November 1, 2001

Visions of Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Saint Bernadette tells us that when Our Lady appeared to her on July 16th, 1858, the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, she appeared as a young woman without the Child Jesus. She had never looked so beautiful. It calls to mind some of the early Carmelite Icons of Mary portrayed as youthful and beautiful, icons bearing the title “Tota pulchra es, Maria” (You are all beautiful, O Mary). It seems appropriate that in the context of Mary’s revealing herself as the Immaculate Conception she should acknowledge the traditional Carmelite devotion to her as the Most Pure Virgin, the Immaculate One.

Fifty-nine years later Mary appeared at Fatima. There the emphasis moved from the Immaculate Conception to the Immaculate Heart. Among the promises made by her at Fatima was the following: I promise salvation to those who embrace devotion to my Immaculate Heart . . . My Immaculate Heart will be their refuge, the way that will lead them to God. The promise recalls the traditional privileges associated with the wearing of the Brown Scapular of Carmel. The Scapular is a special sign of a privilege, which I have obtained for you and for all God’s children who honor me as Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Those who die devotedly clothed wit this scapular shall be preserved from eternal fire.

As is well known, on October 13th, 1917, the day of the final apparition at Fatima, Mary appeared as Our Lady of Mount Carmel holding out the Scapular to the world.

On August 15th, 1950, Lucy, the only surviving visionary, in reply to the question as to why Our Lady held the Scapular in her hand on that occasion said, Because Our Lady wants everyone to wear the Scapular . . . The reason for this is that the Scapular is our sign of consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

On July 2nd, 1961, Mary appeared for the first time to four children at Garabandal. She appeared as a young woman again without the Christ Child. A brilliant light surrounded her and she held a large brown Scapular in her hand. I am the Lady of Carmel, se said. It was the Feast of the Visitation in those days, a Feast that recalls St Luke’s presentation of Mary as the New Ark of the Covenant before which John the Baptist danced, as did King David before him. It was as if Our Lady of Mount Carmel was portraying herself as the New Ark of the Covenant: the Immaculate Heart as the seat of the presence of the Heart of God. That makes sense in the context of what Mary said to Conchita on November 13th, 1965: Conchita, I have not come for your sake alone. I have come for all my children, so that I may draw them closer to Our Hearts.

And one is tempted to see the Scapular medal in this light bearing as it does the image of Our Lady of Mount Carmel on one side and that of the Sacred Heart on the other.

In this Carmelite Marian Year, as we celebrate the 750th anniversary of the giving of the Scapular, we need to give our people more than Carmelite scholarship. We need to give them Carmelite wisdom. We need to give them the wisdom of consecration, or entrustment, to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, we need to give them the wisdom of living in allegiance to the Heart of Jesus by means of enrolment in the Carmelite Scapular. The visit of the Relics of St Thérèse would teach us something of the hunger in people’s hearts for authentic traditional spirituality.

The Holy Father assures us in his letter to the Carmelites on the occasion of the 750th anniversary, that the most genuine form of devotion to the Most Holy Virgin, expressed by the humble sign of the Scapular, is the consecration to her Immaculate Heart (Par 4). And he also assures us that the Scapular of Carmel configures us to Christ and is not unrelated to mystical union with God. All that seems to be implied in paragraph 6 of the Letter:

The witness of holiness and wisdom of so many Saints of Carmel who all grew up under the shade and care of their Mother, is a splendid example of this Marian spirituality, which forms us and configures us to Christ, who is the first born of many brothers and sisters.

John Lawler O. Carm.
November 2001

July 28, 2001

Foundation of Carmelite Nuns Increasing Number of Contemplatives

The Benedictine Abbot, Trithemius, calls Blessed John Soreth, "a mirror of monastic life, an honour and glory for the Order of Mount Carmel, a reformer such as the future will seldom see, absolutely bound to God and the furthering of his Order, in contemplation and prayer."

The Dominican, Magister Rolandus Briso, praises him at his election as General, 1451, as the most worthy priest of God's church, and Father Brugman, a Franciscan, although loving his own Order, exclaimed: "Father Soreth, firm leader, light and prop not only for his own Order but for all mendicants. O immortal God, how I wish the Order of Friars Minors had received from Thy bounty such a governor. How our affairs would prosper, how my beloved Order would grow and flourish."

Indeed, he was God's man for our Order in this difficult age, and above all things, elected to give life to so elevated an institution as the Order of Carmelite Sisters. St. Teresa says that God always grants special grace to the founders of an Order. They have to give so much that unless they themselves have richness and affluence of spiritual goods, they cannot share with those whom they have to lead and support.

Was there still another intention, besides that of letting a new group of souls partake in all the gracious privileges of the Order of Mount Carmel? I will have to answer this question in the negative and history confirms my statement. No, the object was not merely to swell the numbers, but to let thousands of women share in what thousands of men enjoyed in the Order.

It cannot be denied that through contact with the world the Order had lost much of its original fervor, in spite of having as its head a man who had no peer in his age and in spite of the fact that the Order numbered among its ranks several hidden saints, whose holiness time has revealed and the Church confirmed. Portugal had a Blessed Nonius, the father of the royal house of Braganza, who became a lay brother in the Carmel of Lisbon. Italy had an Angelus Augustinus Mazzinghi, the chief instrument of the Italian reformation; a Blessed Bartholomaeus Fanti and a Blessed Baptista Mantuanus, chief actors in another North-Italian reformation; the blessed Avertan us and Romaeus, pious pilgrims dying on the way from home and revered as saints in Luca; Blessed Jacobinus, a lay brother, a miraculous example of obedience. But the list would grow to an inordinate length if I called to mind the names of all those of this age whose memory is blessed for the sanctity of their lives.

We may say that on the one hand the sanctity of many of its members earned for the Order new graces and favors from God: on the other, that the institution of the Sisters was a free and entirely voluntary gift conferred by God on the Order. Blessed John Soreth put a high value on this institution as the Sisters through their stricter contemplative life could supply in the Order what the Fathers, because of their growing activity in the world, not precisely forgot, but put more or less into the background, in spite of the fact that it was a salient characteristic of the Order.

Not only was the Community of the Order increased by the access of new members, so essential to its being, but the mystical God-bound life received at once a great number of new aspirants to its delights. A large number of saintly women joined the Fathers to emphasize yet more the contemplative element in the Carmelite vocation. Yet we should not conclude that by this displacement the Fathers left contemplation and its joys to the sisters entirely -- the life of the Bl. John Soreth himself shows the contrary. As before, the contemplation of the Law of God remained the chief aim of the Order, but there is no room for doubt that the increasing active life often left the Fathers little time to devote to contemplation and the fullness of a mystic life and that it distracted them from this high ideal.

The institution of the Carmelite Sisters as a second Order in an organization that from then onwards should contain both men and women gave the assurance that the first and highest aim of the Order was henceforth to be worthily striven after. The Sisters were not only called upon to supply what the Fathers in the stress and trouble of pastoral duties in the world were likely to forget, but also they are called upon to do even more. Their service was to strengthen and confirm the mystical character, to make it more brilliant than ever.

Being much stricter in their seclusion from the world, they could easily occupy themselves with more intensity with God and God accordingly rewarded their intercessory efforts. They were, so to speak, the crown and glory of the Order. They proved that the most blessed thing on this earth, the contemplation of God, was again Carmel's own. They were an untiring group of women who considered it their vocation to be a Mary in the solitude of their convent, a Mary who chose the better part, which should not be taken from her.

Thus, not only was a formidable shortcoming made good, a telling want filled, but there was also a positive gain to be set down because the Order now again fulfilled its calling in the greater part of its members. It is best to try to see all things in a positive light and the surety of the attainment of its set purpose, be it only in a restricted number of its members, must be called an inestimable gain.

