St. Titus Brandsma painting at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church, Fairfield, CA

July 27 is the Feast Day of one of the newest Carmelite saints, St. Titus Brandsma (1881-1942) – the Dutch Carmelite priest and journalist who was martyred in the Dachau concentration camp in 1942. He is a fitting patron for writers on the internet and all journalists to benefit from the example of his cheerful courage, even in the face of death.

Anno Brandsma was born and grew up on a dairy farm in a province of the Netherlands called Frisia. His devout Catholic family had him educated in a school for boys preparing for the priesthood, and at age 17 joined the Carmelites where he took the name Titus in honor of his father. He was ordained in 1905 and also earned a doctorate in philosophy. As an academic, he started a project to translate St. Teresa of Avila’s writings from Spanish into Dutch – he also was a professor of philosophy and history of mysticism, as well as rector, at the Catholic University of Nijmegen (now Radboud University).

Father Titus Brandsma lived during the tumultuous times leading up to World War II when the Nazi’s were expanding their presence in Europe. Nazi Germany invaded the Netherlands in 1940 and implemented restrictions on freedoms for Jews, and also Catholics. Father Titus staunchly opposed the Nazi activities and positions, and wrote about such, as editor of his local newspaper and as serving as an advisor to Catholic journalists at the Dutch newspapers. Father Titus composed the pastor letter of the Dutch bishops condemning the anti-semitic activities of the Nazis. Eventually, Father Titus drew the attention of the Third Reich. He was arrested in January 1942 after he refused cooperation to encourage publishing of Nazi propaganda in Dutch newspapers; and was imprisoned at the age of 60 in the Scheveningen prison. After 3 months, he was moved to a transit prison and then to Dachau where he died on July 26, 1942.

Father Titus held strong to his faith and to the positions against the Nazi activities despite hard labor, tiny rations, and merciless beatings by his captors – who became extremely angry with Father Titus’ display of calm during their interrogations and torturous activities. His source of strength was Jesus; and reportedly Father Titus had a consecrated host in his pocket when he endured a trashing, and said to another prisoner afterward, “don’t have pity on me. I had Jesus with me in the Eucharist.”

Throughout the horrors of his imprisonment, Father Titus continued his priestly services to those around him by offering blessings, hearing confessions, and reciting the Stations of the Cross – in the face of the punishment of death, if caught. He was also very cheerful and encouraging, as he told other prisoners, “We are here in a dark tunnel but we have to go on. At the end, the eternal light is shining for us.” Father Titus death came by lethal injection, but he forgave the nurse before the death shot and gave her a wooden rosary inspiring the nurse to become a Catholic.

One of the miracles attributed to Father Titus Brandsma’s canonization was related to a fellow Carmelite, Father Michael Driscoll who was diagnosed in 2004 with stage-4 melanoma. He underwent many surgeries for cancerous lesions on his face, but then the cancer spread to his head, neck, lymph nodes and salivary glands. Doctors said that he had little chance of recovery, but Father Driscoll began praying to Father Titus for intercession. Father Driscoll obtained a second-class relic, a patch of black cloth from Brandsma’s priestly garments, which Father Driscoll held against his forehead each day as he prayed for healing. To the surprise of doctors, Father Driscoll recovered and was cancer-free. On May 25, 2021, a panel of physicians and medical experts ruled Father Driscoll’s healing to be miraculous. St. Titus Brandsma was canonized by Pope Francis on May 15, 2022 and his Feast Day is on July 27.

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