Have you ever had the experience of God sending you to exactly the right person at exactly the right time? Fr Bogoni was someone God placed in my life in answer to prayer. Living in the far Northern suburbs of Perth, I never had much occasion to attend All Saints Chapel in Allendale Square, and so I had never met this remarkable priest.
But in September of 2013, my husband, Bill, was diagnosed with only six months to live because of secondary lung cancer. My most distressing thought was not that he was going to die (though that was distressing enough), but that he was to all appearances going to die without the benefit of the sacraments. I was overcome by the thought that if Bill died without seeking the mercy of God through the Sacrament of Penance, and then receiving the Bread of Life through Holy Communion, he might not make it to heaven (no matter how good, kind and generous he had been in life). Yes, I know – everyone thinks I make God sound so unkind if I suggest that a person might forfeit heaven by not aligning himself with Christ. But I think eternal separation from God is a very real risk, and that is why Jesus warns about hell so many times.
It happened that the previous eighteen months had been such an unfortunate series of events that I was beginning to wonder if we were under some sort of curse:
- my daughter rolled her car – she survived but the car was a write-off
- Bill was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer
- someone collided with Bill’s car while it was innocently parked outside our house
- my daughter had appendicitis with major complications
- Bill developed thrombocytopenia after his operation (unrelated to the cancer) and required a splenectomy
- Bill was then hospitalised with a bowel blockage (unrelated to the cancer and the thrombocytopenia)
- Bill developed gastric dumping syndrome so that he was continually exhausted
- Bill’s fishing friend drowned right next to him while they were diving at their cray pots
- my daughter rolled the car that had replaced the first car – another write-off
- Bill was diagnosed with secondary lung cancer
Little wonder, then, that after reading An Exorcist tells his Story by Fr Gabriele Amorth, I started wondering if we needed an exorcist and not just a healer. So I phoned up the Perth Archdiocese and asked if we had one. The dear lady at the office said, her voice dropping to a hushed whisper, that there was someone who normally dealt with ‘those sort of things’ and gave me the contact details for Fr Tiziano Bogoni. So I wrote him a long letter and asked him if he had any thoughts on our series of unfortunate events.
I didn’t hear from him for several days, and thought that he had probably decided I was a nutter. But then I received a text: “Ave Maria. Deirdre my apologies I forgot to say Fr Bogoni asked me to give you his mobile no in case you need to contact him while he’s away until 30th Nov. Many thanks and God bless, Margaret, All Saints Chapel.”
Thus began a period when Fr Bogoni became my spiritual director and helped me navigate Bill through his last months. And what a beautiful and unexpected chapel it was, hidden away among offices and corporate suites, with prominent place being given to Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament throughout office hours, Holy Mass and Rosary twice a day as well as daily Divine Mercy devotions, and the cheerful statues of saints surrounding us with their comforting protection on all sides.
I told him how Bill found Catholicism really difficult as a result of his experience of physical abuse at the Catholic school of his youth. I explained that it was impossible except by the grace of God to get Bill to want to come back to Mass or spend time examining his conscience. He said, “See if you can get him to come and talk to me. I will give him a Life Confession. That’s a confession for those who have been away from the Church for decades and find normal Confession too much of a challenge. I’ll read out a list of sins, and all he has to do is say ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Keep it simple.”
And of course, he gave me a strict schedule of prayer as well as a recommended course of reading.
It was something of a miracle that Bill eventually agreed to go (I asked for it as my Christmas present). And after this he started attending Mass with us and receiving the Holy Eucharist. Not only did Father Bogoni hear Bill’s confession, but he also drove all the way to Two Rocks, despite his crowded schedule, to give Bill the Last Rites and bless our house. (And, by the way, he said there was no evidence whatsoever of demonic activity.) I can only assume all the difficulties we had experienced were God’s way of driving us in the direction of someone who would help Bill end his life in a right relationship with God.
Fr Bogoni died last week, suddenly at the age of 51, with a Rosary in his hand. How fitting that God should choose to take him suddenly, just like the way he would burst in suddenly through the chapel door as he went about his busy pastoral duties, in those sandals that flap-flapped across the floor. And how fitting that God should take him home on the feast of Divine Mercy. I was going to say, ‘his work done’, but no, I can see him being even more busy in Heaven, still interceding for those souls he helped so much on earth.
So thank you, Fr Bogoni. Thank you for seeing what needed to be done, and doing it. May God give you a great reward, good and faithful servant! And please say hello to Bill while you’re there!