So we welcome the Carmelite Sisters of Geldern and of all con-vents that came after, with unmitigated joy. We see with our mind's eye the interminable procession of Sisters as so many fellow soldiers, and successful ones, for the ideal of our Order. Together we feel stronger and safer; with them we may go through the world sharing the same ideal. Generally, the Fathers are called upon to keep the memory of this ideal green in the souls and hearts of the Sisters; conversely, the example of the Sisters will stimulate the Fathers to a more complete striving after their mutual ideal. When Holy Scripture says that brother aided by brother is strong, like a fortified town, how strong is the Order, how strong the brothers, now that they see at their side, since the founding of Geldern, this numberless host of Sisters. It is as if the vision of the prophet Eliseus displays itself before my eyes, as if I see the Order surrounded and enclosed by a numberless armed host who banish the fear from my heart that the spirit of this world will one day drag them down.

Frances d’ Amboise and Her House
Example of Observance

The convent of Geldern did not long remain the only one. The foundation of many convents and religious houses in Belgium, in the Northern provinces of Holland and the Northern part of France followed after. A little later they sprang up in Italy and Spain as well. A very favorable circumstance, such as Our Lord often allows to happen at the beginning of an Order, occurred in the north of France. It was the entrance into the Order of a saint who drew much attention to the new Order and made it known in wider circles. I refer to Frances d'Amboise, Duchess of Brittany, who scorned all earthly love after the early death of her husband, and completely dedicated herself to Our Lord. God had intended the ways of Blessed John Soreth and Frances d'Amboise to cross and the two saintly souls at once understood each other. Notwithstanding all opposition, even of the royal house, Frances entered the Order and received the veil at the hands of John Soreth. Her example attracted many followers and soon the community where she had been received had grown so large that a second house had to be founded. This house, Les Couets, near Nantes, came under her direction only because the Pope commanded her under Obedience -- on no other account could she be moved to accept the leadership. Under her direction this place became known for its heroic virtue and God rewarded it by many a mystical experience. For long years it was looked upon as the prototype of Carmelite convents. Not only during her lifetime, but many years after, it maintained its splendid reputation. When in later times St. Teresa, contemplating a stricter observance of her Rule, as she writes in one of her books, thought of going to a convent in the North where the Rule was better observed and which flourished in an exceptional way, it is thought that she meant the convent of Nantes, set on this path of virtue by Blessed Frances d'Amboise.

Explanation of the Rule
Solitude in Interior and Exterior Cell

Blessed John Soreth, also wrote, as an aid to his attempts at reformation, an exposition of the Rule after its new mitigation in 1431. It is worthy of note that BI. John Soreth founded the Carmelite Nuns under this mitigated Rule and that the observance of this Rule brought the Sisters to the highest heights of mystical life and the greatest perfection. We can in some chapters see what was foremost in his mind when he founded the Carmelite Nuns. It strikes us at once that he is lavish in his praise of solitude and the high value in sanctifying the appointed cell. He makes a play on the Latin word, coelum, and points out how the fervent intercourse with God in the silent cell is found to life the mind to God. But he at once distinguishes between an internal and an external cell. The latter is the means of communing as much as possible with God; to know Him as present. Besides he indicates that the cell must be a positive good, not only to keep us tree from the world and its shortcomings, but also above all to bring us nearer to God, to give us peace and quiet of heart and total surrender.

Threefold Subject of Meditation

This treatment of contemplation, to which the life in the cell must be primarily devoted, is especially noteworthy. He distinguishes a threefold meditation and calls special attention to all three forms.

In the first place, he proposes the admiration of Nature, then the reading of the Sacred Scriptures and finally an introspection of our own lives. These three kinds of contemplation he does not regard as necessarily connected but rather as subjects deserving a separate treatment in various hours of meditation. Only now and then they will have to be retarded in their relation to each other.

Admiration for the wonderful works of God is the very first thing to which he calls our attention. If we call up these feelings of admiration, the question as to the secret designs of God, why He created all this, forces itself upon our minds and from this problem we shall deduct and understand the intention and the meaning of all creation.

Six Steps of Meditation on Holy Scripture and Books

The second form of meditation is reading the Sacred Scriptures and spiritual books. Here as well, he distinguishes various steps by which we can mount upwards:

(1) Primarily we must read to get to know truth and to extend our knowledge of heavenly things. Love for this knowledge must urge us to take up Holy Writ and edifying books.

(2) Not only must we read to know, we must let ourselves be caught by truth, we must invite it to work its influence upon our minds by mentally pondering the words. Only then will our reading be not a barren knowledge but a power to lift us up and support us.

(3) Truth should not be something that only illumines our mind and satisfies our craving for knowledge; it should be a motive power lifting us above ourselves, not keeping us shut up in our own minds.

(4) The fourth step is not to remain inactive, but to turn that which we have read over and over in our minds, to combine it with what has been read or heard before, that it may grow into a living whole, giving a certain direction to our acts.

(5) After we have assimilated it, we must again make it the subject of our contemplation so as to find joy in the possession of truth.

(6) This contemplation should vivify our love for God's laws, should deepen our sense of that same law and our sense of God's grace, so that we may be inclined to do those things that, though not obligatory, yet tend to God's honor and glory and which we ought to do if we truly love God.

This love for the divine law and the glory of God will in the end bridle our passions and, ever freer and less hampered by our evil inclinations, we shall cleave to God and serve only Him.

Six Steps of Meditation on Ourselves
The third form of meditation,
the inspection of our own life,
also calls for a six-fold explanation.

(1) It has, to start with, always a double aspect, an inner and outer way of approach. We must keep our conscience spotless so that we always can account for our acts before God. Yet externally we must ever think of leading an exemplary life in the eyes of our neighbors. We have been placed here among our brethren by God to strive together toward the high ideals, which He placed before our mind’s eye, but unless we guard jealously the purity of our conscience, we cannot gather merits internally.

(2) The second point is a most perfect knowledge of ourselves, we must not only know what we are doing but we must also account for the motives which prompt our deeds, the inclinations to which we are subject when acting and try to find out where they are able to lead us. Secret inclinations are to be revealed before our own minds and above all the end to which they tend should be distinguished. This knowledge of ourselves, of our deepest being, though it is difficult, is absolutely necessary.

(3) This will give, in the third place, a fixed direction to our life and show us the road along which we can most easily make progress. Our successes, as well as our defeats, should be subjects of meditation, so as to evolve at the end the most perfect schemes for success in the campaign of life What we intend to do should not be left to the inspiration of the moment but our whole life should be planned beforehand in such a way that we are sure of victory. Many people work and labor and achieve many things which perhaps appear meritorious in the sight of others, whereas they are not keen on searching out what is asked of them for their own welfare and improvement.

(4) A fourth introspection makes us see over and over again what we have undertaken in choosing this life, which we live by our vows and by the orders of our superiors. The obligatory acts should always have precedence over such deeds as we perform of our own free will. Naturally we should not restrict ourselves to meeting only the obligations; charity should urge us to go beyond this; but never should such free acts be undertaken at the cost of duty.

(5) The fifth point is more or less a warning. It goes without saying that in those meditations which are the result of the review of our life we should neither undervalue ourselves so that we too easily despair of attaining our goal, nor overrate ourselves and attempt too much. There are hazards on both sides and we are to keep on the middle of the road.

(6) Blessed John Soreth concludes with a sixth consideration which forces us to shut our eyes to everything except what the moment demands, so that we may not break off what we are doing under the pretext of doing some other good work.

Methodical Spiritual Life

From what I cited here from the exposition on the Rule, it is evident that Bl. John Soreth had a very systematic way of practicing virtue and using prayer; this is in perfect keeping with the time in which he lived and the school which he represented. The question has been raised whether St. Teresa in her wonderful writings about the Way of Perfection and the Interior Castle has not undergone in some degree the influence of the Dutch school of the Devotio Moderna, which brings methodical prayer and systematic practice of virtue strongly to the fore in its Exercitia. I am inclined to see some influence but should like to look farther than the works of Thomas à Kempis, Zerboldt van Zutphen and Garcia de Cisneros and look to BI. John Soreth and the influence which he has had in the Order. His mysticism is doubtless very firmly bound up with that of the Devotio Moderna. He lays great stress on active holiness and the exercise of virtues and in this he proves himself a child of his time and of the country in which he laboured for the benefit of the Order. But in this case, the connection, which is found between the demand for a more methodical mode of prayer and the school of St. Teresa, is at the same time an indication that St. Teresa built on the foundations of John Soreth, on what he had stressed so particularly in his reformation and his institution of the Carmelite Sisters.

