St Titus Brandsma - Carmelite and Martyr

Anno Brandsma was born in the Dutch province of Friesland in 1881. He joined the Carmelite Order in 1898 taking his father’s name, Titus, as his religious name. He made his First Profession in October 1899 and was ordained priest on 17 June 1905. As an academic Titus specialised in philosophy and mysticism. He helped to found the Catholic University of Nijmegen in 1923 and later served as Rector Magnificus. In the years before the Second World War Titus was openly critical of the Nazi ideology. During the occupation of Holland, he defended the freedom of the Press and of the Catholic Press in particular. Titus was arrested in January 1942 and sent to Dachau Concentration Camp where he was killed by lethal injection on 26 July 1942. He was beatified as a martyr in 1985 and canonised on 15 May 2022. The poem ‘O Jesus’, which Titus Brandsma wrote – and which was smuggled out of the prison – is for many people a comfort. The Inscription Titus wrote the poem in two days,12 and 13 February 1942, in the convict prison of Scheveningen – established for political prisoners. The poem places itself ‘Before the image of Jesus’. In his cell, Titus has fixed three small illustrations from his breviary on his small folding table: the image of Christ on the cross, with the wounds of the Sacred Heart; St Teresa with her saying Mori aut pati (to die or to suffer); and, St John of the Cross with his Pati et contemni (to suffer and to be scorned). The Opening Line The opening line evokes the atmosphere of contemplative attention. Seated silently ‘before the image of Jesus’, Titus Brandsma keeps his loving gaze directed to Jesus on the cross. The lament ‘O Jesus’ expresses the intimacy of his attention. Once More Alive, That… That… Titus prayerfully explains what is happening whilst he gazes: ‘Once more alive…’ Devotion causes us to ‘rise up out of tepidity’ and ‘awakens love’. In his description of the movement of love coming from Titus and the counter movement coming from Jesus, Titus describes not only the reciprocal love he experiences but, more than that, a special friendship. Good friends should mutually care for each other so that the value of friendship is not lost. In ‘O, Jesus’ the special nature of the friendship arises out of the mutually shared suffering. Suffering Shared in Friendship A friend asks for the courage to suffer, a ‘special friend’ asks for ‘the courage to suffer more’, certainly when it concerns the friendship with Jesus who bears the suffering of humanity. Whoever suffers with his friend is like him. Thus, the disciples of Jesus ‘resemble’ Him who had gone before them on the way of ‘suffering’ in solidarity in suffering which leads into his Kingdom of peace. Friends desire to ‘resemble’ each other, they do not wish to see their friend standing there all alone, they wish to share the lot of their friend. In this spirit Titus says: ‘Oh, for me all suffering is good’. Friends bear each other’s suffering, through which ‘all suffering’, which in itself is evil, is ‘good’ for ‘me’ as a ‘friend’. Titus Brandsma Carmelite and Martyr ‘O JESUS, WHEN I GAZE ON YOU’