St Titus Brandsma - Carmelite and Martyr

When Titus Brandsma was arrested by the Gestapo on 19 January 1942, he was locked into a solitary cell. Like many other Dutch patriots, he was taken to a prison nicknamed the “Orange Hotel” in Scheveningen so called because of the royal House of Orange, and the Queen’s government in exile. Many fellow prisoners may have sunk into despair that their normal lives were at an end. But for Titus, it was just a beginning. Titus had lived his life in total faithfulness to the Carmelite Rule. One essential element of that Rule stated that the individual should “stay in his own cell, or near it, pondering the Lord’s law day and night and keeping watch at his prayers unless attending to some other duty.” Titus had always been a joyful model of regularity in prayer with his community. No matter how busy his life was, he tried to be present at all prayer and community activities. But his “other duties” were electrifying! In addition to his University activities, he worked for the reunification of the Eastern Churches, and organized a Marian congress, and one on Dutch medieval mysticism. He contributed to activities honoring St. Boniface and Frisian saints. He went on a lecture tour of Ireland, Canada, and the United States in 1935. His lectures were published as “Carmelite Photo: Carmel Catholic High School @cchsministry Mysticism: Historical Sketches.” At the request of the Dutch bishops, he was also spiritual liaison for the Catholic schools and their delegate for the Catholic journalists. The seven weeks Titus spent at Scheveningen were relatively easy, as prisons go. It was a normal civilian facility which had been taken over by the SS, and was home to Titus during his interrogation by SS SergeantMajor Paul Hardegen. It was a stark existence, but not actively cruel, as the concentration camps would be later in that year. He was allowed to have books, writing materials and tobacco. The meals were simple, but fairly healthy. He was allowed to wear his own clothes. In fact, it seemed to be such an “ordinary” prison that he never let go of the idea that he might be released any time. Titus immediately went to work turning his prison cell into a monastic cell. All of his busy, frantic activity in the service of church and state had come to a sudden end. There was nothing that he had to hurry off to do. There was nowhere to go. So with his traditional optimism Titus decided to embrace the more spiritual side of Carmelite life, if only to catch up with the prayerful refection that he had been “too busy” for. Painting of Titus in his cell, by Colette Mills Courtesy of the Irish Province of Carmelites. 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. A TALE OF TWO CELLS