Position of Prayer in Life

He inserts a whole chapter to recommend both the practice of virtue as well as the preparation for prayer, followed by the practice of prayer. He speaks of a very slow and deliberate rising up of the building of our spiritual life and of the lasting influence of its foundations. He rejects the idea that the hours of prayer should be like oases in the desert of life but affirms strongly that prayer should be woven into our lives, grafted into it, so that our prayer is proof of our life and conversely our life proves the sincerity of our prayer. Before we begin to pray, we should first get into such a mental state, as we should wish to be found in while praying. Therefore, the Rule says that we are first to contemplate the Laws of God and our own life in order to obtain the required state before beginning to pray. That which is to dominate our prayer should first be evoked by meditation. Speaking later about the spiritual armor, he reverts to this image. He points to David, who had to take off the armor, which Saul had given him because he had not practiced in it. That is the reason, he says, why our Rule demands a never-ending activity, both of body and soul. We must exercise all our faculties and in this connection he points out to us the two sublime examples that should be ever in the mind of a perfect Carmelite; Our Lady and Elias the Prophet.

The Precious Pearl

Blessed John Soreth compares the practice of the Rule, in the section about the weekly chapter, with the precious pearl of the gospel, which keeps its value in spite of its being despised by some. The wise merchant sells everything he possesses in order to buy the field in which the treasure is hidden. Then the treasure must be dug for. I should like to apply this image here, to explain how we are to draw ever farther back into ourselves to find Christ and live with Him. BI. John Soreth has made the Rule known to us like the pearl of the Gospels and has taught us to sell everything to obtain it, but at the same time he has taught us how to dig up the treasure by living a life of the greatest possible piety. Therefore, this life has to be aided, borne upward and nourished through a never flagging exercise of virtue. In the shining of these virtues the glory of the pearl will be set off.

"God is Wisdom, and desires to be loved not only tenderly but wisely; otherwise the spirit of error will not find it difficult to deceive your zeal. If you are careless, that cunning enemy of ours has no more effective device for expelling love from your heart than to make you love rashly and unreasonably. However, let you love be strong and steadfast, proof against both fear and hardship." - Bl. John Soreth

July 27, 2001

Through A Dark Tunnel


"ANNO, do you know what?" "What, Father?" "You are a very bright boy!" The speaker was a Dutch Franciscan friar; the bright young man, a student at the Franciscan minor seminary in Megen, The Netherlands. "You are too bright to be a Franciscan," the priest continued. "There are many bright Franciscans, Father." "I am talking about you, Anno. You should be a Jesuit . . . not a Franciscan." "Yes, Father." This conversation took place just before the turn of the twentieth century. And, as happens in every century, the young man took none of his elder's advice. He joined neither the Franciscans nor the Jesuits; he became a Carmelite priest. His name was Anno Sjoerd Brandsma. He was born in Friesland, a province in the northwest corner of Holland, on February 23, 1881.

Anno's ancestors scooped their land from the sea, first with bare hands and later with primitive tools and other devices. Living with their faces to the sea and their feet on fertile farmland wrested from the waters, the Frisians were-and are- an enterprising and quietly determined people, a distinct and colorful minority in densely populated Holland. Physically strong, they revere decency of life and foster all the qualities that have made the Dutch famous cleanliness, order, intelligence and discipline.

Anno's father, Titus, a sober and creative man, deeply loved his people and his Roman Catholic faith. He promoted and developed the Frisian cooperative dairy system and immersed himself in local politics. He and his wife, Tjitsje Postma, had six children, four girls and two boys, whom they reared in an atmosphere of piety, hard work and joy on the large farm they called Oegeklooster. The family attended daily Mass. Contrary to the custom of the times, Titus and Tjitsje received Communion frequently during the week. Titus loved music and frequently gathered his brood around the family piano for sing-a-longs and dancing lessons. An accomplished folk-dancer, farmer Brandsma enlivened many of his family's happiest hours as he taught his children the steps of intricate polkas and mazurkas.


Anno desired to become a priest from the time he was a young boy. At the age of eleven, he asked his father's permission to enter the Franciscan minor seminary in Megen to begin preparatory studies for the priesthood. Although Frisian in spirit, he was frail and not blessed with the strong constitution typical of his people. He was a willing worker but could never handle the heavy farm work Frisian children customarily performed. Titus and Tjitsje, although concerned about his health, gave him permission to try the seminary

During his six years at Megen, Anno, well endowed with Frisian common sense and stability and possessed of keen intelligence, succeeded very well in his studies. His winsome personality made him a favorite with professors and students. His classmates called him "de Punt," a nickname meaning "Shorty." In his third year at the seminary, he developed a severe intestinal disorder and lost a considerable amount of weight. The friars ordered a special diet for him, featuring cream, eggs, butter and other foods that enabled him to regain his lost weight. He soon recovered his health and returned with renewed energies to his studies. His superiors, however, not satisfied that he was strong enough for the rigors of Dutch Franciscan life, suggested that he seek a gentler form of life. The rejection hurt, but Anno accepted it with grace and resiliency.

In September 1898, Anno presented himself at the Carmelite monastery in Boxmeer, Holland, as a candidate for the order and was cheerfully accepted. On his reception into the order's novitiate, he observed the custom of changing his name to indicate the beginning of his new life. His choice was Titus..

Carmelites trace their origin to Holy Land pilgrims and ex-crusaders that, in the spirit of the Old Testament prophet Elias, adopted an eremitical form of life on and around Mt. Carmel about the middle of the 12th century. Pope Honorius III approved their primitive rule in 1226. Twenty-one years later, St. Simon Stock, to whom Mary revealed the Scapular, became general superior of the order and the strong leader of its establishment and spread in England and Europe.

Despite internal divisions and vagaries of religious and political revolutions, the Carmelites contributed significantly to the ministry of the Church in Europe until the 18th century when the order fell afoul of the Austrian emperor's anti-papal policies and the atheism unleashed by French Revolutionaries. By 1830, there were only two Carmelite monasteries in western Europe: one in Austria with three members and the other in Boxmeer with three members. A decade later, the Boxmeer community, freed from the political oppression that had been suffocating it, attracted new members and stirred with new life. By the 1850s, the community had twenty-four members and began sending men on mission to pioneer the foundation of new monasteries in The Netherlands, England, the United States, Poland, France and Austria. Carmelites from Boxmeer eventually opened missions in Brazil and Indonesia.

Anno joined the Carmelites as this wave of renewal was cresting. The Boxmeer community consisted of thirty-nine friars who spent their days in prayer, silence and solitude. Fasting, austerity, contemplation and study were the ingredients of the Carmelite way. Anno-living in a simple cell, sleeping on a straw mattress, bent over books at his desk, kneeling in quiet prayer, chanting the midnight Office in chapel, eating the simplest foods, recreating quietly with his confreres-knew he had found his niche. "I am very happy now," he wrote home.

During his novitiate, Titus began a lifelong study of the writings of St. Teresa of Avila, the most astute and articulate analyst of the Carmelite spirit who later was proclaimed the first woman Doctor of the Church.

In his spare time, he translated several of her works and published them in 1901 under the title, Selected Writings from the Works of St. Teresa. The effort represented the first of his many contributions to the literature of mysticism. He discovered that he had a facile pen and an ability to translate the most scholarly concepts into clear, concise language. These translations marked the beginning of a long and successful literary career.

