In March, when longtime “Jeopardy” host Alex Trebek revealed his diagnosis of stage 4 pancreatic cancer, he pledged to beat the “low survival rate statistics for this disease.”
Trebek, 78, told viewers he’d do so “with the help of your prayers.”
“So, help me,” he concluded. “Keep the faith, and we’ll get it done.”
Today, People magazine reports that Trebek — in a cover story due on newsstands Friday — said he is in “near remission” and has experienced a “mind-boggling” recovery.
To what does Trebek attribute this amazing turn of events?
“Well wishes” is one way to put it, and People uses that phrase.
But is the answer deeper — more spiritual — than that? More from the magazine:
“I’ve got a couple million people out there who have expressed their good thoughts, their positive energy directed towards me and their prayers,” he says. “I told the doctors, this has to be more than just the chemo, and they agreed it could very well be an important part of this.”
He adds, “I’ve got a lot of love out there headed in my direction and a lot of prayer, and I will never ever minimize the value of that.”
Prayers, huh? There’s that word again. (Actually, Trebek uses it twice.)
Am I the only one interested in Trebek’s actual faith? He said he’d “never minimize the value” of prayer. I’d love to know what form his faith takes, and how and if it’s sustaining him during this trying time. My quick Googling didn’t turn up any definitive answers. (Religion News Service wrote a nice piece in March about clergy who are former “Jeopardy” contestants organizing an interfaith digital prayer service for Trebek, but the article didn’t delve into Trebek’s own religious beliefs.)
This much is known: Trebek grew up in a Catholic household.
Encyclopedia Brittanica notes that the Canadian-born American television personality attended Jesuit schools until age 12.
Also — before his cancer battle removed the possibility of negative headlines — Trebek got not-so-rave reviews for his performance hosting a Pennsylvania gubernatorial debate last October, as PennLive.com reported.
One moment during the debate offered some insight — as strange as the moment was — about Trebek’s Catholic background:
With the debate nearly half over, Trebek provided a record-scratch moment when he joked, without provocation, that the only institution with lower approval ratings than the Pennsylvania Legislature was the Catholic church.
Wolf and Wagner fidgeted uncomfortably. The crowd booed.
"Don't go there," Trebek lectured an audience of business leaders and industry titans who ponied up serious coin for the privilege of seeing him bomb. "I was born and raised in the Catholic Church and I'm just as ticked off as everybody else is over what has happened with the church."
But he didn't stop there:
"When I was a young teenager I attended a Catholic boarding school run by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. Two-hundred and fifty students, other boys and I, spent three years sharing the same accommodations 24/7 with 44 priests and not once in those three years was there any sexual misbehavior. Now boys are pretty sharp, we talk, we would have known. So I believe that there are Catholic priests out there who are able to minister to their congregations without preying -- that's P-R-E-Y -- on the young people."
Back to the current headlines: It would be terrific if an inquiring reporter delved a little deeper into what the popular host actually believes about praying.
In this case, that’s P-R-A-Y.