July 27, 2008

Bl. Titus Brandsma - O. Carm.

Priest & Martyr
1881-1942 – Optional Memorial July 27

Born at Bolsward (The Netherlands) in 1881, Blessed Titus Brandsma joined the Carmelite Order as a young man. Ordained priest in 1905, he obtained a doctorate in philosophy in Rome. He then taught in various schools in Holland and was named professor of philosophy and of the history of mysticism in the Catholic University of Nijmegen where he also served as Rector Magnificus. He was noted for his constant availability to everyone. He was a professional journalist, and in 1935 he was appointed ecclesiastical advisor to Catholic journalists. During the 1930's he visited Ireland and stayed in Kinsale with the Carmelite Community there to improve his English before giving a series of lectures in the United States. Both before and during the Nazi occupation of The Netherlands he fought, faithful to the Gospel, against the spread of the Nazi ideology and for the freedom of Catholic education and the Catholic press. For this he was arrested and sent to a succession of prisons and concentration camps where he brought comfort and peace to his fellow prisoners and did well even to his tormentors. On July 26, 1942, this Carmelite priest was injected with a deadly drug that, ten minutes later, took his life. To the end he radiated cheerful courage and exhorted all not to yield to hatred but to be patient. John Paul II beatified him on November 3rd 1985.


Each of us must walk our personal way of the cross, sooner or later. For most of his life, the gentle and saintly Dutch Carmelite priest, Father Titus Brandsma, was a distinguished scholar and writer. The arrival of the Nazis, in Holland made him a champion of freedom, justice, and faith, but his life would become a path of cruel suffering.

The life, suffering, and death of Titus Brandsma are mirrored in the lives of millions of victims of oppression and injustice, both yesterday and today. He gives us a powerful example of modern Christian witness. Even in the midst of the horrors of the concentration camp at Dachau, Titus Brandsma found not despair, but peace. His story is important today to all who seek to follow Christ. The life of Titus Brandsma might well be summed up in his own words:

"The person who wants to win the world for Christ…
…must have the courage to come in conflict with it."

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