Titus also initiated several literary projects with his fellow students during his novitiate and subsequent years of study. He encouraged them to produce articles on various religious topics and acted as their literary agent in selling their work to Dutch magazines and newspapers. He developed an in-house magazine for the carmelites which he eventually published for all Dutch Catholics. These early writings revealed his characteristically Carmelite attraction to mysticism and his typically Frisian interest in Christian responsibility for social justice.

At times his austere life-style, coupled with the added exertions of translating and writing, took a heavy toll of Titus' fragile constitution. He experienced recurrent attacks of intestinal difficulties and general weakness. His superior, a gentle and sensible Dutchman, often grounded him, relieving him of the obligation to assist at midnight Office and other monastic duties. The friars, anxious that Titus stay in their community: assisted him in every possible manner.

His courage did not flag. On one occasion he wrote to his grandmother, who was also probably ill at the time: "Keep up your courage and continue to be happy. Then everything will right itself. Do believe this."

In October, 1899, his Carmelite superiors allowed their happy - if frail, Titus to profess his first vows in the order and approved the continuation of his studies for the priesthood.


Bright and articulate, Titus had little difficulty in mastering the required studies in philosophy and theology. He was ordained a priest June 17, 1905, celebrated his first solemn Mass in Friesland and, after a short vacation with parents and relatives, reported to the Carmelite monastery in Oss for his final year of theology.

His superiors intended to send Titus to Rome for doctoral studies. During final examinations at Oss, however, he ran afoul of a testy examining professor who resented his liberal thinking, picked him to shreds in oral questioning, and effectively squelched for the time being any hope for studies in the Eternal City. Titus, while accepting this setback with some degree of resignation, was jolted again when his superiors assigned him, a respected scholar and successful writer, to sacristan and bookkeeping duties at Boxmeer. Always resilient, the new priest graciously and cheerfully accepted the assignment.

The appointment to Rome for doctoral studies came a year later, after his superiors judged they could override the objections of the professor who had previously flunked him.


Titus' calmness, gentleness and quiet good humor won him the affection and admiration of the international group of students at the Carmelite College of St. Albert in Rome. Illness plagued him again, however, preventing him from passing final examinations the first time around. He made it in the second try and was awarded a doctorate in philosophy by the Pontifical Gregorian University October 25, 1909.


Titus, a doctor of philosophy: returned to the Netherlands to assume a teaching post at Oss. Carmelite renewal had peaked during the early 1900s but, by the time of his return from Rome, vocations to his and other orders had dropped sharply. He nevertheless labored to establish the best training system possible for the small number of seminarians. Superiors of the order, responding to the urgings of Titus and other scholars, determined to provide the most competent faculties and the finest seminary programs. During some terms, Titus taught only two or three students, always with well-prepared and thoroughly researched lectures and classes. His subject matter dealt with the relationship between philosophy and theology.

Titus combined writing and other activities with his teaching career. He founded Carmelrozen, a journal of Carmelite spirituality, which he edited and for which he encouraged his students to write. In 1916, he organized a team of scholars to do more translations of the voluminous works of St. Teresa of Avila. He was appointed editor of the local daily newspaper in 1919 and collaborated on a Frisian translation of the famous spiritual guide, the Imitation of Christ. Ever the practical businessman, he negotiated government and business loans for a new library in Oss and engaged in numerous civic and religious projects.

Despite his time-consuming round of activities, Titus never neglected his Carmelite way of life, which demanded several hours of prayer and meditation each day. No wonder he wrote to a friend: "Last night I was still working until one-thirty, and this morning, I said Mass at six-thirty since school started again at eight o'clock." No wonder also that his health broke under the strain from time to time.

His spirit was willing but his flesh was too weak to maintain the fast and demanding pace of his apostolic involvements. In the summer of 1921, he suffered a general physical collapse and, with recurrent hemorrhaging and persistent pain, hovered between life and death for long week after long week. Then, suddenly, Titus the resilient began to recover. He got back to full stride by early winter of that year.


Busy Titus always had time for people. The more unfortunate they were, the more time he gave them. The eccentric, the poor, the ignorant, the despised -all felt at home with him and had no hesitation about invading his privacy. His heart, overruling his fondness for organization, impelled him to drop everything and turn full attention to the plight of any distressed person who showed up, unannounced, at his doorstep. When he met anyone who was hungry, he fed him. If he had no money to give, he brought the person to his home. He provided clothing, rent, money and consolation without stint to all who came his way. Once, he whipped the blanket off his own bed to warm a poor person. He spent hours listening to the complaints of frustrated artists and outraged scholars, and struggled to right the wrongs they suffered. If his head was in the high and luminous clouds of philosophy and mysticism, his feet were planted firmly on the rocky ground of human suffering and confusion.

Kneeling in prayer by the hour; leaning over his desk while preparing his lectures; listening patiently to the words of a suffering human being; counseling a student; sitting at his typewriter, his head concealed by billows of blue smoke from the cigar clenched in his teeth: Titus Brandsma was a happy man. And he brought happiness with everything he did and to everyone he met.


The Roman Catholic University of Nijmegen, the first of its kind in the modern history of The Netherlands, was established in 1923. It symbolized the endurance and hardiness of Dutch Catholics who had suffered severe persecution during several centuries of political and religious upheaval, and were still struggling for survival and equality in the twentieth century.

Dutch Protestants and Catholics took religion seriously. Both were quite willing to die for their beliefs, and each provided the opportunity for the other to do so at various intervals. By the end of the nineteenth century, however, Protestants and Catholics had learned to live side by side as separate and distinct groups. Protestants, whose communicants included the king and queen, were in the majority, both in numbers and influence.

The new institution at Nijmegen sparked great enthusiasm among Dutch Catholics. One of them, Titus, felt deeply honored when he was invited to join the university's first faculty as a professor of philosophy and mysticism.

His position at the university widened Titus' sphere of influence. His winning personality and genuine religious spirit attracted young people. His students gave him mixed reviews as a lecturer but highest grades as an approachable human being. He continued his writing apostolate and was eventually appointed superior of a monastery established near the university for students of the Carmelite Order.

From his quarters at Nijmegen, Titus -who spoke Italian, Frisian and English -was summoned constantly to hear confessions, give counsel and help the unfortunate. His apostolic spirit and his love for the Frisian people, who were mostly Protestant, drew him to establish a special Catholic society for Frisia. In 1926, he organized the first national pilgrimage to the site in Frisia where St. Boniface, who planted the faith in the region, was martyred in the eighth century. He continued work on various projects for his order. He also earned a reputation as a skillful lobbyist with the government on behalf of the university, and as a successful negotiator of government loans and grants for the institution.


Titus was elected in 1932 to a 6 year term as Rector Magnificus, president of the Catholic University Nijmegen and accepted the office h joy and his customary deference. As Rector Magnificus, he journeyed Rome on one occasion to call on Cardinal Bisleti. The Cardinal, who hard of hearing, had difficulty in apprehending just who this tiny carmelite standing before him was why he had called on him. "You who?" His Eminence inquired. as explained patiently that he was for Magnificus of the university Nijmegen. "Ah," the Cardinal responded. "Could not the Rector Magnificus himself come? Is he… ' Titus tried again. - Ah, how sad," murmured the Carl. Titus tried once more, in the best voice he could muster this time the prelate heard and d with wonder at the unassuming "You are the Rector Magnificus Titus smiled apologetically.

…It is the Rector Magnificus," the final kept repeating to no one in particular for several moments before the interview got under way. He proved to be an excellent adtrator and rector. His non-threatening personality, his uncanny to reconcile hardheaded university professors and administrators, and his negotiating -all combined to make him a Magnificent Rector.

The evening the university celebrated its tenth anniversary, the day Titus 'term as' rector expired, students, alumni, and faculty members went to a local hotel for a celebration. Later that same evening, a group in high spirits left the hotel and paraded by torchlight to the Carmelite monastery. When Titus, responding to their enthusiastic demands for an immediate audience, appeared and tried to quiet the crowd, they accorded him a tumultuous ovation. The students and faculty he loved could hardly have paid him a more touching tribute.


