Cancer, prayer, and faith

Photo: megaflopp/Shutterstock

My first experience with cancer occurred more than 30 years ago when my paternal grandfather died.

I remember seeing how frail he became and how my grandparents’ dining room became his new bedroom to accommodate his care. I also recall going to the hospital to see him with my family after a fun spring day attending a baseball game. My parents left my brother and me in a waiting room while they checked on Grandpa. When they came back, they told us he had died. It was my first real experience with death. 

Thanks be to God that cancer treatment has come a long way since then.

All of us know a cancer survivor, someone who has beaten the odds and is living proof of God’s healing power and prayers that were answered. But we also know those who died from the disease, despite advances in medical research. Just as each person is unique (see Jeremiah 1:5), so is each cancer patient’s story. 

Janelle Stamm of Lenexa, Kansas, a breast cancer survivor, told me that “having cancer strengthened my belief that God is present in our lives and we recognize his presence through our relationships with others.” As Janelle writes on the blog of the Catholic nonprofit organization Unbound, she wanted to dedicate her journey to a higher purpose and decided to sponsor financially an elderly Guatemalan woman who was ill. (Read more of Stamm’s story at

Mosaic of St. Peregrine, the patron saint of cancer patients, at The Grotto in Portland, Ore. Photo: jejim/Shutterstock

Sr. Catherine Stewart, OP, is a colon cancer survivor who was inspired to write a book connecting the Rosary with lessons she learned from cancer. In our February 2020 print issue, we offer an excerpt from Facing Cancer with Mary. The book is an excellent accompaniment to prayer. Sr. Catherine experienced the peace and comfort that prayer brings during her treatment. 

“How humbling it was to be on multiple prayer lists and to receive many get-well cards letting me know I was tucked away in everyone’s prayers,” she writes. 

Pope Francis says, “The Lord listens to humble prayer.” Also in this issue, Bishop Robert Reed offers simple ways that he prays, including “sitting silently before the Blessed Sacrament.” Finally, Fr. Edward Looney tells us how we can increase our belief in the Real Presence.

As we approach the start of Lent on Feb. 26, let’s strengthen our prayer life and our acknowledgment of God’s presence through our actions and frequent reception of the sacraments. Let’s especially pray for all of the sick and their families. 

You’re in my prayers, 


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