A Dutch martyr against Nazism

Seventy years ago today, July 26, 1942, a Dutch Carmelite priest was killed by lethal injection at Dachau.

Titus Brandsma was one of millions of victims of the Nazi persecutions but he was different in some important ways.

He was one of thousands of priests imprisoned by the Nazis, many of them at Dachau. But he was not imprisoned merely for being a priest.

Father Titus was a professor of mystical theology who had translated the works of St. Teresa of Avila into Dutch. He was also a journalist and was the chaplain for Dutch Catholic newspapers. He was also an open opponent of Nazi policies, speaking out against the Nazi oppression of the Jews.

In 1941 he protested the Nazi prohibition of Jewish students in Catholic schools. The same year he met with all the editors of Catholic newspapers in Holland to advise them not to run Nazi propaganda despite a decree from the Nazis that all papers had to run Nazi propaganda and advertisements.

After being arrested in January, he was sent to Dachau, where he took further risks by distributing Communion to other inmates. He also provided an amazing example of Christian love advising a charitable response to all guards, even the most brutal, advising prayer for them. “You don’t need to pray for them all day long. God is quite pleased with a single prayer.”

According to reports and his writings he seems to have maintained a deep peace in spite of the suffering.

“I see God in the work of his hands and the marks of his love in every visible thing, and it sometimes happens that I am seized by a supreme joy which is above all other joys.”

 

His deep faith and courage to speak up against evil should inspire us to trust in God and to speak truth to those in power who oppress the poor and marginalized.

 

Father Titus was beatified by the Catholic Church in 1985.

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