BOCA RATON | The Florida Catholic looks back at why St. Titus Brandsma continues to be revered in the Diocese of Palm Beach and the universal church.
St. Titus, born Anno Sjoerd Brandsma in the Netherlands in 1881, was a theologian, journalist and author who opposed and spoke out against the anti-Jewish laws being passed in Nazi Germany before World War II.
“He was arrested when Germany invaded the Netherlands and told that he would be allowed to live a quiet life in a monastery if he would announce that Catholic newspapers should publish Nazi propaganda,” according to a Vatican News report when his canonization was announced Nov. 25, 2021.
Father Titus refused, and he was arrested, imprisoned and given a lethal injection in the Dachau concentration camp on July 26, 1942.
On Nov. 3, 1985, when Father Titus was beatified (declared Blessed) during a Vatican Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, in attendance was Carmelite Father Michael Driscoll, who has served at St. Joan of Arc and St. Jude parishes in Boca Raton and in other positions in the Diocese of Palm Beach since 1977.
In 2004, when Father Driscoll was pastor of St. Jude, he contracted a deadly form of melanoma skin cancer on his scalp. After undergoing 11 hours of surgery and radiation treatments, he knew that the prognosis was not good. His type of metastatic melanoma usually comes back with a vengeance in two to five years, most often in a different area of the body.
A month before his surgery, Father Driscoll was given a relic of then-Blessed Titus that consisted of a small piece of the future saint’s clothing. Touching the relic to his head and neck, Father Driscoll began to pray in earnest to Blessed Titus, asking him to intercede on his behalf and seek relief from the melanoma, if it be God’s will.
With encouragement from Bishop Gerald M. Barbarito and many other friends of Father Driscoll, an army of prayer warriors started appealing daily to God for a healing. A prayer group met every morning after Mass at St. Jude. Then, after several years of regular medical checkups, his doctors pronounced him free of all signs of the cancer.
After Carmelite leaders in Rome gave their approval, the Diocese of Palm Beach began its investigation into the alleged miracle in 2016. Witnesses to all aspects of the case were interviewed, focusing on the specific prayers to Blessed Titus. The evidence was compelling that linked the requests for intercession to the cure. An extensive report of nearly 1,300 pages was prepared and sent to the Vatican.
On Thanksgiving Day 2021, word came from the Holy See that Pope Francis had approved the miracle that would advance Blessed Titus to sainthood. The canonization Mass was held May 15, 2022, in St. Peter’s Square, with Father Driscoll in attendance. He is now 81 years old and celebrating occasional Masses at St. Joan of Arc and St. John the Evangelist parishes in Boca Raton.
“I’m in relatively good health,” he recently told the Florida Catholic. Father Driscoll has been writing and talking about the miracle that has prolonged his life, and he is grateful to be able to continue his priestly ministry. He periodically is asked to pray for cancer patients and sometimes is visited by people who request to be blessed with the St. Titus relic.