by Clyde Ericson Nolasco
Last May 15, after two years and a half amidst the pandemic, His Holiness Pope Francis canonized ten blesseds to sainthood and among them is St. Titus Brandsma.
Born on February 23, 1881 in the Netherlands, our saint’s real name is Anno Sjoerd Brandsma. He grew up in the rural setting of Oegeklooster in Friesland. Their family owned a dairy farm, sold milk and cheese.
Eventually in 1898, responding to God’s call to religious life, he entered the Carmelites taking his father’s name Titus as his religious name. On June 17, 1905, Titus was ordained to priesthood. While faithfully performing his ministry, he was also a teacher and a journalist and he all performed these vocations with his love for God and the people around him.
St. Titus: “Do not yield to hatred. We are here in a dark tunnel, but we have to go on. At the end, an eternal light is shining for us.” | Photo by Daniel Ibáñez, EWTN News
Fr. Titus was also a teacher. He was a diligent student thus explaining his love for education. Growing up, he continued reading widely and also started to publish his writings. He finished his doctorate in Philosophy in Rome’s Gregorian University.
He returned to his home country and taught in several universities which include reforming Carmelite education in the Netherlands. He prioritized education for the laity. A library in Oss was even opened to the public through his efforts. Moreso, he helped in establishing the Catholic University of Nijmegen (Radboud University), where he taught philosophy, the history of mysticism and in time, served as the rector of the university.
The educator Titus was known for acknowledging students’ individuality, “…people are not simply all alike and do not comply with a casual construction or idea. The human being, and even the child, is in each person diﬀerent in nature and it does not help us when we would like to see beyond all the diﬀerences…We must take young people as they are.”
St. Titus: “I see God in the work of his hands and the marks of his love in every visible thing, and it sometimes happens that I am seized by a supreme joy which is above all other joys.” | Photo from NCI
Upon his canonization, 60 journalists petitioned Pope Francis to make St. Titus patron of
journalists, “We, Catholic journalists, recognize in Titus Brandsma a professional peer and fellow believer of considerable standing. Someone who shared the deeper mission that should drive journalism in modern times: a search for truth and veracity, the promotion of peace and dialogue between people…”
As a priest of the Carmelite order, he served as an ecclesiastical adviser to the journalists of some 30 Catholic newspapers in the Netherlands. There, he also served as an editor-in-chief of a local newspaper.
As Germany invaded the dutchland, Fr. Titus stood his ground expressing his dismay against Adolf Hitler expressing it in his newspaper articles by saying, “The Nazi movement is a black lie. It is pagan.”
After visiting 14 editors and instructing them to refuse advertisements and press releases from the oppressors as commanded by the bishop of Utrecht, he was arrested. At a monastery in Boxmeer on January 19, 1942 after receiving blessings from his superior, he was taken away.
St. Titus: “He who wants to win the world for Christ must have the courage to come in conflict with it.” | Photo from Titus Brandsma Institute
He was arrested after persuading the Catholic newspapers not to print Nazi propaganda. Thus, sealed his fate. He was interned at Scheveningen and Amersfoort but then transferred to Dachau in June.
While imprisoned, he was still seen smiling and would offer his blessings to his fellow inmates. In spite of his age, he was also subjeted to torture and maltreatment even to horrible biological experimentation.
On the 26th of July 1942, he was martyred through lethal injection. He died in a Nazi death camp.
Before his execution, he offered prayers for the nurse who administered the injection. He even gave his rosary to her. Years passed, the nurse went to the Carmelite priory pleading for forgiveness. On November 23, 1985, in the process of Fr. Titus’ beatification, the nurse came to witness the ceremony.
As we celebrate his feast today, July 27, let us be inspired by St. Titus’ courage to uphold the truth and always carry in our hearts what Jesus taught us in the Beatitudes (Matthew 3:10), “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
St. Titus: “Mary must help us and assist us, dear brother. When she stretches out her hand over us, then we can endure much.” | Photo from Carmelites.org
Let us pray
God our Father, your servant, Saint Titus Brandsma, labored zealously in your vineyard and gave his life freely because of his faith in you. Through his intercession I ask for your mercy and help. Father Titus never refused when he was asked for help by your people. In his name, I come to you with my needs… Lord, help me always to imitate the great faith, generous love and burning zeal of Saint Titus. Glorify your servant as he strove to glorify you. Amen.
Mary, Mother of Carmel, pray for us!
Titus Brandsma, Carmelite martyr, intercede for us!