Vugt: The carmelite father Titus Brandsma

Arnold Van Vugt

THIS column may be considered a continuation of my previous column, My Martial Law Memoires.

Titus Brandsma was born on February 23, 1881 in Bolsward, a place in the North-East of Holland. He entered the Order of the Carmelites and was ordained a priest.

During his seminary days he studied theology and mysticism and became a doctor of the Church.

He was asked by the Dutch Bishops to visit the different press bureaus and tell them that they should not publish the Nazi propaganda of Adolf Hitler in their newspapers. Brandsma had also a strong devotion to Mary, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, he called her the beloved daughter of the Father, the mother of his Son and the spouse of the Holy Spirit. He had also a devotion for another Carmelite, St John of the Cross who has said: “If a man wishes to be sure of the roads he treads on, he must close his eyes and walk in the dark. In the evening of our life, we will be judged on love alone.” The Carmelite Rule says: “Common sense is the guide of all virtues.” Titus believed in the goodness of people, even when he later on was tortured by some people in the prison camp in Dachau.

Because of his strong opposition against the disastrous effects of the Nazi war, Titus Brandsma was arrested and put in the prisons of Scheveningen, Amersfoort and Kleef. From there he was deported to the concentration camp of Dachau in Germany. In that camp he wrote a famous poem: “In cell where never sunlight shone, should no one ever speak to me; this golden silence makes me free!”

Titus Brandsma died on July 26 1942. He got sick and was put in the camp hospital. The doctor who attended to him gave him a lethal injection. He was 61 years old.

Clearly, Titus Brandsma is a martyr. After his death an American Carmelite got an aggressive cancer. The local bishop asked his whole diocese to pray to Titus and ask that he may be cured. The man was cured through the intercession of Brandsma.

Titus Brandsma was already declared blessed in 1985, but we should pray that he will be canonized soon. Clearly, he is a saint who gave his life for his brothers and sisters during the Nazi war. Even now that we know he is already in heaven we can pray to him and ask for his intercession when we are in trouble and need his help.

Let us not forget that martyrdom is the highest vocation in Christian life. We must pray that when we are called to be a martyr we have the courage and faith to accept that. Christ himself offered his life on the Cross for our salvation. Let us follow him by offering our lives for the salvation of the children in our family and for our neighbors who are in need of help and for the salvation of all mankind. Fr. Titus Brandsma can be an example for us to follow him in our life.

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