Titus Brandsma

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Titus Brandsma

Brandsma in the 1920s
Religious, Priest and Martyr
BornAnno Sjoerd Brandsma
(1881-02-23)23 February 1881
Oegeklooster, Friesland, Netherlands
Died26 July 1942(1942-07-26) (aged 61)
Dachau concentration camp, Bavaria, Germany
Venerated inRoman Catholic Church
BeatifiedNovember 3, 1985 by Pope John Paul II
Major shrineTitus Brandsma Memorial, Nijmegen, Netherlands
Feast27 July
AttributesCalced Carmelite Habit
Nazi concentration camp badge
martyr's palm
PatronageCatholic journalists, tobacconists, Friesland

Titus Brandsma (23 February 1881 – 26 July 1942), was a Dutch Carmelite friar, Catholic priest and professor of philosophy. Brandsma was vehemently opposed to Nazi ideology and spoke out against it many times before the Second World War. He was imprisoned in the infamous Dachau concentration camp, where he was murdered. He has been beatified by the Roman Catholic Church as a martyr of the faith.

Early life[edit]

Brandsma was born Anno Sjoerd Brandsma to Titus Brandsma (died 1920) and his wife Tjitsje Postma (died 1933) at Oegeklooster, near Hartwerd, in the Province of Friesland, in 1881.[1] His parents, who ran a small dairy farm, were devout and committed Catholics, a minority in a predominantly-Calvinist region. With the exception of one daughter, all of their children (three daughters and two sons) entered religious orders.[2][3]

The grounds of the Franciscan friary in Megen where Brandsma did his high school studies

From the age of 11, Brandsma pursued his secondary studies in the town of Megen, at a Franciscan-run minor seminary for boys considering a priestly or religious vocation.[2][4]

Carmelite friar[edit]

Brandsma entered the novitiate of the Carmelite friars in Boxmeer on 17 September 1898, where he took the religious name Titus (in honor of his father) by which he is now known. He professed his first vows in October 1899.[2][5]

Ordained a priest in 1905, Brandsma was knowledgeable in Carmelite mysticism and was awarded a doctorate of philosophy at Rome in 1909. From 1909 to 1923 he lived in Oss and worked as a writer and teacher.[6] From 1916 on, he initiated and led a project to translate the works of Teresa of Ávila into Dutch.[7] In 1919 he founded and for two years acted as head of a secondary school in Oss—the present day Titus Brandsma Lyceum.[8]

In 1921 Brandsma worked to resolve a controversy concerning Belgian artist Albert Servaes' depiction of the Stations of the Cross. From this came his series of meditations on each of the 14 stations.[9]

One of the founders of the Catholic University of Nijmegen (now Radboud University), Brandsma became a professor of philosophy and the history of mysticism at the school in 1923. He later served as Rector Magnificus (1932–33).[10] He was noted for his constant availability to everyone, rather than for his scholarly work as a professor. Brandsma also worked as a journalist and was the ecclesiastical adviser to Catholic journalists by 1935. That same year he traveled for a lecture tour of the United States and Canada, speaking at various institutions of his Order.[2] On the occasion of his visit to a Carmelite seminary in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Brandsma wrote of the falls, "I not only see the riches of the nature of the water, its immeasurable potentiality; I see God working in the work of his hands and the manifestation of his love."[11]

Imprisonment and death[edit]

After the invasion of the Netherlands by the Third Reich in May 1940, Brandsma's long-term fight against the spread of Nazi ideology and for educational and press freedom brought him to the attention of the Nazis.

In January 1942 he undertook to deliver by hand a letter from the Conference of Dutch Bishops to the editors of Catholic newspapers in which the bishops ordered them not to print official Nazi documents, as was required under a new law by the German occupiers. He had visited fourteen editors before being arrested on 19 January at the Boxmeer monastery.[2]

After being held prisoner in Scheveningen, Amersfoort, and Cleves, Brandsma was transferred to the Dachau concentration camp, arriving there on 19 June. His health quickly gave way, and he was transferred to the camp hospital. He died on 26 July 1942, from a lethal injection administered by a nurse[12] of the Allgemeine SS, as part of their program of medical experimentation on the prisoners.[2]


Statue of Titus Brandsma on the grounds of Radboud University, Nijmegen

Brandsma is honored as a martyr within the Roman Catholic Church. He was beatified in November 1985 by Pope John Paul II. His feast day is observed within the Carmelite Order on 27 July.

