St Titus Brandsma - Carmelite and Martyr

He felt compassion for me ... The way he looked at me showed no sign of hatred whatsoever ... Those who saw him could see that in him something supernatural was speaking. He gave me his Rosary beads, as a way of asking me, Would I like to pray? I said I did not know how, and for that reason the Rosary was of no use to me. He said, even though I might not know how to pray, all I needed to do was recite the second part of the Ave Maria, “Pray for us sinners.” Tizia (the name given to the nurse who injected him with phenic acid) The witness of Fr Titus is one that inspires and enlightens, not only members of the Carmelite Order, but the society in which we live. We find in him in these times so troubled by the threat and existence of war, a prophet of hope and a champion of peace. Events in the Ukraine make us think of other parts of the planet too where we can see the wounds of many other conficts that appear to be forgotten, or treated with indifference. In these situations the Church has the opportunity to make a real contribution, by taking up the teaching of Fratelli tutti, and by placing its trust in the hope of a God who created and will always support the universal brotherhood and sisterhood of his own children. Let us unite our voices with the men and women of good will who in the face of the suffering of the innocent, stand for peace, freedom and the defence of the dignity of every human being. Titus, a true expert of humanity, by shedding his blood out of love (cf. Mk 14,24) taught us that to bea disciple of Jesus Christ means not only that we look up to him and know all that we can about him, but also that we are called to share in the destiny of love that fell to him. The world and the Church itself demands of us today a clear witness and an authentic life. Our desire is that the people might see what Carmelites are called to be.1 What is it that we are to be? 2 our saints asked. Who am I? is the defining question, the most important spiritual question. I am what God has made me. I am the combination of charisms that God placed in me. What I do comes from who I am. The very intense life of Blessed Titus Brandsma helps us to understand that when identity is understood as defined by activity, we run the risk of losing ourselves, choosing the wrong pathways. Charism is a living thing, beyond speculation. There has to be an interaction between identity and mission, in which what we do helps us to define who we are and who we are helps us to determine what we do.3 Blessed Titus helps us to realise that our life becomes a valuable witness when it is adorned by our works. In addressing his Carmelite Brothers in the Netherlands he once said: “It is better not to know anything, and believe fully, than to know everything and have no feeling ... Only the one who is closely united to God can be truly close to his neighbour. Only the one who takes his nourishment from God can give witness to God by his works.” On another occasion he said, “What makes our life lived in common beautiful is not so much our rights or our duties as much as the way we help one another and our mercy”. The Church needs the everyday saints, the saints whose lives are coherent, the “saints from next door”, as Pope Francis likes to say.4 The Church also needs saints who have the courage to accept the grace to be witnesses to the end, even unto death. All of them, including our brother, Titus, are the life blood of the Church. 1 The Global Plan of the General Council 2019-2025 2 St. Teresa of Jesus, The Way of Perfectioin 4,1. 3 Constitutions of the Friars, 2019, n. 177 4 Gaudete et exsultate, 7 6