Canonization of Saint Titus Brandsma

Story Contribution: Sister Helena of Mary, O.Carm.

Photo Courtesy: Sister Helena of Mary, O.Carm.

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On May 15, 2022, Pope Francis canonized ten holy men and women among them was  Saint Titus Brandsma.   Titus Brandsma was a Dutch Carmelite friar, professor of philosophy, and journalist.  He was vehemently opposed to Nazi ideology, spoke out against it, and refused to publish Nazi propaganda. He was imprisoned at the Dachau concentration camp, where he was put to death by lethal injection.

The Canonization was a great gathering of the members of the Carmelite family from different parts of the world. How wonderful it was to connect and feel the bond that joined us together in the great family of Carmel! After our arrival in Rome on May 11, we visited the Titus Brandsma Center to collect our events tickets and "pilgrim kit" at the parish hall of the Carmelite church called Santa Maria in Traspontina located at Via della Conciliazione, a five-minute walk to St. Peter's Basilica, and a 12-minute walk from our hotel. The Titus Brandsma Center also featured a display on the life of Saint Titus for all to enjoy and had various books and items for sale. On May 13, Friday, at 6:30 pm, there was  Catechesis on Titus Brandsma which was held in several languages of Dutch, English, Spanish and Italian and held in three separate locations.  The next major gathering was the International Mass and Vigil in preparation for the Canonization on May 14 at 6:00 pm. It was held at the beautiful Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls. Prior General of the Carmelite Order, Most Reverend Miceal O'Neill, O.Carm. was the principal celebrant. On display at the side of the sanctuary were the official canonization portrait of Saint Titus and his relics. There were bishops present, concelebrating priests and deacons, Lay Carmelites and our fellow Carmelite Sisters.  Some members of Saint Titus' family, along with pilgrims from Holland, were also present.  Our Prior General gave an uplifting homily and the magnificent sight of the altar surely added to the solemnity of the occasion! On May 15, the day of the Canonization, was a combination of excitement and sacrifices as we braved the overwhelming presence of the crowd, security checks, oppressive heat and early morning rise! As many more watched the event on their television sets, we witnessed the grand moment when the Holy Father enrolled Blessed Titus Brandsma into the gallery of Saints! Henceforth, he is to be Saint Titus Brandsma. The Carmelites cheered! Following the canonization ceremony, a special luncheon held at another location was hosted by the Order for the major superiors of each congregation. Sr. Jean and Sr. Helena were in attendance to represent Mother Mary Rose who could not be present for the celebrations.  There were several guests in attendance who somehow had some connection with Saint Titus- professors at universities, mayor of the city he was born, representative of the Dutch embassy, episcopate from the Dutch Church, etc. At the luncheon, a special bronze medal was presented to each major superior. At 6:00 pm of the same day, a blessing of plaque was held at St. Albert's International Center followed by socials.

On May 16 at 10:00 am, an international Mass of Thanksgiving was held at Saint Peter's Basilica. It was presided by His Eminence, Willem Jacobus Cardinal Eijk, Archbishop of Utrecht. Another Mass of Thanksgiving was held on May 17 at 6:30 pm at Santa Maria in Traspontina. It was presided by Father Benny Phang, O.Carm., Vice Prior General. Mass was celebrated mostly in English. The congregation had a laugh when Father Benny made a promise in his homily that this will be the LAST Thanksgiving Mass for this pilgrimage!

There were so many blessings bestowed on us during this trip. There were the many sights of antiquity, beauty and devotion that we were able to visit. It was amazing to see places of Ancient Rome you read in history books like the Colosseum and Pantheon. To be in awe of the magnificence of St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, Basilica of Saint Mary Majors, Basilica of Saint John Lateran and the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the walls. Prayers were overflowing and you can be assured that candles were lit for yours and our Congregation's intentions!