Bloggers Have a Friend in Titus Brandsma

You know how it is in the blogosphere:  Writers there are fearless, standing alone against a government which resists the will of the people; speaking out when it seems everyone else is looking the other way.  They reach the masses with breaking news and analysis, compelling features, and sharp observations.

Titus Brandsma was like that, too.

When he lived and worked in The Netherlands during the 1930s and ‘40s, social media had not yet developed; what Pope John Paul II called the “digital continent”—that new way of  communicating across borders—was the stuff of imagination.  Still Titus Brandsma, a priest of the Carmelite order and a journalist, managed to communicate widely with the faithful in the Dutch Catholic church.  He served as editor of his local newspaper, and as ecclesiastical advisor to Catholic journalists at some 30 Dutch newspapers regarding matters pertaining to the Catholic faith.  

In addition to his journalistic work, Father Brandsma was an academic who taught at several universities throughout The Netherlands and translated the works of St. Teresa of Avila from Spanish into Dutch.  He was one of the founders of the Catholic University of Nijmegen (now Radboud University), where he taught philosophy and the history of mysticism, and later served as rector.  He was popular because of his generous spirit and was known for his constant availability to everyone who sought his counsel. 

Father Brandsma drafted a widely circulated Pastoral Letter which was read in Roman Catholic parishes, by which the Dutch Roman Catholic bishops officially condemned the anti-semitism which was emerging in Germanyand the deportation of the first Jews from The Netherlands.  In the Letter, the Dutch bishops contrasted Catholicism and Nazism, showing how the two ideologies were incompatible.  In Hitler’s Germany, the Nazi response to the Pastoral Letter was not what the Dutch bishops had hoped:  More than 3,000 Jewish converts to Catholicism were deported from the Netherlands. 

Father Brandsma wrote and spoke against the Nazis’ anti-Jewish marriage laws. In 1942, he was arrested after trying to persuade Dutch Catholic newspapers not to print Nazi propaganda (as was required by the Nazi occupiers). 

Fr. Titus Brandsma was transferred to the concentration camp at Dachau in February 1942.  In July of that year, he was executed by lethal injection.  He forgave the doctor who administered the injection, and gave him a rosary.

Blessed Titus Brandsma was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1985, and his feast day is observed within the Carmelite Order on July 27.

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