After the expiration of his term as rector of the university, Titus returned to the classroom and lecture hall while continuing, to commit himself to other apostolic endeavors which included writing and lecturing throughout the country. In 1935, at the request of his superiors in Rome, he undertook a lecture tour to Carmelite foundations in the United States, during which he traveled in the East and Middle West.

After a visit to Niagara Falls, he wrote in his journal: "I am . . . contemplating the imposing Niagara Falls. From their high channel, I see them rushing down ceaselessly . . . What is surprising is the marvelous and complex possibility of the waters... I see God in the work of his hands and the marks of his love in every visible thing. I am seized by a supreme joy which is above all other joys."

Irish Carmelites who helped him perfect his use of English during a visit to their country before the United States tour, remembered him for his gentleness, humor and genuine goodness. They also marveled that Titus, unused to alcohol, consumed respectable amounts of potent Irish whisky without showing any of the usual effects.

As the 1930s ended, Titus, despite nagging ill health, continued to mobilize every talent he possessed, every ounce of energy he could muster, to pursue his contemplative and active life.

In one of his lectures at Nijmegen, he revealed the source of his happiness and productivity. "First of all, we have to see God as the fundamental basis for our being. This basis is hidden in the inner depth of our nature. There we have to see him and to meditate on him... We then not only adore him in our own being but also in everything that exists."


Shortly before Titus left for the United States, Archbishop (later Cardinal) De Jong, ranking prelate of the Dutch hierarchy, appointed him spiritual advisor to the mostly lay staff members of the more than thirty Catholic newspapers in the country. The purpose of the appointment was to strengthen relations between the hierarchy and the working Catholic press. Titus, well qualified for the liaison assignment, had no difficulty in winning the respect and cooperation of the journalists.


Adolph Hitler became Chancellor of Germany in January 1933. By that time, he had already set in motion the forces of patriotism, political fanaticism, racial hatred and rigid party discipline that produced the Nazi dictatorship in Germany and prepared it for expansion into Austria, Czechoslovakia, the Scandinavian countries, Poland, Belgium, The Netherlands and France.

Titus, with sadness and foreboding, observed and correctly interpreted the ominous development of Nazism. In classroom, lecture hall and the press, he warned the Dutch against Hitlerian tyranny. "The Nazi movement is a black lie," he proclaimed. "It is pagan." His critique and denunciation of the Nazi movement in Germany and its counterpart in Holland did not escape the notice of the Dutch Socialist Party. He became a man marked for eventual reprisal.

German tanks bearing the swastika and flying red war banners burst across the Dutch frontier May 10, 1940, spearheading a blitzkrieg of armor and troops that rapidly crushed all organized military resistance.

With armed forces in command and Nazi officials and collaborators in political control, the repression of freedom became the objective in Holland. Accordingly, objectors to the occupation were deemed traitorous, organized religion came under attack, and Jews were victimized again as they had already been in Germany.

Catholics came under strict regulation and straitened circumstances. Authorities decreed that priests along with men and women religious could not be principals or directors of secondary schools. The salaries of priest and religious teachers were cut by 40 per cent. Catholic schools were ordered to expel Jewish students.

Titus, appointed by the bishops for the purpose, appeared before officials at The Hague to present clearly and vigorously their opposition to the crippling directives, to no avail.


The Dutch bishops announced January 26, 1941, that the sacraments were to be refused "to the Catholic of whom it was known that he was supporting the National-Socialist movement to a considerable extent . . . because it seriously endangers the Christian conception of life of all those who participate in it"

The bishops spoke again when the Nazis decreed a heavy-handed takeover of the Roman Catholic Workers' Union. In a letter addressed to the Dutch people in July, 1941, they said: "We have long maintained silence - that is to say, publicly about the many injustices to which we Catholics have been submitted during recent months."

The letter continued with a listing of injustices, stating in part: "We have been forbidden to hold collections . . . for our own charitable and cultural institutions . . . Our Catholic broadcast . . . has been taken away from us. Our Catholic daily press has either been suspended or has been so limited in its freedom of expression that it is hardly possible any longer to speak of a Catholic Press."

The letter also noted that some institutions had to pay exorbitant taxes and that youth groups had been forced to disband. The bishops then wrote: "Now something has happened about which we may no longer be silent without betraying our spiritual Office... The Catholic Workers' Union is forced into the service of the National-Socialist movement; it becomes, in fact, one of its organizations. Therefore Catholics may no longer remain members." That the bishops were forced to condemn Catholic membership in the union they had established after its transformation by the Nazis, was a bitter pill for the Church to swallow.


The bishops' letter goaded the military governor of Holland to intensify persecution against both Jews and Catholics. Seyss-Inquart, an Austrian who had successfully engineered the annexation and incorporation of his own nation into the Third Reich, had spent the previous year trying to beguile the Dutch in the hope of turning them into willing collaborators with the Nazis. He failed to reckon upon one factor, however: the stubborn Dutch love of liberty. Hollanders snickered at his blandishments.

After release of the bishops' letter, he declared open war on the Dutch in a speech delivered in August in Amsterdam. "From this moment on," the Gauleiter declared, "it will be either you are with us or against us. The struggle will not be over until everyone accepts the way we, the Nazis, want things to be done. All of Europe will be chained and shackled before Germany gives up the fight. Nothing can prevent it."

The Nazi public relations bureau informed Dutch newspapers and journals that they had to accept advertisements and press releases emanating from official sources. Media personnel were told, "this measure which we have taken is based on the assumption that nothing may be omitted that may promote the unity of the Dutch nation."


Shortly after issuance of this memorandum, Archbishop De Jong summoned Titus to his chancery. "We will respond to them," he said. "Our answer must be 'No!"' He commissioned Titus, in his capacity as spiritual director of Catholic journalists, to convey the hierarchy's response personally to all Catholic editors in The Netherlands. On presenting this task, the Archbishop said: "Titus, you do understand this mission is dangerous. You do not have to undertake it."

"Father Titus," the Archbishop testified later, "knew exactly what I said, and he freely and willingly accepted the duty . . . The mission was necessary, for some of our editors disagreed with each other on what was allowed and in what cases they must disobey the new regulations because of their Catholic principles. Father Brandsma was the right man to explain our directives."

Titus stated and grounded the bishops' directives in a letter he began delivering personally in visits to editors throughout the country. He encouraged them to resist Nazi demands while patiently explaining the various consequences of such resistance as well as of collaboration with occupation authorities. He concluded each visit with remarks along this line: "We have reached our limit. We cannot serve them. It will be our duty to refuse Nazi propaganda definitely if we wish to remain Catholic newspapers. Even if they threaten us with severe penalties, suspension or discontinuance of our newspapers, we cannot conform with their orders."

As he traveled from city to city, Titus was well aware that the Gestapo was shadowing him. Furthermore, someone informed the police of the purpose of his mission and the contents of his message. Titus was a marked man.


Titus visited fourteen editors before the Gestapo arrested him on Monday, January 19, 1942, at 6:00 p.m. at the Boxmeer monastery. Before leaving there, he knelt and received the blessing of his superior. Leaving, he proudly wore in the lapel of his black clergy suit the insignia of a Knight of the Dutch Lion which he had received from Queen Wilhelmina in August 1939.

Police agents took him under guard to a prison at Scheveningen, a seaside port near The Hague. He was locked up in Cell 577. "Imagine my going to jail at the age of 60," he said to his arresting officer. "You should not have accepted the Archbishop's commission," was the humorless reply. Captain Hardegen, the tall, blond, always polite officer in charge of Titus' case,' began his interrogation with the question: "Why have you disobeyed the regulations?" "As a Catholic, I could have done nothing differently," Titus, replied.

