Blessed Fr. Titus is Arrested – Letters Written in Prison

titus-brandmas

Bl. Titus Brandsma, O.Carm.

January 19, 1942: Father Titus is Arrested

Having spent the night in Arnhem, I was told that I must spend another night there. With these words I was brought into cell 577 on January 20. Next morning I had to be ready at half past eight to be tried at the Hague. This would probably be finished in the afternoon, and in view of my health I would probably be allowed home. On the night of January 21, I was told that my confinement was to be prolonged in order that more evidence might be obtained. Mr. Hardegen, who tried my case in a courteous way, said that this would not be difficult for me on account of my religious life. Indeed, it was not. I remember an old stanza of Longfellow which I have retained since my college years in Megen, and it is particularly appropriate in my present situation:

In his chamber all alone,
Kneeling on a floor of stone,
Prayed a monk in deep contrition
For his sins of indecision;
Prayed for greater self-denial
In temptation and in trial.

As to that “trial,” it was not so difficult as I had expected, though one has to get accustomed to many things in prison. Indeed, going to prison at the age of 60 is a strange experience. Jokingly I said so to Mr. Steffen who had arrested me, while entering the prison. His answer, however, comforted me: “It is your own fault, for you should not have taken the Archbishop’s commission.” Now I knew why I was here and I said to him fearlessly that I looked upon such a thing as an honor, and that I was not conscious of having done anything wrong by doing that. I said the same thing to Mr. Hardegen and I added: “On the contrary, it was an honest effort to relax the contrasts.” On the one side this was accepted, on the other side it was looked upon as an organisation of resistance against the occupying power. I had to oppose this last opinion, and to stress the exclusive intention of communicating both to the press and to the Reichskommissariat the Catholic point of view about the propaganda of the National Socialist Movement, as it was pointed out by the Bishops. This point of view was to be communicated to the Reichskommissariat, even if the managers and editorial staffs of the Catholic dailies were not in agreement; but undoubtedly, they were.

The first day of my commission I asked Mr. Schlichting to go to the Reichskommissariat; on account of his journey to Rome this interview took place after mine with the Catholic press. Meanwhile I quite understand that the attitude of the Bishops and of the Catholic press is not considered agreeable, and that the commission of the Archbishop to me and carried out by me, is looked upon as some act of resistance. Our Catholic principles are at conflict with their principles; the contrast of principles is there. For this confession I joyfully suffer what is to be suffered.

My vocation to the Church and to the priesthood brought me so many grand and beautiful things that I willingly accept something unpleasant in return for it. I repeat in complete agreement with Job: We have received good things at the hand of God, why should we not receive the evil he sends us in his Providence? The Lord gave, the Lord hath taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord. Apart from that, I have not had too bad a time. And although I do not know what will become of it, I know myself to be wholly in God’s hands. Who will separate us from the love of God? I am thinking of my old motto: <Prenez les jours, comme ils arrivent, Les beaux d’un coeur reconnaissant Ft les mauvais pour ceux qui suivent, Car le malheur n’est qu’un passant>.

With Gezelle, I praise “my old breviary,” which was luckily left to me and which I can say now as quietly as possible. Oh! in the morning Holy Mass and Holy Communion are missing, I know full well, but nevertheless God is near me, in me and with me. It is in him that we live, and move and have our being. “God, while so near and yet so far, is always present.” The well-known couplet which was always in St. Teresa’s breviary—I sent it to my colleague Professor Brom when he was in prison—is also a comfort and encouragement to me; “Let nothing disturb thee, let nothing frighten thee. All things are passing. God does not change. Who possesses God wants for nothing. God alone suffices.”

Scheveningen Police-prison, January 23, 1942.

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