The Prayer of a Holy Journalist Before Dying for the Freedom of the Catholic Press

St. Brandsma visited 14 editors before the Gestapo arrested him.

Martyred by the Nazis, Dutch St. Titus Brandsma was a journalist who gave his life so that the truths of faith would not be silenced.
Martyred by the Nazis, Dutch St. Titus Brandsma was a journalist who gave his life so that the truths of faith would not be silenced. (photo: Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain)

World Press Freedom Day is celebrated every May 3, drawing attention to the importance of free and independent news media. 

Among modern-day saints, there is a journalist-priest who suffered martyrdom by the Nazis for his work in Catholic media: St. Titus Brandsma.

St. Titus (1881–1942), canonized by Pope Francis in 2022, was a Carmelite priest and native of the Netherlands. During the Nazi occupation of that country, the Nazi public relations bureau informed Dutch newspapers that they had to accept advertisements and press releases emanating from official sources.

The cardinal-archbishop of Ultrecht, Johannes de Jong, commissioned Brandsma, in his capacity as a journalist and spiritual director of the country’s Catholic journalists, to convey the hierarchy’s response to the Nazis’ mandate to all the Catholic editors in the country.

Brandsma concluded each visit to the editors with remarks along these lines: “We have reached our limit. We cannot serve them. It will be our duty to refuse Nazi propaganda definitely if we wish to remain Catholic newspapers. Even if they threaten us with severe penalties, suspension, or discontinuance of our newspapers, we cannot conform with their orders.”

Brandsma visited 14 editors before the Gestapo arrested him. He was arrested and taken to the Amersfoort penal camp, where he was made to work in inhumane conditions. Later, he ended up in the terrifying Dachau concentration camp in Germany, where the regime carried out experiments on prisoners. He was ultimately killed with a lethal injection of carbolic acid.

Before dying, he gave his rosary to the nurse who injected him with the deadly substance. She told him that she did not know how to pray, and he replied that she should only say: “Pray for us sinners.” Some time later the young woman converted and was a witness in the canonization process of Brandsma.

His body was never found and it is believed that he was cremated in the ovens of the Nazi extermination center. St. John Paul II approved the decree recognizing his martyrdom, and he was beatified in 1985. Pope Francis canonized him on May 22, 2022.

According to the Dutch newspaper Nederlands Dagblad, dozens of international journalists and the 520-member German Association of Catholic Journalists signed a letter to Pope Francis asking him to name St. Titus Brandsma as patron of journalism.

For their part, the Carmelites indicate that the saint wrote a special prayer between Feb. 12–13, 1942, when he was in prison titled “Before an Image of Christ”:

O Jesus, when I gaze on you
Once more alive, that I love you
And that your heart loves me too
Moreover as your special friend.

Although that calls me to suffer more
Oh, for me all suffering is good,
For in this way I resemble you
And this is the way to your kingdom.

I am blissful in my suffering
For I know it no more as sorrow
But the most ultimate elected lot
That unites me with you, O God.

O, just leave me here silently alone,
The chill and cold around me
And let no people be with me
Here alone I grow not weary.
For thou, O Jesus, art with me
I have never been so close to you.
Stay with me, with me, Jesus sweet,
Your presence makes all things good for me.
Lorie Smith is a Christian website designer.

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