"You are a saboteur. Your Church is trying to sabotage the orders of the occupying powers, to endanger the national peace and to prevent the national socialistic philosophy of life from reaching the Dutch population." Titus responded: "We must object to anything or any philosophy that is not in line with Catholic doctrine." Three days later, Hardegen filed a report to Berlin in which he said: "Brandsma's activity endangers the prestige of the German Empire, the national socialistic ideas, and intends to undermine the unity of the Dutch people. It seems justifiable to take Professor Brandsma into custody for a considerable time." But that was not all the Nazis had against the priest. Hardegen later explained that he was basically "an enemy of the German mission" and that "his hostility is proved by his writing against German policy toward the Jews."

As early as 1935, Titus had joined other Dutch intellectuals in public denunciation of Nazi persecution of the Jews Das Jahresbericht 1942 (the Nazis' "Yearbook 1942") well summarized the occupiers' view of Titus and others like him. Under "News from Holland" it was reported that in that year two hundred and thirty-eight persons were executed. The Secret Police took action against ten thousand Dutchmen. Following this item, the book gave details about the Nazi case against the Church and, specifically, against the wicked Professor Brandsma. "Besides the publication of several episcopal letters and statements from the pulpit against socialism and against the N. S. B. (the Dutch Nazi Party), the Catholic clergy also tried to organize a big press campaign against the N. S. B., as well as against the `Arbeitsdienst' (voluntary labor for Germany) and the N. A. F. (the Socialist Labor Union). Through the arrest of Professor Brandsma (the leading man in this action) - this rebellion was quenched in its infancy."


In the evening of Wednesday, January 21, 1942, Captain Hardegen advised Titus that his case would require further hearings and that he would therefore be held at Scheveningen. He told him: "Life in your cell cannot be too difficult for you since you are a monk." The officer allowed him to have his pipe and returned his watch. The hands were not set. "I have my own time," Titus wrote, "independent of Greenwich, Amsterdam or Berlin." During his years of intense apostolic activity, he had yearned for an opportunity to spend more time in prayer. The Nazis unwittingly gave him his heart's desire. Titus, who had learned to love silence and solitude while a Frisian farm boy, had a genius for organization which soon found expression in a daily routine that was interrupted only when guards forced him out of it for interrogation sessions. At one session, Hardegen gave him a task: "Please advise me in writing, Professor Brandsma, why the Dutch people, particularly the Catholics, are objecting to the Dutch Nazi Party." Titus, candid and without fear, had no hesitation in spelling out why the Dutch would never accept the Nazis and why Hitler's dream of absorbing them into his empire was bound to fail.

"The Dutch," he said, "have made great sacrifices out of love for God and possess an abiding faith in God whenever they have had to prove adherence to their religion. Protestants as well as Catholics venerate many martyrs from previous centuries who are examples for them. If it is necessary, we, the Dutch people, will give our lives for our religion. The Nazi movement is regarded by the Dutch people not only as an insult to God in relation to his creatures, but a violation of the glorious traditions of the Dutch nation." As Titus predicted, Nazi brutality succeeded in forging a bond between Protestants and Catholics in Holland, a consequence the Nazis feared and an experience, which Hollanders had not had since religious wars, tore their churches a part centuries earlier.

Titus never hated the German people or individual members of the Nazi Party. At the end of his statement to Hardegen, he wrote: "God bless Holland. God bless Germany. May God grant, that both nations will soon be standing side by side, in full peace and harmony." Hardegen, declaring, "Brandsma feels he must protect Christianity against the National Socialists," regarded him as "very dangerous" and stated flatly: "We will not let him free before the end of the war." Titus spent seven weeks in the uneasy silence that hung in the halls, corridors and salons of the resort turned into a prison at Scheveningen. Alone in his cell, he organized his day to the last moment. He wrote poetry, started a biography of St. Teresa of Avila, composed a series of meditations on the Way of the Cross for the Shrine of St. Boniface, martyr of Friesland, wrote two booklets (My Cell, Letters from Prison), read his breviary and knelt in silent prayer often during the day. He had a scheduled time for morning walks in the confines of his cell. He even smoked his pipe on schedule-until January 29, the feast of St. Francis de Sales, patron of Catholic journalists, when guards peremptorily took away his pipe and tobacco. Imperturbable as always, he struck smoking time from his daily schedule. "I felt at home in Scheveningen," he wrote to his Carmelite superior. "I pray, I write. The days are too short. I am very calm. I am happy and satisfied." So calm that he managed to complete .six of twelve proposed chapters of his biography of St. Teresa.


On March 12, Titus was transported in a convoy with about one hundred other prisoners’ -members of the underground, military personnel and clergy-to the notorious penal depot at Amersfoort in Central Holland. On arrival there at about 9:00 p.m., guards marshaled the prisoners in the camp courtyard and ordered them to stand in freezing rain. Titus, clad in his black clerical suit, was a quiet figure of dignified defiance. After several hours in the rain, the prisoners were led to a dressing room, were ordered to strip and were handed prison uniforms. Then, before they could dress, they were driven, naked, out again into the freezing rain. Finally, the drenched and shivering men were herded into barracks and allowed to don the old army uniforms that were standard prison attire.

Titus, Number 58, was assigned to a work detail hacking out a shooting range in the forest surrounding Amersfoort. Prisoners, poorly equipped for the job of cutting trees, removing stumps and clearing ground, often dropped exhausted in their tracks. Disease, dysentery and despair were prevalent throughout the camp. When the hospital became overcrowded, guards laid the sick in the camp's muddy streets where late spring rains and cold nights brought merciful death to many. Others were taken on truck rides from which they never returned.


On April 20, Hitler's birthday, prison authorities granted amnesty to some fortunate prisoners. Titus was not among them. Through one of those released, however, he sent word to the Carmelites, telling them not to worry about him. "I will be all right," he assured them. Released prisoners spoke of his good spirits, courage and generosity. "He frequently gives up a portion of his meager rations," they reported, "to help other starving prisoners." "Particularly touching," one recalled, "is his care and concern for the Jews."

Guards strictly prohibited any priest or minister to give spiritual counsel and viciously punished violators. Jailers beat transgressors to death or left them maimed for life.

Titus quietly and coolly defied the ruling. On days preceding Good Friday, he gathered groups of prisoners and led them through meditations on Christ's passion and the Stations of the Cross. Prisoners came to him every morning and night to ask for his blessing. He surreptitiously and silently made the Sign of the Cross on their hands with his thumb. He managed to hear confessions and even visit the sick and dying in the hospital.

Titus urged prisoners who could hardly bring themselves to forgive their brutal captors, "Pray for them." "Yes, Father," they replied, "but that is so difficult." "You don't have to pray for them all day long," he counseled gently.


Nazi authorities celebrated Easter Sunday by sentencing to death seventy-six members of the Dutch underground. Other prisoners had to stand silently facing the condemned for over two hours. Titus prayed for them and signaled this to them whenever he could by folding his hands and pointing heavenward. In late April, the Gestapo ordered Titus from Amersfoort to Scheveningen for further interrogation. To all questions, he repeated his original statement that he acted out of principle and that, if he were again in the same circumstances, he would do exactly the same thing. At the end of the questioning, Captain Hardegen informed him: "We have decided that you will be transferred to Dachau. You will stay there until the end of the war."


En route to Dachau, Titus spent some time at a prison in Kleve, Germany, where he received relatively good treatment. He managed to assist at Mass and receive the Eucharist but was not permitted to offer the Holy Sacrifice. Father Ludwig Deimel, the Catholic chaplain at Kleve, sought every opportunity to visit Titus. At his urging, Titus, whose health was deteriorating rapidly with the complication of uremic poisoning affecting his memory, appealed for parole. He asked to be allowed to spend his prison term at a Carmelite monastery in Germany.

His petition, unfortunately, was presented at the time Czechoslovakians assassinated Nazi Gauleiter Heydrich. Hardegen, who processed the petition, advised Dutchmen who visited his office to support the request that security demanded Titus' continued imprisonment. "We are still on the battlefield, strong and unconquered," he lectured the Dutchmen, "and we intend to remain." The officer ended the interview when he thrust his right arm into the air and shouted, "Heil, Hitler!"


