The Carmelite feast of Blessed Titus Brandsma
July 27, 2017
St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross is well known as one of the martyrs of the Second World War. Less well known is a Carmelite priest who was martyred at Dachau on July 26, 1942. As the Carmelite orders celebrate his feast today, we can learn from his life, admire his death, and ask his living intercession before God’s throne.
Blessed Titus Brandsma was born in Holland in 1881. After ordination to the priesthood in the Carmelite order at the age of 24, he earned a doctorate in Rome, and then back in his homeland taught philosophy, served as a university rector, and engaged in catechetical journalism, much like another male religious martyr: St. Maximillian Mary Kolbe.
“In the period leading up to and during the Nazi occupation in Holland, he argued passionately against the National Socialist ideology, basing his stand on the Gospels, and he defended the right to freedom in education and for the Catholic Press. As a result, he was imprisoned. So began his Calvary, involving great personal suffering and degradation whilst, at the same time, he himself brought solace and comfort to the other internees and begged God’s blessing on his jailers. In the midst of such inhuman suffering, he possessed the precious ability to bring an awareness of goodness, love and peace.”
Having engaged in both journalism and university scholarship, Blessed Titus wrote a great deal. Yet he’s not known for the number of words he wrote, but rather for their depth, especially within the writings that he composed during his imprisonment. For example, he declared: “He who wants to win the world for Christ must have the courage to come in conflict with it.” In our own day and age, these words of his pose a challenge to us, a challenge we ought to teach to our students, as well.