Today, Monday 27th July 2020, we remember the faith and sacrifice of Carmelite friar Fr. Titus Brandsma. Teresa Kelly, Member of the National Council and Community Leader of 'Northumberland TOC', made a recent trip to Amersfoot Concentration Camp in the Netherlands to learn more of Fr.Titus Brandsma's place of imprisonment. Here is a copy of her most thought provoking and challenging piece from 'Assumpta', Spring 2020 :
Titus Brandsma`s Trust in God
I have been in a fortunate position this year, as I have had a few trips to the Netherlands as my husband has been working there. I had been researching the life and spirituality of Titus Brandsma, so I thought I would take the journey from where I was staying to visit Amersfoort Concentration Camp, where Titus was imprisoned for 3 months, before ultimately being sent to Dachau where he was killed.
Here Fr Titus was deprived of his breviary and rosary and the solitude which he had been allowed to keep previously in Schevinigen prison. Instead he became an apostle forming a group to give lectures and sermons, hearing confessions and gave care and compassion to the sick. An eyewitness tells this story of Fr Titus on Good Friday when imprisoned in Amersfoort:
“All around him the prisoners were lying about on their bunks, built one on top of the other in three storeys. The whole hut smelt of wooden shoes and rags, of worn out and exhausted humanity. With their shorn heads the men looked unprepossessing and slightly sinister. People were stumbling about and there was a sound of voices, loud and soft, cultured and raucous. At the table a group discussing something. And exactly opposite me, in the narrow space between the bunks, standing on a sort of potato crate in his grotesque grey uniform, Professor Titus, the speaker or rather the preacher of the evening. As was only to be expected on Good Friday, he gave us a talk on the Passion which occupied all his thoughts. The words, welling up straight from his heart, went home. And the whole hut fell silent as the frail man in grey gently meditated outloud on his box. His eyes were shining behind his big glasses and they made one forget the rest of the shabby little figure. The stillness became almost oppressive. Every man was wrestling with his own problems and his own misery, but here he was being given a key to them: our love towards God.”
Fr Titus was born at Oegekloster, near Bolsward in Holland on February 23rd 1881. He entered the novitiate at the monastery in Boxmeer September the 17th 1898. He went on to be a professor at the University of Nijmegen amongst many other callings. On the request of Archbishop De Jong , he became chaplain to the journalists of the Catholic newspapers. Fr Titus persuaded the journalists of the Catholic newspapers in Holland not to print Nazi propaganda /articles, as asked by the Archbishop. This ultimately led to his arrest.
His Overwhelming Trust in God
His sister Gatske said: “He always trusted in God. He often spoke about the goodness of God. He also stimulated other people to trust in Him. He used to say: ’We must leave everything to Our Lord.....pray and trust in God.` Often he used to repeat the words of St Paul:` Do your best and God will do the rest.` Even in difficult matters and undertakings he trusted in God and asked that we pray to Him.”
Titus gave time to God, and practised living in the presence of God his Father, therefore, developing a close relationship with Him, resulting in total trust in God his Father. He always counted on the help of God even in times of great trial. He often said: “God will see to it.” He was an optimist with unceasing trust to the end, which came from his great faith in the love and grace of God. He encouraged others to place their trust in God. Christian hope was a true reality for him.
He was always aware that everything he was able to do was a gift from God, who created us and gave us the necessary faculties and help. Titus wrote to his friend Hubert Driessen: “fortune helps the bold – so goes the proverb, but I would put it this way: confidentes Deus – God helps those who trust.”
His brother Henry said he had a great trust in God and counted on the help of God above everything.
He was an optimist, he never saw difficulties because of his total trust in God. My favourite saying of his is: “Look upwards. There`s a Father up there who is looking out for us.”
Fr Titus` biographer H Aukes puts it this way: “From his writings and from investigations it appears that hope was the basis of his spirituality. From this derived his encouraging of others and his continual concern for others. This was the atmosphere of trust in God by which he penetrated my soul and the soul of others.”
We have looked at Fr Titus` all consuming trust in God – this seems to be the result of a wholesome and intimate relationship with God His Father. He listened to God and spent time alone with Him, filling him with trust in God`s plan, always full of hope and love for His fellow man.
Do we trust in God whole – heartedly? Do we feel able to surrender our lives to Him in all circumstances even though it may cost us greatly? This may be a very difficult thing for us to do. What we can do is pray for strength, and hope in God`s love and His amazing plans for us. An essential step towards this is developing and nourishing our relationship with God as Titus did, so God will become our Father whom we can trust in totally.
Bibliography: Information obtained from ` Essays on Titus Brandsma. Carmelite Educator, Journalist, Martyr.` Edizioni Carmelitane Roma.
'...nothing is commonplace, we do not live in these things, we go beyond them'