Father Michael Driscoll of the Diocese of Palm Beach gratefully touches banner of St. Titus Brandsma in Rome. (COURTESY OF ST. JUDE CATHOLIC CHURCH)

My miracle happened decades ago. His more recently.

Miracle No. 1: As an adventurous young lifeguard in Atlantic City, NJ., after work one day, to cool off, or maybe show off, I rowed my lifeboat out to take a swim. 

Thinking I was far enough out in the ocean to take a nice high dive off the bow, that’s exactly what I did.  But suddenly out of nowhere a sandbar appeared on which I hit my head and . . . broke my neck.

 My prognosis was pretty grim: paralysis from the neck down. 

I prayed to God to spare me and after a year of traction and treatments, wearing uncomfortably confining plaster casts from full body ones to a metal neck brace, thank God, I had my miracle. I fully recovered.  And off I went into my first job as a journalist, a newspaper reporter, the perfect lead-in to the next miracle.

Miracle No. 2:  A short distance from where I live, where else but on the ocean, only now in Boca Raton, Florida, is my parish church, St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church, where occasionally Father Michael Driscoll says Mass on Sundays. 

Yet, poor Father Driscoll was dying from incurable metastatic melanoma until miracle No. 2 descended upon him mercifully just in the nick of time. (almost wrote neck of time)

Father Driscoll fervently believes his prayers to St. Titus did the trick and today he is completely cured and actively encouraging Catholic leaders to recognize the brave Dutchman, now canonized St. Titus, also as patron saint of journalists.

That special patron recognition as protector or guardian over journalists could come soon from Pope Francis.  This would indeed shine a light on the preaching, writings and bravery of St. Titus for standing up to Nazi oppressors in 1942, which cost him his life.

As local Catholics and faithful worldwide prepare to mark the July 27 second anniversary of the feast day of St. Titus Brandsma, they’ll take notice of the extraordinary courage he demonstrated in opposing Nazi oppression in his homeland, the Netherlands. 

Powerful witness

OSV News has already recognized St. Titus Brandsma as a model for journalists. The international wire service adopted St. Titus as its patron “because of his embrace of Catholic journalism as a means of evangelization — a point that is at the heart of the mission of OSV News — and because of his powerful and brave witness as a disciple of Jesus Christ,” said Gretchen Crowe of OSV News who was elected president of the Catholic Media Association this year.

She said that besides his inspiring preaching and publishing work in founding and editing many newspapers and magazines, St. Titus stood up to the Nazis trying to force his publications to print their propaganda.

In one of the church’s strongest acts of resistance toward the Nazis, Catholic newspapers were prohibited by the bishops of the Netherlands from publishing advertisements from the German occupiers.

Father Brandsma, who was the bishops’ liaison to the Roman Catholic Journalists Association, wrote a letter to all Catholic press editors, saying that the publications “may not allow these (National Socialist Union, Nazi) advertisements if they want to maintain their Catholic identity.”

Father Driscoll, who has studied St. Titus’s writings for many years, said the Carmelite priest, writer, editor and professor encouraged journalists to stay strong and resist the brutal pressure of the Nazis. 

“He went into the pulpit and preached the messages of the bishops against the Nazis, plus his own opinions on this. He wanted Holland to be free.”

For opposing the Nazis, St. Titus paid the ultimate price. He was arrested, imprisoned and executed in the Dachau concentration camp.  

“The OSV News team was very moved by this story and by the courageous witness of St. Titus in standing up for the truth, and so we adopted him as our patron,” Crowe said.

“We were edified to see in an interview that Pope Francis gave earlier this year that he supported the idea of having St. Titus become a new patron saint of journalists,” she added.

Pope Francis has spoken eloquently about the courage and commitment of journalists who often put themselves in harm’s way in carrying out their work in service to the truth.  In his message for the 2021 World Communications Day, he said:

“We owe a word of gratitude for the courage and commitment of all those professionals — journalists, camera operators, editors, directors — who often risk their lives in carrying out their work.

“Thanks to their efforts, we now know, for example, about the hardships endured by persecuted minorities in various parts of the world, numerous cases of oppression and injustice inflicted on the poor and on the environment, and many wars that otherwise would be overlooked.

“It would be a loss not only for news reporting, but for society and for democracy as a whole, were those voices to fade away. Our entire human family would be impoverished.”

Treating others

During a July 27, 2022, Mass for the first commemoration of St. Titus’s feast at St. Jude Parish in Boca Raton, Bishop Gerald M. Barbarito spoke of the saint’s example as someone “who lived his Christian life to the fullest.” He was a man of great gentleness, charity and love, the bishop said, but also someone with his feet firmly planted on the ground and dedicated to his work, the Bishop said. 

He recounted the story of the woman who gave the fatal shot of carbolic acid to Father Titus. Before she gave him the injection, he handed her the rosary that he had made while in prison. Years later, the woman said it was that gesture that turned her back toward Jesus Christ.

That’s a lesson that we can all learn from today, Bishop Barbarito said — the necessity to treat others, no matter the stage in life they’re in, with love and respect, even if we disagree with them.

The bishop concluded his homily with a quote from Pope Francis at the May 15, 2022, canonization Mass: “Holiness does not consist in a few heroic gestures but in many small acts of daily love.” That’s why St. Titus was able to give his life — because of many small acts of daily love. 

“St. Titus Brandsma, we are grateful for the miracle you have performed in allowing Father Michael Driscoll to be cured and to be still with us. We are grateful for the example of our Carmelite brothers who are with us, and we ask that you intercede for us. St. Titus Brandsma, pray for us.”

So, what might the life and death of St. Titus teach Catholics in the 21st century?

“Well, to be brave,” says Father Driscoll.

“When somebody or something, or some ideology, or some group opposes you, be brave enough to stand up for the rights of justice and the principles of morality.”

When he’s not preaching to his staff at his PR firm, TransMedia Group, how to get ever more publicity for clients, Tom Madden is busy writing books, articles and his weekly blog at www.MaddenMischief.   His latest book is WORDSHINE MAN about how to make writing inviting, and he prays everyone will read it.