World Press Freedom Day was celebrated May 3 and the courage to get the truth out has sometimes cost the lives of Catholic journalists, among them St. Titus Brandsma, a Carmelite priest whose efforts cost him his life at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Brandsma (1881–1942), a native of the Netherlands, was a great devotee of St. Teresa of Jesus who reformed the Carmelite Order and wrote a great deal about her.
The Dicastery for the Causes of Saints states that St. Titus founded the magazine Roses of Carmel (Karmelrosen, later changed to Speling) and became chief editor of the newspaper De Stad Oss (The City of Oss). In 1935 he was appointed national spiritual adviser to the staff of more than 30 Catholic newspapers in the Netherlands and obtained his international journalist card.
After the Nazi invasion of Holland, the Catholic press in the area was forced to publish the regime’s advertisements and press releases that were opposed to the faith. The priest then went by train to visit Catholic newspapers to convey to them the directives of the Dutch bishops against the perverse dictatorship and to encourage them to resist the Nazis.
However, he was arrested and taken to the Amersfoort penal camp, where he was made to work in inhumane conditions. Later, he ended up in Dachau, the terrifying concentration camp in Germany, where the regime carried out experiments on prisoners, including Brandsma. In the end, he was killed with a lethal injection of carbolic acid.
Before dying, he gave his rosary to the nurse who was about to inject him with the deadly substance. She told him that she didn’t know how to pray, and he replied that she should just say: “Pray for us sinners.” Sometime later, the young woman converted and was a witness in his canonization process.
Brandsma’s body was never found and it is believed that he was cremated in the ovens of the Nazi death camp. Saint John Paul II recognized him as a martyr and he was beatified in 1985. Pope Francis canonized him in 2022.
According to the Dutch newspaper Nederlands Dagblad, dozens of international journalists and the 520-member German Association of Catholic Journalists signed a letter to Pope Francis asking him to name St. Titus Brandsma as the patron saint of journalism.
The Carmelites’ account of the saint’s life posted on their website includes a poem written by him on Feb. 12-13, 1942, while a prisoner at Scheveningen, Holland:
Prayer Before an Image of Christ
O Jesus, when I gaze on You
Once more alive, that I love You
And that your heart loves me too
Moreover as your special friend.
Although that calls me to suffer more
Oh, for me all suffering is good,
For in this way I resemble You
And this is the way to Your Kingdom.
I am blissful in my suffering
For I know it no more as sorrow
But the most ultimate elected lot
That unites me with You, O God.
O, just leave me here silently alone,
The chill and cold around me
And let no people be with me
Here alone I grow not weary.
For Thou, O Jesus, art with me
I have never been so close to You.
Stay with me, with
me, Jesus sweet,
Your presence makes all things good for me.