Madoc Cairns, Staff Writer

Today – 24 January – is an auspicious one for The Tablet. It is the feast day of the patron of Catholic journalists, Francis de Sales. He was a very holy man, but not actually a journalist. Contained in those words is an implicit verdict on the moral tone of our profession. It’s a verdict that might soon be rescinded. Last year a coalition of Catholic media figures wrote a letter to Pope Francis. They requested a new patron be chosen for journalists. Their candidate: one Titus Brandsma. Brandsma, a Dutch Carmelite friar, really was a journalist. And he really was a very holy man. A determined critic of the Nazis, they arrested him on January 19 1942. Just a few months later he was executed by lethal injection on 26 July, in the concentration camp of Dachau, hundreds of miles from home. During the long, lonely days of his imprisonment, Brandsma received help from an unexpected source. A few weeks after his arrest, a German soldier entered his cell bearing a new and unpleasant order. The Carmelite was to hand over his much-loved collection of tobacco and cigars. Smoking was henceforth prohibited. Brandsma, by nature mild-mannered, was moved to anger. “Luckily,” he wrote later, “I happened to think of the mild Francis de Sales, otherwise I might have said something unkind.” It seems a very long way from de Sales’ Geneva diocese to the Dachau jail where Brandsma died. The gulf between de Sales’ eirenic epistles and the squalor of Brandsma’s last days seems, on first glance, unbridgeable. But if we take some time we can see, as Brandsma did, that the distance was, in the end, no distance at all, and that the saints of God, so widely sown in space and time, share one faith, one being, one final end: the vita Christi, the life of Christ. 

One comment

  1. Whilst we are on earth why do we allow such evil behaviour.

    God gave us choice. Why do we not exercise it for good.

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