The revolutionary Spirit of Vatican II (Part 4)-A A +A
The Living Spirit
Thursday, September 13, 2012
WHEN Vatican II opened up the Church to the modern world, it opened in the same time its eyes for God, the Creator of the world. This happened unnoticed by many people in the Church. These were the mystics in the Church who discovered the presence of God in the modern world.
Titus Brandsma, a Dutch Carmelite who was professor in Spirituality at the Catholic University in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, during the Second World War (1940-1945) in Europe, was one who discovered God’s presence in the world, despite the fact that the world of that time was full of violence and destruction. There were many atheists that time, who could not believe anymore in the existence of God. Others were agnostics saying: if ever there exists a God, I cannot know Him; He is beyond my comprehension.
Titus Brandsma could not understand such a mentality. Brandsma was tasked by the Dutch Bishops Conference to file an official protest, in their name, against the Nazi ideology of Adolf Hitler and he was asked to visit all the press bureaus in Holland and advise them not to publish anything of the Nazi ideology in the national and local newspapers in Holland. For that reason, Titus was arrested by the German military and put in prison in Scheveningen. Later, he was deported to Dachau in Germany where he was put to death through lethal injection.
Titus Brandsma believed in press freedom but more importantly, as a professor in Spirituality, he believed in the dignity of the human person. That is why he condemned the Nazi ideology which believed in the superiority of the Arian race above that of other people. This led to the Holocaust, the murder of six million Jews. Hitler ordered also the killing of five million Gypsies and Slavs, who like the Jews, were considered undesirable.
Despite all these atrocities Titus Brandsma never lost his faith in the human person and this led him to his faith in God. Titus saw clearly the inner forces at work in man: the voice of man’s conscience, man’s sense of being limited, his feeling for beauty and the hidden order in all life. He saw man’s deeper impulses for faithfulness, respect, acceptance and integrity. Titus discovered these vital forces present in his inner self and he called this his holy ground, a mysterious reality greater than himself. There he found the presence of God Himself. He said that we must first of all view God as the deepest ground of our being.
During the Second World War there were other mystics who, like Titus Brandsma, fiercely believed in God’s presence in the world. Etty Hillesum, a Dutch Jewish girl who was imprisoned in the Nazi camp in Westerbork, the Netherlands, wrote in her diary: ‘My life here is one great dialogue with God. That which is most profound and most rich in me, that in which I rest – that I call God.’
Franz Jägerstätter (1907-43), a German prisoner of war, wrote in his diary: ‘Even if I write these words with my hands in chains, I still find that much better than if my will were in chains. Neither prison, nor chains, nor sentence of death, can separate me from the love of God, can rob a man of his faith and his free will. Obviously, God gives so much strength to those who love Him and who do not give priority to the world rather than to eternity. The power of God cannot be overcome.’
In contrast to the atheists and agnostics of our time, we can learn from these mystics, who God is and where He can be found, where He shows Himself.
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Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on September 13, 2012.