Titus’ chief preoccupation in Amersfoort was the needs of others.
Titus had been in the camp barely two weeks when dysentery struck.
In the dark before dawn on Saturday, March 21, during roll call in the central square another prisoner failed to respond when his number was called.
The SS guard asked sharply: “Who is the swine who did not answer?”
The barracks chief responded immediately: “Brandsma, sir.”
On hearing that name, the prisoners’ usual lassitude was laid aside and a whisper ran through the formation: “Uncle Titus, is he sick?” A young student who was present claimed that only the name of the camp’s most beloved prisoner could have moved those nearly benumbed hearts.
Titus had felt somewhat ill a few days before leaving Scheveningen, but the doctors there were unconcerned with what they thought was only a minor ailment; they had told him it was nothing. But life in Amersfoort—hunger, cold, harsh labor—had worsened his condition. He had not complained; but one day, while sitting on his stool peeling potatoes, he had thought he was dying. He tried to treat himself by eating less.
This time, however, it was more serious. The doctor diagnosed dysentery with hemorrhage and sent him to the infirmary. A fellow prisoner observed that on the way to the infirmary Titus looked like a skeleton. Everyone, himself included, felt that his martyrdom was over. Once again, they were wrong.
Although not totally recovered, Titus was released from the infirmary on March 30, 1942, the Monday of Holy Week that year. He was sent to barracks Nº 2 as a convalescent: this permitted him more rest and freed him from strenuous work. He was told that he would have a follow-up medical examination on April 20.
Titus took advantage of his convalescence to talk with various people, even with some of the guards and especially the overseers; some of them could not help but be touched by his simplicity. Through these contacts, he obtained permission to visit his friends in the infirmary, and he spent a good part of each day with them. When conversations with sick prisoners touched on the guards, they frequently expressed their rage and cursed them.
Often Fr. Titus admonished them: “It is precisely because they are not good, as you say, that you must pray for them all the more.”
“But that is impossible,” they would respond.
“Well,” he would insist, “you don’t have to pray a lot. A little will do.”
Blessed Titus Brandsma
From the biography, The Price of Truth: Titus Brandsma, Carmelite
Chapter IX, An Exceptional Prisoner (excerpt)
Arribas O.Carm., M 2021, The Price of Truth: Titus Brandsma, Carmelite, Carmelite Media, Darien, Illinois.