“If I went away from God I would disintegrate within two months. The fact that I am sitting here and the fact that I am so well is nothing short of the grace of God and I don’t have claim to that either. I am a walking miracle, people say.” These are the words of Marcel Schreur, a man who has battled cancer and two other life threatening diseases for the last thirty years. From all reckoning, he may well be one of the longest cancer survivors in the world.
Schreur is originally from Holland. He now lives in England. Recently, Marcel Schreur and his family were at the Vatican in St. Peter’ square. They attended Pope Francis’ Wednesday audience. At the start of the audience, Schreur presented, to Vatican officials, three of his paintings meant as gifts for Pope Francis.
The paintings are very creative, artistic and professionally done. Yet Schreur only started painting three years ago. He says of his paintings and talents, “It has really been grace from God. Before the three and half years l had never touched a paint brush nor visited an art gallery or even been to a museum,” Schreur said.
He narrates how over the last thirty years he has experienced God through his illnesses, suffering and near death encounters. There were periods when he would be so ill that he could not even move for up to six months. When he started to paint, it was to express his testimony to God’s love and show gratitude for being alive all these years. “This is a big miracle!” Schreur says of his paintings.
After presenting the paintings at the Wednesday audience, in St. Peter’ square, Schreur visited Vatican Radio’s English Service for Africa. He spoke with Fr. Paul Samasumo. In the interview, Schreur shares how he has been inspired by Pope Francis.
“When I first looked at Pope Francis’ eyes, I saw peace which the world cannot give. He is a very powerful person and he unites us all whether one is Catholic or not. I wanted to capture that in the painting,” Schreur said.
The painting of Pope Francis is like no other. Pope Francis has red lipstick and wears a deep yellow skull cap. What inspired this particular painting? Schreur calls the painting, “The colourful one,” in reference to Pope Francis.
“In October 2013 I was moved by the election of Pope Francis. I experienced the presence and actions of Pope Francis, after having been in office for only about 6 months, as a breath of fresh air, breaking new ground for Catholics and people of good will alike. I perceived him as spiritual history in the making, a living icon,” said Schreur.
Schreur describes the continuous red stripe at the top of the painting as expressing the continuation of the bloodline of the Apostle Peter. “His lips and the colour red express the same kind of authority and value of the words that Pope Francis is speaking to the world. Above the red line are the green swirls, mirroring the rejoicing heavens. Below the red line are the straight green stripes, representing earthly life,” Schreur explained.
Referring to the Pope’s Cassock which is normally white, Schreur said, “His Cassock I have painted in immense texture using Umbrian colours symbolising the simplicity and connection with St. Francis of Assisi. Pope Francis is also wearing a bronze cross, again in line with simplicity. The White Board is symbolising holiness and the connection with the garments of the Pope. I painted a deep yellow skull Cap because I felt compelled to symbolise the Holy Father’s colourfulness in all he does. The gaze in Pope Francis’ eyes touched me deeply. He is looking forward. It shows in my view, a total awareness of his call, his responsibility and his duty but he is also radiating and expressing a peace that this world just cannot give,” Schreur described his painting.
Schreur credits deep contemplation and being spiritual as what inspires him to paint. He presented two other paintings to the papal household. One is called, "My mercy is for everyone" while the abstract painting is captioned, "My peace I give you."
When asked about what keeps him going in the midst of such suffering, Schreur responded, “Every day is a brand new day. That is essential. And the suffering that you had yesterday is something that happened yesterday. Sometimes people say to me: ‘Oh Marcel you are so enthusiastic!’ No, I am not. I am just very happy to be alive. So every day when I wake up, I am happy and it is another given day. Yes I suffer a lot, but I never give up hope,” he said.
Schreur paid glowing tribute to his family. “Family means everything to me. I would not be here without the presence of my wife in my life. When l was very sick for six months, she went to Holy Mass on my behalf. We were connected through the Sacrament of marriage. My wife is incredibly important to me. My children are like my mother, sister and friends. Family is an incredible organism. You fill each other’s void and strengthen each other every day,” Schreur pointed out.
To the rest of families across the world, Schreur said, “Never give up hope and love is the answer. ‘The world and its enticement are passing away. But whoever does the will of God remains forever,’ (1 John 2:17). Christ’s love for us is sufficient,” he said.
(By Fr. Paul Samasumo and Rudolph Nyamudo, Vatican Radio)
Watch Marcel Schruer’s video clip, "Life is Beautiful. Always" on YouTube: (2.5 minutes: http://youtu.be/9-leU05w6AM)
Listen to Fr. Paul Samasumo as he talks to Marcel Schreur at Vatican Radio