A Dutch priest, witness against Nazism

In the early 1960s I became aware of the Holocaust and was somewhat concerned about the lack of opposition by many in the church. And so I have been fascinated by the stories of those witnesses who spoke up and often gave their lives to speak out against Nazism and the Holocaust. Thus I deeply respect people like the Jesuit priest Alfred Delp, Sophie Scholl and the other young members of the White Rose, the Austrian peasant conscientious objector Franz Jägerstätter, the Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonheoffer, and many others.

Fr. Titus Brandsma, O.Carm., was a Dutch priest, theologian, and journalist, who continued to speak out against Nazism even when it became dangerous. As a journalist he advised Catholic publications in Holland not to publish Nazi ads or propaganda. After the Dutch bishops spoke out against Nazi policies, he and others were arrested. He killed by lethal injection by the Nazis, at Dachau, Germany, on July 26, 1942.

A Carmelite, raised in the mystic tradition of Saints Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross, he combined a deep spirituality with a passion to tell the truth, even if it was costly for, as he wrote, “The cross is a blessing from which we should not flee.”

Thus we need to be saints, even if it costs our lives – as it did his – for, as he would say, “the sanctification” of the world:

“If we consider the intercession of a saint or the influence of a soul favored by God as a special grace from heaven, then we can equally consider it a disaster if such saints do not cross our path of life, if we miss the sweet influence which a chosen soul could exert on us. All Catholics should be so saintly that God through them could sanctify millions, just as He would have saved cities like Sodom and Gomorrah for a few just men.”

He was beatified in 1985.


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