Wednesday, July 27, 2005

27 July - Blessed Titus Brandsma, O.Carm.



Today's feast is another of those found only in the Carmelite calendar. Blessed Titus Brandsma was a Dutch Carmelite priest of the Ancient Observance who was sent by the Nazi invaders of his country to Dachau for telling the truth about the Nazi philosophy. He was murdered there in 1942 in the "hospital". As the Nazi version of reverence for life takes more and more hold on this country, under different names of course, this gentle saint appeals more and more.

EWTN has a comprehensive biography here.

The Carmelite Province of the Most Pure Heart of Mary has another biography here. This one is very nicely illustrated. The picture of Blessed Titus at the head of this post is of a Marian procession and is taken from this Carmelite site.

Here is one of the alternative second lessons provided for the Office of Readings on his feast. It is taken from the sermons of Blessed Titus:

Invitation to heroism in faith and in love
You HEAR IT SAID that we live at a wonderful time, a time of great men and women. It would probably be better to say that we live in an era of decadence in which many, however, feel the need to react and to defend what is most precious and sacred. The desire for the emergence of a strong, capable leader is understandable. But we want such a leader to fight for a holy cause, for an ideal based on divine designs and not merely on human might.

Neo-paganism considers the whole of nature as an emanation of the divine: this is what it holds about various races and peoples of the earth. But as star differs from star by reason of its light and brightness, so neo-paganism considers one race more noble and pure than another; to the extent that this one race is held to embody more light within itself, it has the duty of making that life shine and enlighten the wbrld. It is maintained that this is possible only when, eliminating elements foreign to it, it frees itself from all stain. From this notion derives the cult of race and blood, the cult of the heroes of one's own people.

From such an erroneous starting-point, this view can lead to fatal errors! It is sad to see how much enthusiasm and effort are placed at the service of such an erroneous and baseless ideal! However, "we can learn from our enemy;" from his erroneous philosophy we can learn how to purify and better our own ideal: we can learn how to foster a great love for it; how to arouse great enthusiasm, even a willingness to live and die for it; how to build up the courage to incarnate it in ourselves and in others.

We too profess our descendence from God.

We too want what he wants.

But we do not accept the idea of emanation from the divine; we do not divinize ourselves. We admit descendence in dependence. When we speak of and pray for the coming of the kingdom, it is not a prayer for a kingdom based on differences of race and blood but on universal brotherhood. In union with him who makes the sun rise on the good and on the evil, all men are our brothers—even those who hate us and fight us.

We do not want a relapse into the sin of the earthly paradise, into the sin of making ourselves equal to God. We do not wish to begin a cult of heroes based on the divinization of human nature.

We acknowledge the law of God and we submit to it. We do not wish to frustrate—through an unhealthy and heady knowledge of ourselves—our dependence on the Supreme Being who gives us existence. However, even as we acknowledge the law of God within ourselves, we also note another law of desires contrary to the Spirit of God, which wishes to prevail. At times, like St Paul, we experience the desire to act counter to the divine law; we find it difficult to recognize our imperfections; and we act in ways that are destructive to our own nature. We wish to be better than we are, with other talents or a different personality. And sometimes we even think we are what we would like to be.

In our better moments, however, we do recognize our imperfections, and then we understand that there is room for improvement. We are honestly convinced that we could improve if we had more courage. Nothing is accomplished without effort, without struggle. In our better moments, we no longer shed tears over our own weaknesses or over those of others, but we recall what was interiorly said to St Paul: My grace is sufficient for you; in union with me you can do all things.
We live in a world in which love is condemned: it is called weakness, something to be overcome. Some say: never mind love, develop your strengths; let everyone be as strong as possible; let the weak perish. They say that the Christian religion, with its preaching of love, has seen better days and should be substituted for by old Teutonic force. Yes, some proclaim these doctrines, and they find people who willingly adopt them. Love is unknown: "Love is not loved," said St Francis of Assisi in his day; and some centuries later, in Florence, the ecstatic St Mary Magdalene de' Pazzi rang the bells of her Carmelite monastery to let the world know how beautiful love is. Although neo-paganism no longer wants love, history teaches us that, in spite of everything, we will conquer this neo-paganism with love. We shall not give up on love. Love will gain back for us the hearts of these pagans. Nature is stronger than theory: let theory condemn and reject love and call it weakness; the living witness of love will always renew the power which will conquer and capture the hearts of men.