“It is an honor granted very few to be locked up in jail after sixty years of an honorable life.”Saint Titus Brandsma
It was around six o’clock Monday evening, 19 January 1942, when two burly young men rang the doorbell of the Carmelite priory in Nijmegen in the Netherlands.
The brother porter hastened to respond, greeted the visitors, and inquired, “How may I help you, gentlemen?”
The younger of the two responded in perfect Dutch, “We would like to speak with Professor Brandsma. I am the student who has been trying to reach him by telephone, but without success. We are in a hurry. Please let him know.”
The other said not a word, not even giving his name.
The brother ushered them into a parlor and called Father Titus Brandsma. As was his custom, Titus came down at once and greeted his guests cordially.
It was at this point that the previously silent visitor announced in German: “My name is Steffen; I am an agent of the State Security Police. By order of the Security Service (Sicherheitsdienst) you are under arrest. You are to come with me on the 7:35 train to Arnhem. First, however, I must search your personal quarters. Please conduct me to them.”
“What is the charge?” the Carmelite priest asked calmly.
“I have ordered you to show me to your rooms, Professor. Now!” The Gestapo agent responded in clipped tones as he prepared officiously to enter the monastery.
The search was meticulous. The agents gathered whatever they thought might be useful for their purpose. Then they sealed the rooms and escorted the prisoner down the stairs toward the street.
Meanwhile, aware that this was to be a farewell, the community had gathered near the front door.
Father Titus took each one warmly by the hand, and then, as was the custom before leaving the house, knelt to ask the prior’s blessing. At the threshold, he turned and with a little smile whispered a “Memento mei”—pray for me—and then departed with the police.
Miguel Maria Arribas, O.Carm.
Arribas O.Carm., M 2021, The Price of Truth: Titus Brandsma, Carmelite, Carmelite Media, Darien, Illinois.
Featured image: Newsclip from the 26 February 1942 edition of the New York Daily News. Clipping courtesy of newspapers.com
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