelite Order in 1898. His name in religious life was that of his father, Titus. During his student days Titus showed a gift for writing and journalism. He published an anthology of selected writings of St Teresa of Avila. After his ordination to priestly ministry in 1905, he went to Rome for post-graduate studies at the Gregorian University. He gained his Doctorate and returned to the Netherlands to teach the Carmelite students there. He lived a prayerful but busy life as teacher, writer, retreat giver and preacher. Other activities included the Catholic University, the Apostleship for the Reunion of Eastern Churches, and the Catholic Journalists Association.
Titus was instrumental in the founding of the Catholic University at Nijmegen where he became Professor of Philosophy and the History of Mysticism. He was Rector in 1932. As Chaplain to the Union of Catholic Journalists he encouraged opposition to Nazi propaganda and especially its anti-Semitism. The closing sentences of a letter to Catholic journalists were ominously prophetic: We are not sure if those responsible will resort to violence. But in case they do, remember, God speaks the last word, and He rewards His faithful servant.
This defence of the freedom the press and religion brought Titus to the attention of the Nazis in occupied Holland. He was arrested in January 1942, ending up in Dachau Concentration Camp. Having endured horrific medical experimentations on his body, he was killed by lethal injection on July 26th, 1942. The Camp nurse who administered this injection was deeply affected by his gentle spirit. She later converted to Catholicism and was a witness in the process for his beatification. Titus Brandsma, priest and martyr, was declared Blessed in 1985.
While held at Scheveningen prison Blessed Titus, inspired by a picture in his breviary, wrote:
O Jesus when I look at you,
My love for you again lights up,
And your heart moreover treasures me,
Even as a special friend of yours.
Remain then with me, Jesus
I was never so close to you,
Stay with me, Jesus, my delight,
Your presence here makes all things good.
Lord our God,
source and giver of life,
you gave to Blessed Titus the Spirit of courage
to proclaim human dignity and the freedom of the Church
even in the throes of degrading persecution and death.
Grant us that same Spirit
so that in the coming of your Kingdom of justice and peace
we might never be ashamed of the Gospel
but be enabled to recognise your loving-kindness
in all the events of our lives.
We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour.