Saturday, July 26, 2003

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

Today is the memorial of Blessed Titus Brandsma, a Carmelite priest and martyr.

Titus, whose birthname was Anno, was born to a Friesian family in the late 1800's. After secondary school, he entered the Carmelite community, became a priest. and earned a doctorate on philosophy in Rome. He then became a university professor, and was the president ("rector magnificus") of his university for a time. He also was very active in Catholic journalism, becoming, eventually, the head of Holland's Catholic journalists' guild. This is an image of his international press pass:

When the Nazis took over Holland, the Catholic Church was blatently and loudly in opposition to them. The bishops forbade communion to any Catholics known to support the National Socialists, and regularly denounced the Nazi perversions from their pulpits. In fact, in Holland, the Catholics were sent to the concentration camps first; St. Edith Stein was also martyred in this time. Fr. Brandsma was deeply involved in the resistance to the National Socialists, and was already feeling the heat, but the final straw that got him arrested was that the Nazis has issued a law that all newspapers must print the officially-issued Nazi propaganda. The bishops forbade any Catholic periodical from publishing any of that material, and Fr. Brandsma, as their messenger, was to personally deliver the ban to the Catholic press; he had visited fourteen journalists when the powers caught up with him and arrested him. He was imprisoned in two penitentiaries in Holland that had been taken over by the Nazis, before being deported to Dachau. His chronically ill health forced him to the "hospital" of Dachau in mid-June of 1942, where he was subjected to medical experimentation before being killed by lethal injection on July 26.

A poem written by Fr. Brandsma during his imprisonment:

A new awareness of Thy love
Encompasses my heart:
Sweet Jesus, I in Thee and Thou
In me shall never part.

No grief shall fall my way but I
Shall see Thy grief-filled eyes;
The lonely way that Thou once walked
Has made me sorrow-wise.

All trouble is a white-lit joy
That lights my darkest day;
Thy love has turned to brightest light
This night-like way.

If I have Thee alone,
The hours will bless
With still, cold hands of love
My utter loneliness.

Stay with me, Jesus, only stay;
I shall not fear
If, reaching out my hand,
I feel Thee near.


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