"In Dachau, I will meet friends, and God the Lord is everywhere," Titus wrote just before he left Kleve. "I could be in Dachau for a very long time. It doesn't have such a very good name that you really long for it." On the journey from Kleve to Dachau, the prisoners stopped briefly at a gigantic gymnasium in Nuremberg called The Turnhalle. A prisoner described the place as "a vast reservoir of tears." Dachau, one of Germany's oldest concentration camps, held over one hundred and ten thousand prisoners from the time of its founding in the early thirties. Eighty thousand prisoners died there. From the very moment Titus entered the camp, his calmness and gentleness infuriated his captors. They beat him mercilessly with fists, clubs and boards. They kicked, punched and gouged him, drawing blood and oftentimes leaving him nearly unconscious in the mud.

The camp had a Catholic chapel where priests celebrated Mass every day. Prisoners were not allowed to attend, but intrepid inmates somehow were able to get and smuggle Sacred Hosts out to other prisoners.

One time, Titus received the Host in a tobacco pouch. Shortly after he got the pouch a guard, who judged that he had not mopped the kitchen floor properly, clubbed him to the ground and in an insane frenzy kicked him mercilessly. During the beating, Titus kept one arm clenched tightly to his body. Finally, he managed to crawl away from the enraged assailant and dragged himself to his bunk. A fellow Carmelite prisoner came to comfort him. "Thank you, Brother," Titus said, "but don't have pity on me. I had Jesus with me in the Eucharist."


Three barracks in Dachau were reserved for about sixteen hundred clergymen. "You will be in hell," a Dachau veteran told Titus when he was assigned to one of the barracks. "There," the prisoner added, "men die like rats." Of two thousand Polish priests imprisoned there, eight hundred and fifty died before the war's end.

The prisoners' day began at 4:00 a.m., from which time on guards chased them, exacted extra hours of labor, cut their miserable rations, harassed, hounded, beat and bludgeoned them. Work began at 5:30 a. m. and continued until 7:00 p.m., with a lunch break.

Titus, already suffering from untreated uremic poisoning, contracted a severe foot infection. The open sandals, which prisoners wore, caused his feet to blister and eventually suppurate. At the end of the workday, fellow prisoners often carried him to the barracks. Father Urbanski, a Polish prisoner, who more than once carried him, remembered: "So even-tempered and approachable was he, so cheerful in the midst of disaster which was threatening us from all sides, that he deeply touched our hearts." Another prisoner recalled, "He radiated with cheerful courage."

Titus continuously exhorted his fellow prisoners: "Do not yield to hatred. Be patient. We are here in a dark tunnel but we have to go on. At the end, the eternal light is shining for us." In his very last letter home, Titus, broken in body, full of infection, bruised, and with hardly a sound spot within or without, wrote: "With me, everything is fine. You have to get used to new situations. With God's help, this is working out all right. Don't worry too much about me. In Christ, Your Anno."

Titus, although he knew his days were numbered, refused to enter Dachau's hospital. He knew that in that hellish place inhumanity plumbed new depths. Doctors used prisoners for medical experimentation. Many human guinea pigs suffered frightfully before dying indescribable deaths. The few survivors were ruined for life.

Finally, Titus had no choice. He entered the hospital in the early part of the third week of July. He too became a subject for medical experimentation. In the afternoon of Sunday, July 26, 1942, the doctor in charge of his case ordered him injected with a deadly drug. Within ten minutes, Father Titus Brandsma, who brought happiness wherever he went on this earth, even to Dachau, was dead.

Arthur Seyss-Inquart (above), an Austrian, born and raised a Catholic, practiced his religion faithfully and devotedly throughout his youth. An idealist and patriot, he believed Adolph Hitler could restore dignity to the Austrian people after their empire was dismembered following World War 1. After the German takeover of Austria in 1938, he joined the Nazi Party and devoted his considerable energies to strengthening the bonds of union between Germany and Austria. Among the serious casualties of his Nazi involvement was the practice of his Catholic Faith. Seyss-Inquart's path intersected with Titus Brandsma's after Hitler appointed him Military Governor of The Netherlands. The two probably never met personally, but Seyss-Inquart blunted Father Brandsma's every effort to restrain Nazi oppression. It was Seyss-Inquart who ignored all last moment appeals to release Titus from Dachau in June 1942. The pictures on this page are prison identification photographs. Ironically, it was the destiny of both men to exchange their proud uniforms - the priest his Carmelite habit and the Nazi his military regalia - for prison garb. Brandsma remained faithful to his calling and religion until his cruel death in 1942. Seyss-Inquart, while awaiting trial at Nuremberg, reflected upon the strange twists and turns his life had taken. He determined to return to the faith of his fathers and requested a Franciscan prison chaplain to hear his confession. He received the sacraments of penance and the Eucharist before he was hanged as a WAR criminal in 1946. One is tempted to speculate that Prisoner No. 58, Titus Brandsma, might have been instrumental, through his prayers, in obtaining the grace of final penitence and spiritual peace for his fellow Catholic, Arthur Seyss-Inquart.


Soon after the war, people who had known Fr. Titus remembered his great holiness. They began to petition his brother Carmelites and the Bishops of Holland, requesting that a process of beatification be inaugurated. People who worked with him or whom he served saw him as a model of Christian life. A beginning was made in Holland in 1955, when Diocesan authorities gathered testimony about the life and holiness of Fr. Titus. This long and meticulous process extended into 1965, when a first summary of testimony was published in Rome. It was further refined in 1968.

Two years later, in 1970, the Holy See requested a special examination by a board of three consultant theologians. They were asked to make a judgment concerning the martyrdom of Fr. Titus. After reviewing the documents and the circumstances of his death in Dachau, they concluded unanimously that Fr. Titus had died a martyr's death. Later, the Promoter of the Faith (the "Devil's Advocate") challenged this conclusion. On May 25, 1971, a new board was convened. Two examiners agreed with the Promoter of the Faith, while four others voted in favor of the opinion that Fr. Titus had died a martyr. A three-fourths majority vote was needed, so the cause was now delayed.

These new objections had to be answered and were addressed in the following months. Finally, on December 10, 1973, the Cause for the Beatification of Fr. Titus Brandsma as a Martyr was officially introduced in Rome. In the summer of 1975, a further supplementary process was conducted in Holland at the request of the Holy See. A new summary of the Cause, including this latest testimony on the question of the martyrdom of Fr. Titus, was then submitted to the Holy See.

The next step in the process would be a plenary session of the Congregation for the Promotion of the Saints. Here the final study of the Cause and the decision concerning the beatification of Fr. Titus would be made. It is known that Pope John Paul II, who wrote a letter supporting the Cause of Fr. Titus while Archbishop of Krakow, has urged that this Cause be expedited quickly.

The fortieth anniversary of the death of Fr. Titus Brandsma was remembered in Rome on October 24, 1982. Cardinal Bernard Alfrink of Holland spoke of Fr. Titus as a "victim of Nazi terror and a martyr of anti-Christian ideology". Unfortunately, thousands in the world today share his martyrdom. Nazi officials feared Titus Brandsma and made him a victim of their very refined torture: jail, hunger, gradual physical breakdown, and finally elimination of the victim by lethal injection. Titus Brandsma had courageously lived the ideals of the Gospel of Christ; those who “shared a hatred of Christianity” destroyed him.

Let us pray…

God our Father,
source of life and freedom,
through your Holy Spirit you gave the Carmelite Titus Brandsma
the courage to affirm human dignity even in the midst of suffering and degrading persecution.
Grant us that same Spirit,
so that, refusing all compromise with error,
we may always and everywhere give coherent witness
to your abiding presence among us.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

February 1, 2001


by Leinfar Lee Ah Yen, ocds, member of Markham Community of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel

One would think that after four hundred years, anyone, anywhere, could recognize a Secular Order Carmelite. Not so! Our life style is ordinary, our habit concealed, our prayer life is hidden.

We have all read, that there is a CARMELITE IDENTITY. It is what motivates and attracts us to seek out a distant life style, to be part of an Order, to belong to a community.

