Titus Brandsma was born, as Anno Sjoerd Brandsma, on 23 February 1881, in Oegeklooster, near Hartwerd, Freisland Provicnce. His parents, Titus Brandsma and Tjitsje Postma, were committed Catholics. With the exception of one daughter, all the children entered religious orders.
In 1892, Anno (age 11) entered the Franciscan Minor Seminary for boys in Megen. After six years of study and living the Franciscian life, on 17 September 1898, he entered the Carmelite Monastery in Boxmeer. Anno completed his studies and was ordained on 17 June 1895, becoming Father Titus Brandsma.
Anno wrote the following text on the back of his ordination card:
When a man has had a great deal given him, a great deal will be demanded of him.Luke 12:18
Brandsma studied at the Gregorian University in Rome, receiving a doctorate in philosophy on 25 October 1909, returning to the Netherlands to begin his ministry. After teaching at several schools in Holland, Brandsma helped establish the Catholic University of Nijmegen, joining the teaching staff.
Writing and the Catholic press were Brandsma’s passions. In 1916, he led a project to translate the writings of St. Teresa of Avila into Dutch. He also produced a magazine for the Carmelite community in the Netherlands. In 1935, he was appointed ecclesiastical adviser to Catholic journalists and newspapers.
After the May 1940 German invasion of the Netherlands, Brandsma’s long fight against Nazi ideology in the press and the classroom brought him to the attention of Nazi authorities.
In January 1942, Brandsma undertook a mission to deliver a letter from the Conference of Dutch Bishops to the editors of Catholic newspapers, in which the bishops ordered the editors not to print official Nazi documents. He had visited fourteen editors before being arrested on 19 January 1942 at the Boxmeer monastery.
After being held at prisons in Scheveningen, Amersfoort and Cleves, Brandsma was finally moved to Dachau concentration camp, arriving on 19 June 1942. Brandsma’s health deteriorated rapidly and he was admitted to Dachau’s completely misnamed hospital, where he was killed by a lethal injection on 26 July 1942.
Brandsma is honoured as a martyr in the Catholic church, being beatified on 3 November 1985 by Pope John Paul II. His feast day is observed on 27 July.
Brandsma’s studies on mysticism was the basis for the 1968 establishment of the Titus Brandsma Institute in Nijmegen, dedicated to the study of mystercism. The institute is a joint collaboration with the Radboud University, Nijmegen.
In 2005, the citizens of Nijmegen selected Titus Brandsma as the greatest of their citizens to have ever lived in the city. There is also a memorial church dedicated to Titus Brandsma: https://titusbrandsmamemorial.nl/