In the summer of 2004, Father Michael Driscoll, a Carmelite pastor at St. Jude’s in Boca, was riding with three other priests north out of Florida. The long drive proved tiresome, and a weary Father Driscoll went to lay his head against the window when he felt a sharp pain shoot across his forehead. He knew right away there was something unusual about this pain. What he didn’t know was that he was dying.
A day later, a doctor took a biopsy of his forehead. “The next day he called me up and just said, ‘I want you in here,’” recalls Driscoll, and summarizes the diagnosis given to him in a single word: gulp. Advanced metastatic melanoma, stage 4. Reeling from the news, he was considering his options when one of his parishioners recommended he see a doctor in Boston.
Father Driscoll traveled to Boston and was operated on three weeks later. After 11 hours, 84 lymph nodes and the salivary gland on his right side had been removed. The doctors told him he would have to travel back and forth from Florida to Boston for radiation treatment.
For the next eight years, Father Driscoll flew to Boston in regular intervals. “I wanted to come back here and start working; I was getting bored,” says Father Driscoll. Then in 2012, he got his wish, when his doctor could find no trace of cancer in him. “He said, ‘you’re cured. Don’t waste your money flying up here to Boston anymore.’”
The five-year survival rate for stage 4 metastatic melanoma is between 5 and 19 percent. Father Driscoll’s miraculous recovery, he says, can be attributed to the intercession of a Dutch Carmelite priest that was killed during the Holocaust, Father Titus Brandsma.
Father Driscoll recalls first learning of Brandsma as a child while attending seminary in the Bronx from a Dutch Carmelite teacher. He learned that Brandsma was a vocal opponent of the Nazi regime in Holland, using his platform as both a priest and a journalist to speak out against the Nazis’ persecution of Jews. For this, Brandsma was arrested by the Gestapo and sent to Dachau, where he was killed by lethal injection. Driscoll recalls his teacher telling him, “Pray that he’ll be canonized one day and be as a model to Carmelites.”
In 1985, Father Driscoll attended the beatification of Titus Brandsma, the first step toward sainthood. All Brandsma needed was one miracle, and he would be canonized. Luckily for Brandsma, Father Driscoll was in need of one.
When Driscoll received his diagnosis, he requested that a newsletter be sent out in the Florida Catholic newspaper asking for people to pray that Titus Brandsma would intercede on God’s behalf and heal him. During this time, Driscoll also came into possession of a relic that belonged to Brandsma—a tiny sliver of the suit he wore when he arrived at Dachau. Driscoll happened to be speaking to a fellow priest about Titus Brandsma and how he would love to get his hands on a relic of his, and the priest, by chance, had one. “I said to myself, ‘that’s divine providence.’”
He began rubbing the small piece of cloth on his face in the weeks leading up to his surgery and after, when he was receiving treatment. “That can be [called] superstitious, but it’s not the relic that cures you; it’s the faith you have in the person who’s symbolized in this relic.”
When Father Driscoll got the news that he was cancer-free, it was both God and Titus Brandsma to whom he gave thanks. He said it was Brandsma who delivered this miracle, and that it was time he be recognized as a saint. Years later, the Church began its investigation for Brandsma’s sainthood. Officials pored over more than 1,300 documents related to the case, and in May 2022, Titus Brandsma was canonized at a ceremony in Rome, which Father Driscoll attended.
“Everybody [was] saying ‘you’re the man.’ the Italians used to call me ‘Michele il miracoloso’—Michael the miracle one [miraculous-Ed.].” Father Driscoll and Titus Brandsma had both received their miracles.
Now, Father Driscoll, 81, continues to be active in the Boca community and at St. Jude Church. “People have told me, ‘you are alive because you still have work to do.’”