Charity in the Heart of the Church – Lesson from Blessed Titus Brandsma

“He who wants to win the world for Christ must have the courage to come in conflict with it.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about Blessed Titus Brandsma lately.  The Carmelite priest was martyred at Dachau on July 26, 1942 as he had been labelled an “enemy of the German mission”.  How could a 60- year-old frail Dutch priest be an enemy to another country?  Titus recognized early on that the National Socialist ideology was against Catholic teaching.  And as early as 1935 he spoke out against the Nazi persecution of Jews. “Titus, with sadness and foreboding, observed and correctly interpreted the ominous development of Nazism. In classroom, lecture hall and the press, he warned the Dutch against Hitler’s tyranny. “The Nazi movement is a black lie,” he proclaimed. “It is pagan.” His critique and denunciation of the Nazi movement in Germany and its counterpart in Holland did not escape the notice of the Dutch National Socialist Party. He became a man marked for eventual reprisal.” [1]  He was arrested in January 1942.

During his interrogation, the police asked him “Why have you disobeyed the regulations?”

“As a Catholic, I could have done nothing differently,” Titus replied.

“You are a saboteur. Your church is trying to sabotage the orders of the occupying powers, to prevent the national socialistic philosophy of life from reaching the Dutch population.”

Titus responded: “We must object to anything or any philosophy that is not in line with Catholic doctrine.”[2]

In the name of tolerance, tolerance is being abolished

Pope Benedict, 2010

Titus spoke out to open the eyes of his fellow Dutch citizens to the truth of the dangers of the National Socialist ideology.  We live in an era today where we are also surrounded by ideologies that are not in keeping with Catholic teaching.  Political ideologies, activist ideologies and gender ideologies abound that are not in keeping with God’s laws.  However, many of us are afraid of being labelled “intolerant” in pointing out the truth of these ideologies.  With the moral relativism that has invaded society in the past few decades, everyone lives out their own truth.  Pope Benedict warned about this back in 2005: “We are moving toward a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one’s own ego and one’s own desires.” When interviewed by Peter Seewald about this in 2010, Pope Benedict elaborated further: “In the name of tolerance, tolerance is being abolished; this is a real threat we face. The danger is that reason – so-called Western reason – claims that it has now really recognized what is right and thus makes a claim to totality that is inimical to freedom. I believe that we must very emphatically delineate this danger. No one is forced to be a Christian. But no one should be forced to live according to the “new religion” as though it alone were definitive and obligatory for all mankind.”[3] 

By today’s moral relativist standards, I am tolerant if I allow others to do what they want to do.  I often hear the phrase “you be you”, as if to say, anything you do is okay as long as it’s okay by you.  I’m being intolerant if I point out that their behaviours will harm themselves or others, whether that be physically, mentally or spiritually.  However, as Carmelites, we are called to be charity in the heart of the Church. 

Charity keeps the commandments of God and his Christ.

Catechism of the CAtholic Church

What is charity?  The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “Charity is the theological virtue by which we love God above all things for his own sake, and our neighbour as ourselves for the love of God.” (1822). It also states “…charity keeps the commandments of God and his Christ: ‘Abide in my love.  If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love.’” (1824)  And “…charity demands beneficence and fraternal correction.” (1829) To be charity in the heart of the Church then is to keep God’s commandments, the greatest of which are to love God and to love our neighbours as ourselves, in a generous way and when required, calling our brothers and sisters back to those commandments.  Blessed Titus Brandsma was showing great charity to his fellow Dutch citizens by pointing out to them that the National Socialist party did not keep God’s commandments.  It wasn’t what some of them wanted to hear, as was evidenced by his arrest.  However, he stated “He who wants to win the world for Christ must have the courage to come in conflict with it.”

Tuesday’s reading in the Liturgy of the Hours Morning Prayer states “It is now the hour for you to wake from sleep.  The night is far spent; the day draws near.  Let us cast off deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.  Let us live honorably as in daylight.”  (Romans 13:11b, 12-13a)

Let us wake from our sleep and see what is happening around us.  If Blessed Titus Brandsma were alive today, what would he be trying to tell his fellow Carmelites and his fellow citizens about the ideologies of today?  “The truth, if it is God’s truth, can be spoken with due respect for authority and profound love for all.[4]  May we never be worried about rocking the boat, but be more afraid of the boat sinking because we did not witness in charity and with courage.

Blessed Titus Brandsma, pray for us.  Help us be charity in the heart of the Church. 

Corina (Formation I Candidate)


[2] Ibid.


[4] A Pattern for Life, Fr. Patrick Thomas McMahon, O. Carm., p. 86