Some (like myself) may be a little ignorant as to whom Blessed Titus Brandsma is but a little research shows that, although dying somewhat prematurely, he made a great impact in his native Netherlands and in Dachau where he died after being injected with a lethal dose of poison.
He came from a poor family and had four sisters and one brother. As a child and even into his youth, he suffered with health problems and cut a somewhat slight figure. So much so that he was nicknamed "Shorty".
After joining a Franciscan 'Minor' Seminary he had to leave due to his poor health but, a year or two later he joined the Carmelites at Boxmeer, taking the name 'Titus'.
Her mastered several languages and was ordained in 1905, gaining a Doctorate in Philosophy from the Pontifical University of Rome in 1909.
For several years he taught at the Carmelite University at Oss and also became editor of the local daily newspaper in 1919. He was usually to be found sitting at his desk with a large cigar in his mouth.
His teaching career expanded and he also made an impact in the journalistic world being appointed ecclesiastical advisor to Catholic journalists in 1935.
As Hitler proceeded with his plans for a totalitarian state, so, Blessed Titus used the power of the pen to oppose him. He wrote an article against anti Jewish marriage laws and this brought him to the notice of the authorities. He followed up by writing that no Catholic magazine could publish Nazi literature and still call itself Catholic.
They came for him on 19th January 1942 and before long he was incarcerated in Dachau.
Daily beatings, poor food and hard labour began to take a toll on an already frail constitution but he insisted that his fellow prisoners should pray for their tormentors. Then his poor body became the subject of medical experimentation and, when he became unfit even for this purpose, they gave him a lethal injection. Before the needle was inserted into him, Blessed Titus made a gift of his rosary to his assassin.
Born 23rd February 1881 as Anno Sjoera Brandsma he died on 26th July 1942 as Titus Brandsma - Martyr.
Here is his own account of his arrest:-
January 19, 1942: Father Titus is Arrested
Having spent the night in Arnhem, I was told that I must spend another night there. With these words I was brought into cell 577 on January 20. Next morning I had to be ready at half past eight to be tried at the Hague. This would probably be finished in the afternoon, and in view of my health I would probably be allowed home. On the night of January 21, I was told that my confinement was to be prolonged in order that more evidence might be obtained. Mr. Hardegen, who tried my case in a courteous way, said that this would not be difficult for me on account of my religious life. Indeed, it was not. I remember an old stanza of Longfellow which I have retained since my college years in Megen, and it is particularly appropriate in my present situation:
In his chamber all alone,
Kneeling on a floor of stone,
Prayed a monk in deep contrition
For his sins of indecision;
Prayed for greater self-denial
In temptation and in trial.As to that "trial," it was not so difficult as I had expected, though one has to get accustomed to many things in prison. Indeed, going to prison at the age of 60 is a strange experience. Jokingly I said so to Mr. Steffen who had arrested me, while entering the prison. His answer, however, comforted me: "It is your own fault, for you should not have taken the Archbishop's commission." Now I knew why I was here and I said to him fearlessly that I looked upon such a thing as an honour, and that I was not conscious of having done anything wrong by doing that. I said the same thing to Mr. Hardegen and I added: "On the contrary, it was an honest effort to relax the contrasts." On the one side this was accepted, on the other side it was looked upon as an organisation of resistance against the occupying power. I had to oppose this last opinion, and to stress the exclusive intention of communicating both to the press and to the Reichskommissariat the Catholic point of view about the propaganda of the National Socialist Movement, as it was pointed out by the Bishops. This point of view was to be communicated to the Reichskommissariat, even if the managers and editorial staffs of the Catholic dailies were not in agreement; but undoubtedly, they were.
The first day of my commission I asked Mr. Schlichting to go to the Reichskommissariat; on account of his journey to Rome this interview took place after mine with the Catholic press. Meanwhile I quite understand that the attitude of the Bishops and of the Catholic press is not considered agreeable, and that the commission of the Archbishop to me and carried out by me, is looked upon as some act of resistance. Our Catholic principles are at conflict with their principles; the contrast of principles is there. For this confession I joyfully suffer what is to be suffered.
My vocation to the Church and to the priesthood brought me so many grand and beautiful things that I willingly accept something unpleasant in return for it. I repeat in complete agreement with Job: We have received good things at the hand of God, why should we not receive the evil he sends us in his Providence? The Lord gave, the Lord hath taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord. Apart from that, I have not had too bad a time. And although I do not know what will become of it, I know myself to be wholly in God's hands. Who will separate us from the love of God? I am thinking of my old motto: <Prenez les jours, comme ils arrivent, Les beaux d'un coeur reconnaissant Ft les mauvais pour ceux qui suivent, Car le malheur n'est qu'un passant>.
With Gezelle, I praise "my old breviary," which was luckily left to me and which I can say now as quietly as possible. Oh! in the morning Holy Mass and Holy Communion are missing, I know full well, but nevertheless God is near me, in me and with me. It is in him that we live, and move and have our being. "God, while so near and yet so far, is always present." The well-known couplet which was always in St. Teresa's breviary—I sent it to my colleague Professor Brom when he was in prison—is also a comfort and encouragement to me; "Let nothing disturb thee, let nothing frighten thee. All things are passing. God does not change. Who possesses God wants for nothing. God alone suffices."
Scheveningen Police-prison, January 23, 1942.
BLESSED TITUS BRANDSMA - ORA PRO NOBIS!
Please note: Bl Titus has been adopted as patron saint of the Guild of Catholic Bloggers (Guild of Blessed Titus Brandsma). Membership is free and open to all who are loyal to the Magisterium and who express Catholic charity in their writings.
Further information may be obtained from the Guild Blog