On this day in 1942, 75 years ago exactly, Dutch Carmelite priests Titus Brandsma died in the Dachau concentration camp. 22 years ago, in 1985, he was beatified by Pope Saint John Paul II, and now, as his life and death are commemorated in his native Fryslân, as well as in Oss and Nijmegen, where he lived and worked, we may ask when he will be canonised.
The main thrust in that process, it turns out, comes from America, where, in 2004, a Carmelite priest was diagnosed with an advanced form of skin cancer. Members of his order in Boca Raton, Florida, as well as parishioners of St. Jude’s in that city, prayed for the intercession of Blessed Titus Brandsma for Father Michael Driscoll. After ten years of intermittent treatment and observation, Fr. Driscoll was dismissed by his doctors. He was clear of cancer cells.
In July of 2016 Bishop Gerald Barbarito of the Diocese of Palm Beach opened the diocesan inquiry into the presumed miracle. Following this inquiry, in which all evidence, such as medical records, eyewitness accounts and testimonies will be collected and investigated, the case will advance to Rome, where the Congregation of Causes of Saints will once more look at the evidence and advise the Pope on whether a miracle has really occured and Blessed Titus Brandsma should be declared a saint.
Titus Brandsma was imprisoned and killed by the Nazis as one of several measures against the resistance of the Dutch Catholic Church, who protested the persecution of Jews and others in Germany and the countries they had occupied. His canonisation would underline the importance of free speech and the fight against hate, injustice and basic human dignity.
A life for God sometimes ends in the most earthly ways possible, as was the case for Dutch-born Bishop Vital Wilderink in Brazil on Wednesday last. The 82-year-old retired prelate, who had lived as a hermit since his retirement in 1998, was killed when the car he was in crashed into a 300-meter deep ravine west of Rio de Janeiro. The driver of the car was also killed, while two further passengers came out injured but alive.
Bishop Vital João Geraldo Wilderink was born in Deventer, Archdiocese of Utrecht, in 1931 and entered the Order of the Carmelites in 1957. As such he was sent out to Brazil, where he became auxiliary bishop of Barra do Piraí-Volta Redonda in 1978 and the first bishop of Itaguaí in 1980. He retired early in 1998, when he was 66. Since that time he lived as a hermit.
With the academic year well underway (in fact, the first break is happening this week), the numbers of new students at the Dutch seminaries have been released. With 18 new seminarians (some of whom are pictured to the left, at the Tiltenberg seminary) there is an ever-so-slight drop from last year, when 20 new names were added to the books. With several ordinations having taken place in the previous academic year, the total number of students at the four seminaries in the Netherlands remains at exactly 100.
A breakdown per seminary:
Rolduc, Diocese of Roermond, received 2 new students, both from the Neocatechumenal Way. The total number at Rolduc is now 29.
Tiltenberg, Diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam: 7 new seminarians, with another way possibly joining them later. The total number is now 44.
Bovendonk, Diocese of Breda, als has seven, with four of hem starting in the first year. The three others, because of previous education, join a later year. Bovendonk now has 18 part-time students.
Saint John’s Centre, Diocese of ‘s Hertogenbosch: 2 new students, bringing the total to 12.
The Tiltenberg comfortably holds on to its top position when it comes to the numbers, which can be explained in part because it remains the only seminary above the great rivers. It is home to students from at least four dioceses.
Looking at the numbers per diocese then:
The ‘harvest’ is… okay, but the need for further vocational promotion and formation should be clear.
Some words from Bishop Arborelius of Stockholm in the Week for Christian Unity, from Tertio. Sweden is overwhelmingly Protestant which makes the Catholic experience of this Week rather different than in, say, Italy. Thoughts on ecumenism inside and outside the Church.
By Emmanuel Van Lierde
Half of the 163 priests in Sweden are members of a religious order, including the bishop of Stockholm, Anders Arborelius (1949). He entered the Carmelite order in 1971 and received his philosophical and theological education in Bruges. That is why he speaks Dutch and often likes to visit Belgium. Next Wednesday he will speak at a conference on ecumenism with his order in Ghent.
“Living a contemplative life as a bishop is a continuous challenge. But I see it as a great help and treasure in performing my duties. Through prayer we learn to trust in God, diminishing our earthly cares. And many Christians from other denominations are open to the Carmelite spirituality, which means that my being a Carmelite is a boon to ecumenism. It is striking that we have a large number of contemplative convents in this Lutheran country. The appeal of those convents is one of the strongest trump cards of our church,” the bishops says.
The dialogue with other Christian churches is evident to him. “When you are a Catholic in a Lutheran country, you automatically enter into a relationship with Lutherans. Of course there are dogmatic differences and recently some ethical disputes were added to that. We have different opinions on homosexual relations and abortion, but that does not stop us from praying together, to enter into dialogue or share our lives.” In the past decades Arborelius saw how the Catholic Church was integrated better into Swedish society. “Unity is not just as assignment between the various Christian church communities. It is equally a task within churches. Most Catholics i Sweden come from abroad and so our first job lies in uniting all those nationalities. We can improve their integration, as a church, and they can in turn contribute to evangelising society.”
The greatest challenge for all religious groups is the increasing secularisation which especially hits the Lutheran church. “As Christians, we’d better join our forces, because Europe is rapidly falling for secularisation and materialism. We can’t allow the values of solidarity, frugality and adoration to be lost, although I am convinced that the person of Jesus Christ will always fascinate people. Faith will not disappear.”