A Hero for Today, Titus Brandsma

A Hero for Today, Titus Brandsma

Just over 79 years ago, Titus Brandsma was murdered in the Dachau Concentration Camp after being part of a Nazi medical experimentation program on prisoners. His stay at the camp was just over a month long and is one of many that can be told of the atrocities committed by the Nazis during the Second World War.

However, Brandsma’s story is important and it can provide a valuable lesson to every single person no matter what ethnic or religious background they come from.

So who was Titus Brandsma, and why was it announced on Thanksgiving that next year he would be officially canonized a Saint?

In simple terms, he was a priest, professor, and journalist born in 1881 in the Netherlands. He grew up in a religious family, which saw three daughters and two sons enter religious life including himself.

After his ordination in 1905, he began work in Catholic Universities as a professor. While in this position he served as an advisor to the student journalists.

Beginning in the early 1930s, he had seen the Nazi Party for what it was while it was still only in Germany. He repeatedly spoke out against the Nuremberg Laws and other Anti-Jewish laws, which the Nazis enacted. This was what first put Brandsma on their radar.

This was his life until May of 1940 when the Nazis launched their invasion of the Netherlands. Instead of choosing the submit to the new laws of the Nazi regime, which he now lived under, he became more vocal.

Brandsma earned the nickname “the Dangerous Little Friar” from Nazi officials due to his action. It was because of this they decided that he had to be stopped.

While delivering instructions ordering Catholic newspapers to not publish any Nazi propaganda, he was arrested. They gave him two options, live out a quiet life in a monastery, and allow his newspapers to publish what they wanted or be sent to a concentration camp.

Brandsma chose the latter.

At Dachau, he endured hard labor, starvation, and daily beatings until he was physically too weak to work. It was then the Nazis conducted medical experiments on him until eventually he was given a lethal injection.

The entire time he was at the camps he asked his fellow prisoners to do one thing every day, to pray for the guards. As he was being administered his lethal injection, he handed over his rosary to the doctor as a gift. He died on July 26, 1942, at 61.

Now many see this story and unsurprisingly are amazed by his courage against the Nazi in public and while in the camp, but there is a bigger message for everyone here.

Brandsma was unwavering in his commitment to the truth and doing what was right. He knew every decision he made put him closer to death and likely a painful one. This commitment is something everyone and especially journalists can take a lot from.

Thankfully, we don’t live in a time where our ideas can have us sent to death camps. However, we do live in a time where opposing certain ideas and ideologies can cost us a person just about everything they take for granted.

This can not matter though. For me, as a young journalist, an absolute commitment to the truth and what is right needs to be the paramount focus. Any idea that the truth is subjective and can be changed with the ebbs and flows of the current age is ridiculous.

The truth is the truth. It is purely objective and should never be altered to suit any narrative.

If a story happens to fit your beliefs then that’s great. If it counters them or reveals a side of them that you don’t like, then great. This is how it must be.

Brandsma gave his life away for the truth in service to his Faith. He knew his views were a death sentence, that didn’t change anything. They didn’t change because they were the truth. The world today needs a hero like Brandsma to serve as a symbol of how to do it the right way even when the stakes are high.

For someone who is working to become a journalist his life serves as a constant reminder each day that no matter how big the story, you must tell the truth.

Bl. Titus Brandsma, Ora Pro Nobis!