“After his death, Titus Brandsma was well-known mainly because of his martyrdom. I think it was courageous, the way he openly campaigned for freedom of press, something that made him a dangerous man in the eyes of the German occupiers and resulted in him being sentenced to imprisonment in a concentration camp. And it was admirable the way that, even when imprisoned, Titus remained faithful to what he stood for, and he continued to stand for the dignity of every human being. His fellow prisoners realised they were dealing with a special man. And his canonisation now is confirmation that he is a real source of inspiration for many people, worldwide. Not only because of his martyrdom, but because of his entire life.
As a Carmelite nun, I was raised with Titus' texts. But now that I'm going through them for the critical edition of his writings, he is even more interesting and relevant than I had realised. Take, for example, his 1929 lecture for heads of Roman Catholic teacher training colleges, in which he advocates that transfer of knowledge is only half the work. The other half involves shaping the pupil; seeing and hearing them. At the Carmelite Foundation's schools, where I give meetings about this, I note that these texts still appeal to teachers: ‘This is why I became a teacher!’.
His whole life was imbued with his faith. Titus committed tirelessly to education and journalism, even when things became difficult. He knew full well that he was taking a huge risk when he kept protesting against NSB adverts in Catholic newspapers. He opposed the Nazi ideology, the pernicious idealism, but not the German who for Titus was also just a human being for whom he continued to be open.
Is he a hero? He is to me. Everyone who is open to the suffering of another person can be a hero. And he was a hero to other people too. A few years ago, I spoke with a woman whose father had got to know Titus in Camp Amersfoort. ‘I wouldn't have survived it without Titus,' he had said. Titus was only there for a couple of weeks, but his very presence drew people to him. Being close to him must have been very special. He was so full of energy, tireless to almost the very end. He was always looking to connect with people. What would I like to discuss with Titus if he were to come and sit at this table now? Absolutely nothing, I think. I would be silent - being near him is enough. But I suspect that Titus would break the silence. He always has something to say.”