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Encountering Titus as a Young Journalism Student

TitusBrandsma.450As a junior high student at the Cathedral of St. Raymond’s in Joliet, Illinois I was given the opportunity to attend a journalism class at Joliet Catholic High School, run by the Carmelites. I jumped at the chance. It was titled the “Titus Brandsma Journalism Class.”

As an eighth grader. I had no idea who Titus Brandsma was. I would soon find out. Our instructor, Father Kevin Shanley, O. Carm., made Titus’ life story required reading.  It was a compelling read. I was struck by how one man dared to stand up to the Nazis, their ideology and their inhumane treatment of those who stood in their way.

Most impressive to me, was the fact that those persecuted shared little in common with Titus other than their humanity. He needed no other reason to stand up for them, those without a voice. Given multiple opportunities to walk away, he chose to stand by his beliefs.

Father Kevin focused our attention to Titus the journalist. Even while founding the Catholic University of Nijmegen, he still edited a newspaper. He championed freedom of the press and freedom of educational well before the start of World War II. He hailed his heroic efforts to bring a letter, written of his urging, from the Council of Bishops of Holland to the editors of 17 Catholic publications. It detailed how they were to deny the Nazi efforts to add content to and censor their publications. These letters were hand delivered by Titus.

His continued ministry while imprisoned in Dachau has been well documented, as have his mistreatment and murder. His life and death as a martyr for the freedom of the press led to his beatification and canonization.

All of the above are well documented facts but what impact did this have on me? What impact should this have on all of us.

Personally, I witness daily those in need, the homeless, the hungry, those battling substance abuse and personal demons, they too need a voice. I have found numerous agencies in my area to work with such as Habitat for Humanity and the Northern Illinois Foodbank. I hope to provide a voice for my neighbors in need. I do not pretend to have the personal courage of Titus; I am not sure if I have the conviction of faith to give my life for a cause. That does not mean that, inspired by Titus and others, I cannot make a difference in the lives of others. The impact may not be as significant, the results as momentous, but nonetheless an impact.

All of us can benefit from the inspiration of Titus, whether it be in our community, nationally or internationally, life presents us with limitless opportunities to follow his lead.

This leads us to the legacy of Titus. We need to tell his story to our children. We live in a world where the truth can, at times, seem elusive. Our young students would be well served hearing the story of one man. Committed to the truth, compelled to share that truth and show the conviction of his principles.

The lesson of the true costs of freedom and what one man was willing to sacrifice need to be shared with future generations. If not for Father Kevin, I can truthfully say that I would know little of Titus’ legacy. His veneration to sainthood would have gone almost unnoticed. All in spite of receiving my high school education at a Carmelite high school.

While we have all read of the heroic efforts of soldiers on D Day and at the Battle of the Bulge, little time is spent passing along the narrative of lives such as Titus. It was no less heroic than the afore mentioned. He also provides an example of how all us can and should resist crimes against humanity. He provides a wonderful narrative of a human being who was willing to fight for those who shared neither a common faith, ethnic origin or national roots. Most Importantly, they shared humanity and needed to be protected and their story needed to be heard.

If we hope to find a Titus in among us, his story needs to be told, unedited. It is easy to ignore crimes against humanity when we are not personally affected. History, specifically Titus’ story, shows us this is not a good idea.

As we celebrate the legacy of Titus at occasion of his canonization, there is no better way to do so than by telling his story.

Zelo zelatus sum pro domino deo exercituum.

Bill Bayci

“Joliet Catholic High School - Class of 1974"

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