- The Price of Truth: Titus Brandsma, Carmelite by Miguel Maria Arribas O.Carm.
I knew very little about Blessed Titus Brandsma, other than that he died in a concentration camp in Dachau. Recently I watched an online seminar about him and was intrigued to find out more.
His whole backstory is so interesting. He was born in the Netherlands in a strong Catholic family with five children. His brother would also become a priest and two of his sisters entered religious life. He always suffered ill health and was not destined to help out his father on the farm. Even with his intellectual gifts, because of his health, it was a trial to be ordained. His first name was Anno, but when he entered religious life he took on the name of Titus (his father’s name).
His years working to be ordained an O. Carm priest and his subsequent years are themselves interesting. This was a man who poured himself out for others. He was always working on something and teaching and helping others. His career was also quite varied as a teacher, University President, and journalist. One of his goals was to translate all of St. Teresa of Avila’s writing into the Dutch language. Truly loved by those around him including non-Catholics in this primarily Protestant country. He was so well known and loved that you could simply write his name on an envelope, and it would be delivered to him. There are a lot of great stories detailing these years including a rather humorous encounter with Pope Pius XII.
His work as a journalist and the ties he made with Catholic journalists made him a good point man to talk with the heads of Catholic newspapers. Especially when the Nazis were demanding that they directly print their propaganda. He had an official role in this from the country’s bishops, and his commitment can be seen in two quotes of his.
“We Catholic journalists must keep in mind that our contributions must be positive, constructive. This is what God requires of those who work for the Catholic cause. Secondly, we must unfailingly practice charity, which is the Lord’s desire. Love must shine through the peaceful tone of the Catholic press.”
“Should the Catholic press abandon this ideal of being a weapon of truth, its very existence would make no sense either for us journalists, or for the Church. It would become worthless. Its steadfast witness to the truth alone constitutes its power and its glory.”
It was in sounding out the publishers of Catholic newspapers that he was arrested and jailed. He would truly show his sanctity in how lived his life moving from one place of confinement, to another, and ultimately Dachau. Despite the severe beatings he received, and even medical experimentation on him, his love of Christ never left him and he imaged it for others. He made friends and helped all those around him. I am only giving a small sample of highlights of his story, there is just so much more to him. I love that he was continuing to write in prison and was writing in between the lines of a book in small lettering since this was all he had available to him.
When he was arrested he was unable to bring his rosary with him. A Protestant he met in prison made one for him. This or another makeshift rosary was given to him, he, in turn, gave to the women that administered the lethal injection that killed him. She would go on to give witness to him during the process of beautification. “I Killed a Saint”.
He was the first of the WWII martyrs that were beautified. Recently the Vatican approved a miracle that will probably lead to his canonization. Michael Driscoll, an O. Carm priest was cured of stage 4 cancer from his intercession after someone gave him a small piece of Brandsma’s black suit.
Blessed Titus Brandsma’s story should be more well known and this book is an excellent introduction to his life.