In 2005 Brandsma was chosen by the inhabitants of Nijmegen as the greatest citizen to have lived there. A memorial church now stands in the city dedicated to him.[13]

Brandsma's studies on mysticism was the basis for the establishment in 1968 of the Titus Brandsma Institute in Nijmegen, dedicated to the study of spirituality. It is a collaboration between the Dutch Carmelite friars and Radboud University Nijmegen.[14]

In his biography of Brandsma, The Man behind the Myth, Dutch journalist Ton Crijnen claims that Brandsma's character consisted of some vanity, a short temper, extreme energy, political innocence, true charity, unpretentious piety, thorough decisiveness, and great personal courage. His ideas were very much those of his own age and modern as well. He offset contemporary Catholicism's negative theological opinion about Judaism with a strong disaffection for any kind of Antisemitism in Hitler's Germany.[15] Brandsma was honoured by the city of Dachau with a street adjoining the former camp, albeit one of the narrowest streets in the town.


  1. ^ Rees, Joseph (1971). Titus Brandsma: A Modern Martyr. London: Sidgwick and Jackson. pp. 15–16.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Bl. Titus Brandsma". Carmelites Friars. Retrieved 28 February 2013.
  3. ^ Dölle, Constant (2002). Encountering God in the Abyss: Titus Brandsma's Spiritual Journey. Leuven: Peeters. p. 11. ISBN 9042911638.
  4. ^ Dölle, Constant (2002). Encountering God in the Abyss: Titus Brandsma's Spiritual Journey. Leuven: Peeters. p. 14. ISBN 9042911638.
  5. ^ Glueckert, Leopold G. (2002). Friar Against Fascism. Carmelite Press. p. 1.
  6. ^ Gluekert, Leopold (2002). Friar Against Fascism. Darien, IL: The Carmelite Press. p. 1.
  7. ^ Rees, Joseph.Titus Brandsma: A Modern Martyr. 49–50.
  8. ^ Dölle, Constant (2002). Encountering God in the Abyss: Titus Brandsma's Spiritual Journey. Leuven: Peeters. pp. 67–68. ISBN 9042911638.
  9. ^ Brandsma, Titus; Servaes, Albert; Huls, Jos, ed. (2003). Ecce Homo: Schouwen van de weg van liefde/Contemplating the Way of the Cross. Leuven: Peeters.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  10. ^ Glueckert, Leopold G. (2002). Friar Against Fascism. Carmelite Press. p. 2.
  11. ^ Dölle, Constant (2002). Encountering God in the Abyss: Titus Brandsma's Spiritual Journey. Leuven: Peeters. p. 48. ISBN 9042911638.
  12. ^ Butler, Alban. Butler's Lives of the Saints. Edited by Bernard Bangley. Paraclete Press: 2005. Record for 26 July (Feast Day).
  13. ^ "Home". Titus Brandsma Memorial (in Dutch). Retrieved 28 February 2013.
  14. ^ "The Institute". Titus Brandsma Institute. Retrieved 19 September 2019.
  15. ^ Crijnen, Ton (2008). Titus Brandsma, De man achter de mythe – de nieuwe biografie (in Dutch). Nijmegen: Valkhof Pers. ISBN 978-90-5625-278-6.


The Titus Brandsma Memorial Church in Nijmegen
  • 'Blessed Titus Bransdma' (Leaflet) : The Friars, Aylesford, Kent, UK.
  • Brandsma, Titus. Carmelite Mysticism Historical Sketches. Darien, IL: Carmelite Press, 2002.
  • Brandsma, Titus, and Albert Servaes. Ecce Homo: Schouwen van de weg van liefde/Contemplating the Way of Love. Edited by Jos Huls. Leuven: Peeters, 2003.
  • Brandsma, Titus. "Why do the Dutch people, especially the Catholic people, resist the N.S.B.?" (1942) Translated from the Dutch by Susan Verkerk-Wheatley / Anne-Marie Bos.
  • Clarke, Hugh. Titus Brandsma (Pamphlet). London: Catholic Truth Society, 1985.
  • Dölle, Constant. Encountering God in the Abyss: Titus Brandsma's Spiritual Journey. Translated by John Vriend. Leuven: Peeters, 2002.

External links[edit]