St. Titus Brandsma: Doing All Things with Love

“Holiness does not consist of a few heroic gestures, but of many small acts of daily love,” said Pope Francis in his homily on May 15th. Sunday’s Mass began with the canonization of not one but ten new saints: Lazarus known as Devasahayam, César de Bus, Luigi Maria Palazzolo, Giustino Maria Russolillo, Charles de Foucauld, Marie Rivier, Maria Francesca di Gesu Rubatto, Maria di Gesú Santocanale, Maria Domenica Mantovani, and Blessed Titus Brandsma.

Cale spent a segment of The Cale Clarke Show talking about the amazing life and martyrdom of this little-known martyr, now St. Titus Brandsma.

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Titus (born Anno) was born in the Netherlands to a very devoutly Catholic family in 1881. Titus exhibited a consideration for the priesthood from a very young age and when he was 11, he went to study at a Franciscan-run minor seminary. Just a few years later, he became a novice in the Carmelite Order. After completing his novitiate, he professed his vows and took the name Titus after his father. He was ordained in 1905 and for many years afterward, he served as a teacher and professor at various schools.

Brandsma became well-known for his knowledge of philosophy and mysticism and he earned several accolades for his brilliance. Brandsma also went on to work as a journalist and as an advisor to Catholic journalists. When the Nazis invaded the Netherlands in 1942, Brandsma, high profile because of his anti-Nazi rhetoric, was arrested and sent to the Dachau concentration camp. During his time imprisoned, he wrote this in his journal:

Blessed loneliness. I find myself in this cell as if I was in my own home. I have not been bored at all. On the contrary. I am alone, that is true, but the Lord is closer to me than ever. I feel like shouting for joy because the Lord wanted me to discover Him in all His fullness without needing to be in the midst of people or for them to come for me. He is my only refuge. I feel happy. I will stay here forever if He commands it. Few times have I ever felt so happy.

“Well, talk about having a supernatural outlook on things,” said Cale. There are few people who would have the presence of mind to realize that imprisonment by the Nazis is an opportunity to grow closer to God. Brandsma, who was famous for calling Nazism “Neo-Paganism” and “a black lie”, offered Catholicism and Christianity as the only solutions to this maniacal superpower.

He talked extensively about the great things that the 20th century had brought technologically, but he lamented the anti-God mentality that had infiltrated society at the same time. Way before much of the corruption we see today found its inception, Brandsma identified that we must be careful with the way we use these things or else they will be turned into weapons against us. Are we required to do something in order to reorient humanity to face God its creator? Brandsma thought so, and that’s exactly why he was able to offer such reverent testimony to God through his life and martyrdom.

Just six months after Brandsma’s imprisonment, he was sentenced to death by lethal injection. The nurse who was the one to deliver the injection was so moved by Brandsma’s behavior that she ended up converting to Catholicism. At her testimony on his behalf prior to his canonization, this is what she said:

“I have to make up so much to him. I owe him so much. I have to do this in appreciation because he has helped me so much. I want to contribute to the canonization of Fr. Titus.”

During her time working at Dachau, this nurse was a hardcore Nazi atheist who hated Catholics, especially priests. She had taken vows to honor Hitler as God, to renounce all other religions, and she would never go to Church because of the lies spread there. She was stationed in the infirmary, and she met Brandsma for the first time a week before his execution. Upon meeting her, he took her hand and said, “What a poor girl you are. I pray for you a lot.” Between that moment and his execution, the nurse visited him about fifteen times, for ten minutes at a time.

Every time she visited him, he was cheerful. He was cheerful to his captors. He was cheerful to his fellow prisoners. He was even cheerful to the men who experimented upon him. He left everybody feeling hopeful that things are, could be, and will be better. She recalled hearing Fr. Titus say to himself as he was being moved to be experimented on, “Thy will be done, not mine. Thy will be done, not mine.” Right before he was executed, he handed a wooden rosary to the nurse and asked her to pray for the repose of his soul after he died. She laughed and told him she was an atheist. He said that as long as she prayed “Pray for us sinners”, she would not be lost.

She ended up converting. She testified on his behalf for his canonization. And on Sunday, May 15th, 2022, Fr. Titus Brandsma was canonized as a saint by Pope Francis.

Tune in to The Cale Clarke Show weekdays at 5pm CT

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John Hanretty serves as a Digital Media Producer for Relevant Radio®. He is a graduate of the Gupta College of Business at the University of Dallas. Besides being passionate about writing, his hobbies include drawing and digital design. You can read more of his daily articles at relevantradio.com and on the Relevant Radio® app.