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Titus Brandsma

 
The Titus Brandsma Institute was established in 1968 as a collaborative venture between Radboud University and the Dutch Carmel Province, in memory of Professor Dr. Titus Brandsma (1881-1942) O.Carm.From the founding of the University in 1923 to his death in 1942, Titus Brandsma occupied the position of Professor of Spirituality and the History of piety, notably in Dutch mysticism. The Titus Brandsma Institute was founded in order to continue and develop the scholarly activities of Titus Brandsma, with regard to the study of spirituality and mysticism.The opening lines of Titus’s discourse on the Idea of God, given in 1932 at the Catholic University of Nijmegen.‘Among the many questions I ask myself, none occupies and perplexes me more than this: Why is it that evolving mankind, so intensely proud and spirited about its progress, is turning away from God in so great a number? It is disconcerting that we, in this time of such great progress across so many areas, insidiously champion, like a contagious disease, the debasement and denial of God. How is it that the idea of God has become so eclipsed that so many people are no longer drawn to it? Does the fault lie all on their side or are we being asked to do something, to once again cause it to shine forth in the world? Dare we allow ourselves to hope that a study of the idea of God shall, at least in some way, alleviate this greatest of all needs?’

Some key moments in the life of Titus Brandsma

1881

23 February, Anno Sjoerd Titus Brandsma born in the hamlet of Oegeklooster near Bolsward in Friesland, The Netherlands.

1898

17 September, enters the noviciate of the Carmelite Order in Boxmeer. His cloister name: Titus.

1900

Studies philosophy and theology.

1905

17 June ordained priest in the Cathedral of ‘s-Hertogenbosch.

1906-1909

Studies in Rome (philosophy and sociology).

1909-1923

Teacher of philosophy in the Carmelite secondary school in Oss.

1923

Professor in the, established in the same year, Catholic University of Nijmegen (Philosophy and the History of piety, notably in Dutch mysticism).

1935

Appointed by the Archbishop of Utrecht to be spiritual adviser to the Roman Catholic Association of Journalists.

1938-1939

Lectures on the dubious aspects of the ideology of National-Socialism.

1941

Conversation with Monsignor Dr. J. de Jong, Archbishop of Utrecht regarding the situation of the Catholic press. Following this he undertakes visits to the directors and senior editors of the Catholic newspapers.

1942

Early January, a report: “On the grounds of the systematic preparation of a resistance movement aimed against the German occupation authorities, Father Titus Brandsma must be immediately arrested and sent to a concentration camp”.19 January, arrested in Nijmegen and held in protective custody in Arnhem prison; taken from there to the prison for convicted offenders in Scheveningen and interrogated in The Hague on 20 and 21 January.

20 January – 12 March remains in a cell in Scheveningen.

12 March – 28 April held in the police transit camp Amersfoort.

On Good Friday, 3 April, presents a meditation to his fellow prisoners on Geert Grote and       the meaning of Christ’s suffering and our suffering.

28 April – 16 May held as a convicted prisoner in Scheveningen.

16 May – 13 June held in Kleve prison; the judge declares: ‘He sought to protect Christianity    from National-Socialism’.

13 June, transported to Dachau Concentration camp where he arrives on 19 June.

26 July, at 14.00 Titus dies after a few days of being in a state of unconsciousness.

1985

3 November, Beatification by Pope John Paul II in Rome.

Titus-Diesrede
Photograph of Titus Brandsma in 1932 as Rector Magnificus

At the sculpture of Titus Brandsma

At the unveiling of the sculpture of Titus Brandsma, its creator, G.L. Mathot, Redemptorist, spoke these words:

‘As I look with you at this bronze sculpture of Fr. Titus Brandsma, I should like to direct your gaze to what seem to be two opposing differences, which actually harmonise together.

Firstly, a contrast which is somewhat geometrical. The location of Titus’ sculpture should certainly be in the vicinity of the Faculty of Philosophy to which he was connected as a professor, and in the vicinity of those ‘means of communication’ with which he was increasingly concerned in the days of Naziism, war and occupation. A particular wall in the Thomas Aquinostraat was considered to be a fitting location for the sculpture. However, the wall stands at an angle of 45 degrees to the direction of the street. This sculpture of such an ‘accommodating man’ needs to stand facing the direction of the daily flow and activity, it should not be closed off or deviating from it. Therefore, such a location could well ignite some conflict. If you reflect on the figure which stands there and certainly in relation to the direction of the street, there is barely enough space to accommodate the right side of the sculpture, whilst the left side has ample space. However, such a location gives the opportunity to work creatively with a relief which speaks both of constriction combined with perfectly free standing elements. What first come into relief are the head, foot and hands, with the left hand being weighed down by two gowns with their many folds. This representation seeks to form a tranquil whole with a clear contour. Where one aspect is meaningfully emphasised another aspect suggests restraint.

The other contrast which asks to be resolved is somewhat less concerned with the physicality of the sculpture and more with the person of the ‘Pater-Professor’. What is particularly noteworthy regarding this contrast is the description in the speech: ‘More than a professor’.

Yet it was Titus’ professorship which fuelled the desire to locate his sculpture on this site. I have attempted to show that this professor is first and foremost, and from the very depths of his innermost self, a neighbour and fellow Christian. Here, my interpretation arises out of playing with the idea of his two gowns. He carries his professorial gown of silk, velvet and lace over his left arm (and the edge of the sculpture is aligned with the side of the street). But his simple Carmelite habit is the tunic which affirms his life.

In his stance and in the expression of his face I have endeavoured to characterise his qualities of approachability and helpfulness, and yet at the same time show something of his introversion for study and prayer. This synchrony of the one with the other somehow seems to characterise the whole of his life, even up to the point of imprisonment, sickness and death.

May that which presents itself as an antithesis and which therefore asks to be reconciled, continue to captivate us through its inner tension’.

     

Titus

Sculpture of Titus Brandsma on the campus of Radboud University, Nijmegen, Thomas van Aquinostraat 8. This image was created by G.L. Mathot C.ss.R.