By Felix Carroll (Jun 11, 2013)
Tens of thousands of pilgrims visit the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Mass., each year. This is the latest in a series in which we ask a Shrine visitor what brings him or her here:
Today, meet Patrick Gardenier, one of the few people in the world who would ever utter the words, "I'm glad I got cancer."
Yes, he's glad he got cancer.
He's the one at the center of the photo above — the one wearing all blue. He visited the Shrine on May 18 with a bus tour he organized. The bus was full, mostly with fellow parishioners from St. Maria Goretti Parish in Hatfield, Penn. Many of them had the time of their lives.
In 2011, Patrick was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. He was, in his own words, "very, very ill" to the point of having to give up driving and retiring early from his career in insurance.
Against the odds, since last month Patrick's cancer has been in full remission. The reason? "Prayer," he says.
More specifically, between diagnosis and remission there were lots of prayers said on his behalf by lots of people, and he discovered the Divine Mercy message and devotion as revealed to St. Faustina. He had heard bits and pieces about Divine Mercy and the National Shrine, but it wasn't until he picked up a red-colored pamphlet at the back of a church that everything changed for him. It drew him "like a magnet," he says.
The pamphlet, published by the Marians, gives a history of the Divine Mercy chaplet and novena and instructions on how to pray them. (I'm not trying to sell anyone anything, but the pamphlet he is referring to is this one.)
"Ever since I picked up that red brochure, my life has changed," he says. "Ever since I learned about St. Faustina and the Divine Mercy, I found myself drawn to learn everything I could about it and now to do everything I can to make it known to those who don't know about it. I downloaded the free Divine Mercy and Mary app made available by the Marians, which I saw advertised on ETWN while watching 2011's Divine Mercy Sunday celebration and other reruns from Stockbridge that I DVR'D on TV. The chaplet — especially praying it at the 3 o'clock hour — and St. Faustina's Stations of the Cross are an important part of my daily life now."
Patrick continues, "The Divine Mercy certainly made me take a leap in faith. In deep humility I am so grateful to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and His Divine Mercy, for His love and mercy and healing. He showed us all how to live and love and by His suffering, Passion, cross, death, and resurrection. He gave all us sinners new life."
Patrick and his wife, Patricia, have three grown boys. One of them, Jon, suggested the Shrine pilgrimage. His youngest son, Danny, joined along in the pilgrimage with his 3-year-old boy, Tres
While making their way along the outdoor Stations of the Cross, the pilgrims were treated to a rare sight: a rainbow wrapped around the sun. Check out the photo they took (above).
The pilgrimage was just one gesture out of many to come to honor Jesus' request of him that he spread Divine Mercy.
"Jesus wants me to do something," says Patrick, 61. "He didn't just keep me around for nothing. This is a new lease on life."
But since a phrase like "glad I got cancer" is more than just a bit startling, I asked Patrick to clarify.
He says that if it were not for cancer, he would not have thrown himself to prayer as he did. And if he had not thrown himself to prayer like he did, he probably wouldn't have been in the church that day so keyed in to his surroundings that he discovered a red pamphlet that changed his life. It changed his life because it channeled his spiritual yearnings.
"When I was diagnosed with cancer, it was a nightmare," he says. "I would pray for healing every night and in the morning when I got up."
Then, reading about St. Faustina's revelations in her Diary — and the promises Christ makes to those who repent their sins and turn to Him with trust — "directed my faith, and I didn't think about cancer anymore," Patrick says.
He says, "I stopped praying for me. I started praying for everybody else. I really did. I didn't think of me. I'm not saying that to be a braggadocio. I'm saying it with all humility. Divine Mercy put me in a different place. I've got my eye on the prize."
He's still on meds. Multitasking is still tough for him. But whatever happens now, he knows his life is in God's hands.
This week, Patrick emailed me a photo he took of his latest medical tests, which show a continuing dramatic drop in his cancerous cell count. The improvement, he says, is brought about "through the power of prayer from so many people, most whom I don't even know."
Through Divine Mercy, I now am in a full remission, something "that just doesn't happen." All the glory to God, for His mercy endures forever!
— In sincere humility , Pat G
Speaking on behalf of everyone here at the Shrine, visit us anytime, Patrick!