Although attraction and motivation will lead us to Carmel, they need to be fortified with other elements to transform us from who we are to whom we hope to become.

Fr. Aloysius Deeney noted six distinct elements, when combined, would provide motivation for someone to seek a CARMELITE IDENTITY with the Order.
  1. Practicing member of the Catholic Church
  2. Under the protection of Our Lady of Mount Carmel
  3. Inspired by St. Teresa of Jesus and St. John of the Cross
  4. Who makes a commitment to the Order
  5. To seek the face of God
  6. For the sake of the Church and the world.

The fortifying elements should be:
  • Love of God, of Mary, of the Order
  • Sacrifice giving up, denial, detachment, poverty of spirit, sharing, caring
  • Attitude humility, an open mind, a generous heart
  • Focus on changes evolving from self-knowledge, self-evaluation, and obedience
  • Determination to stay on course despite frustration and obstacles
  • Commitment whole-hearted, free and zealous
  • Appreciation of the gift of vocation we have received.

Membership in any association follows set procedure. There are entrance requirements; rules to follow; probationary period; an evaluation and selection process; & dues to be paid. Carmel is similar in some respects. Participants are interviewed, we follow the Rule of St. Albert, undergo a formation period and an evaluation and selection process before admission to the Order of the Teresian Carmel and we pay dues.

Similarity is completely erased after an initial Community meeting.
  • Our meeting is obligatory;
  • Prayer and education are the essentials;
  • It is convened for our Christian and Carmelite growth according to the Teresian charism;
  • Although the meeting is fraternal, it is not a social gathering.

The Community as a whole - fashions and shapes each candidate through prayer, support, interaction, guidance and encouragement. It is also during this initial stage that the Community is scrutinized and judged by the Candidates and we cannot be found wanting.

We must also face the reality that even with the best intentions on both sides, we may have different expectations and there could be a parting of ways, eventually.

The fortifying elements can strengthen our resolve for the reasons listed below.

Love of God, of Mary, of the Order.
     St. Therese of the Child Jesus said in one of her letters that love can do all things, and the most difficult things do not appear difficult to it. Jesus does not look so much at the grandeur of actions or even their difficult as at the love that goes to make up the actions.
     Keeping love alive in a relationship is hard work, really hard work. It takes constant effort, input, honesty, trust, communication, and above all, charity to foster growth. We are busy, we seem to have more to do at work every day, less time to eat, no time to visit family and friends. Technology helps. The telephone, e-mail, and cell phones are substitutes for the lack of face-to-face meetings. Is there even time for courtship these days?
     Carmel beckons and if the spark of love is there, respond like Mary with a humble YES, then let your soul magnify the Lord and He will do great things for you. God is love and the Father of time. Co-operate with the Lord, tell his mother of your difficulties and if Carmel is for you, it will all work out.

     Sacrifice is the reflection of love, so love too, self-denial, detachment, poverty of spirit, sharing, caring; all characteristics of Jesus, the one whom we love and desire. Are we ready to imitate him? St. Therese in the Story of A Soul said that love is nourished only by sacrifices and the more a soul refuses natural satisfactions the stronger and more disinterested becomes her tenderness.

     The Oh my gosh! Attitudes will thwart the best intentions.
  • Oh my gosh! Is the Carmelite meeting tonight?
  • O my gosh! I have to read or make a note on chapter ten.
  • Oh my gosh! Another trip to London for a retreat?
  • Oh my gosh! Shouldn't you be somewhere else!

     At times when we feel overwhelmed by all the requirements and obligations of Carmel, Stop, Assess the Situation, and Focus on what is important. Act on what has to be done and remember that obedience is part of the Promise a Carmelite makes.

     Our Holy Mother, St. Teresa of Jesus tells the sisters in chapter 21 of the Way of Perfection that, in order to reach the end of the journey along this way of prayer, they need a very determined determination. They must have a great and very resolute determination to persevere until reaching the end, come what may, happen what may, whatever work is involved, whatever criticism arises, whether they arrive or whether they die on the road, or even if they don't have courage for the trials that are met, or if the whole world collapses!!

     Another dimension of love and sacrifice. Are we heroes or cowards? Do we trust in God or rely on our feeble efforts? The following is from the Ways of Perfection by Simon Tugwell, O.P. from the chapters Two spirit fathers in the East Barsanuphius and John. Holding to the now is the way to be faithful to the continual novelty of God's deeds; failing to do so goes with lack of faith and hardness of heart and leads to seeking guarantees, just as the Pharisees asked for a sign.

     A token of gratitude, a card of appreciation; a note to say thank you, social obligations, courtesy, good manners, etiquette, however you call it, these gestures are expected in a polite society. God has given us Carmel for our holiness and peace. Let us remember to thank Him for this gift with grateful hearts.
     Thanks be to you, my joy and my glory and my confidence, my God, thanks be to You for Your gifts, but please preserve them for me. For by doing so you will preserve me and those things which you have given me will be enlarged and perfected, and I myself will be with you, since my very being you have given me. (From the Confessions of St. Augustine 1,XX,31).

This closing quote is from our Holy Father St. John of the Cross.
"In the evening of this life, you will be judged on love!"

Carmelite Identity Formation and Self Evaluation.

There are a number of ways you become a member of a family: (a) by birth; (b) by adoption; (c) by marriage; and (d) by choice.

We can safely dispense with the first three methods and concentrate on choice. Whether you were called; whether you followed, or whether you chose, you are here now, present at this meeting of the family of Carmel, which means you want to be identified and be called a Carmelite.

Parents and children, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters all have expectations, obligations and responsibilities. They interact with each other, depend on one another, and work together for the common good. A sound family structure is built on love, loyalty, obedience and service and all the other characteristics that are the fruits of those principles.

Family ties are strengthened by frequent gatherings, attending traditional cele-brations, offering advice, encouragement and consolation in times of trial, guarding the reputation and the family's honour and good name. Life within any family is a constant challenge if you want to maintain peace and harmony. In a most positive way, a family like that could mold you, shape you and inspire you to be the person God wants you to be. Who would not want to belong to such a family?

In no small measure the Order of Carmel does the same for her own family. Whereas, a family abides by unwritten rules, Carmel has the Rule of Life and the Constitutions to help their members live a certain way in an organized manner in the spirit of the Gospel according to the Teresian charism.

Carmelite formation is an on-going, life-long process. There is no graduation day. Instead, progress is rewarded with increased responsibility and more active involvement in the welfare of the community. Spiritual formation in conjunction with active involvement in the community ensures stability, continuity, conformity and growth.

Returning to the subject of choosing the family of Carmel, commitment is not an option. It demands love, sacrifice and determination and the most essential ingredient of all TIME.

There is something in our life that we can use only once. We each receive a different length, but it measures the same wherever we go. It is everywhere but we cannot find it and no one can afford to buy it. Although you need it, you spend all of it so you never have any of it for yourself or anything or anyone else.

You hear it everywhere. I have no time! I cannot find time! There is no time! … Yes there is time. Something so important must be accounted for. What do you do with it? How do you spend it?

Study your present and personal life-style. Include family obligations.
  • When is your wake-up time?
  • How long is your prayer time?
  • How long is the distance and travel time every day?
  • How long is your work schedule, in and out time, overtime, time spent on work related study.
  • How long is your meal time.
  • How long is your recreational time.
  • How long is your after work activities. Frequency per week / per month.
  • Time spent on above.
  • Level of involvement.
  • Level of responsibility.
  • How much time is allotted to Carmel every day? Prayer /meditation /reading /study /formation study program.
  • Arrival time at the monthly meeting.
  • Departure time at the monthly meeting.
  • Specific task you did, for or at, the meeting.
One last word,
You are responsible for who you are.
It is Your Goal, Your Fulfillment, Your Particular Way of Life, Your Formation, Your Allegiance, Your Promise, Your Commitment.

The measure you give is the measure you will receive, and the free choice is yours.