Photo: Felix Carroll
Father Seraphim Michalenko, MIC, Bobby Digan, and Maureen Digan pray at Faustina's tomb in Poland in 1981.
Bobby received a dramatic healing that allowed him to live an almost normal life.
The following is the second in a two-part series. Read part 1.
By Felix Carroll
It was 1979, a year after the Church lifted its 20-year ban on Faustina's writings — a ban the Polish nun herself prophesied, caused by faulty translations of her writings.
Bob Digan knew nothing about Divine Mercy. But one day, a flyer arrived in the mail that advertised a film in nearby Cambridge on the topic of Divine Mercy and Sr. Faustina. He felt pulled to go see it. So one evening, while some family members kept his sick wife and child company, Bob headed off to Cambridge.
He recalls the film. It was produced in the United States before the ban. It was in bad shape. It kept jamming up in the projector. Nonetheless, says Bob, the message came through loud and clear of the prophetic revelations given to us by God through this Polish nun to proclaim the heart of the Gospel in a way especially suited to meet the needs of our era.
For Bob, something just clicked.
"I can still see him walking through the living room door that evening," says his wife, Maureen. "He had a smile on his face. He was saying 'Isn't the name Faustina beautiful?' I remember looking at him and saying, 'It's ugly.' "
Maureen sighs. She's still a little ashamed of how bitter she had become at that point. But her bitterness could certainly be excused.
Even Bob, one evening, found himself so physically, psychologically and spiritually drained, he literally crawled across the living room floor toward the Bible. He was crying. He said, "Lord speak to me." He opened the Bible and pointed randomly. His finger landed on the words, "Your sins are forgiven."
Something clicked again. Divine Mercy. God loves us. Trust. Pray. Do not be afraid.
"God illuminated my mind with what the theologians would call an intellectual vision," Bob says. "You don't see anything, you just know."
Know what, exactly?
That would soon be revealed. He packed up his family. He drove three hours west to Stockbridge, Mass., home of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception, who have been official promoters of the authentic Divine Mercy message and devotion since three years after the death of Faustina.
Bob parked the car by the chapel. He went in and asked to see Fr. Seraphim Michalenko, MIC, the vice-postulator for Sr. Faustina's beatification cause. He didn't prepare Maureen for what he was about to say.
Once seated in Fr. Seraphim's office, Bob let it out. He said he received a "collect call" from God to bring his family to Poland.
"I understood that I was to take my family to Poland so that God's mercy then could burst forth throughout the world through Sister Faustina," Bob explains. "And as a favor for making that trip, God would heal not one but both Maureen and Bobby."
So, he invited Fr. Seraphim. "We want you to witness the miracle," Bob told him.
Both Maureen's and Fr. Seraphim's jaws dropped. Father Seraphim was intrigued. Maureen was alarmed.
"He never mentioned it to me — the whole three-hour trip there," Maureen recalls. "I thought, 'Oh my Good Lord! My Rock of Gibraltar is crumbling! Bob's becoming a religious nut. He was the only solid one, and now he's falling apart!"
"This wasn't wishful thinking," Bob recalls. "I knew. I was convinced."
With permission secured from his Provincial, Fr. Seraphim was ready to go. With permission secured from her doctors, Maureen was, too. Actually, she didn't want to go. She finally agreed, for the sake of her marriage.
At Faustina's tomb
Everything seemed so chaotic. They landed in Poland on March 23, 1981, on Bobby's eighth birthday. The Digans, Fr. Seraphim and a friend of Fr. Seraphim. But, Maureen's wheelchair didn't make it. Also, all their luggage did not arrived until three days latter. That delayed the trip down to Krakow for three days. When they finally got to Faustina's former convent, Maureen was exhausted. From the beginning, the idea of this whole trip seemed extreme, fanatical, idiotic.
But she tried to be a good sport. Once at the convent, Maureen made her first good confession since she was very young. Afterwards, she felt a closeness to the Lord. She felt herself letting Him in a little bit. She was still brash, still mad at God — mad as can be.
One evening, at Faustina's tomb, the group was praying the ninth day of a novena of prayers in which they asked for healing.
"It was about nine o'clock at night," recalls Maureen. "Father Seraphim suggested we pray the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy for a healing. I thought, 'Ah, healing — whatever. This is something you read about in the Bible. It doesn't really happen. But I'll go in and go through it just to make them happy."
Then, inwardly she heard Sr. Faustina say: "If you ask for my help, I will give it to you."
Maureen responded: "Okay, Faustina you dragged me to this country so far from home, if you are going to do something, do it now!"
That's when it all happened.
All the pain seemed to drain out of her body. Her swollen leg, which was due to be amputated shortly, went back to its normal size.
"I knew if I looked, every one else would look, so I didn't look," Maureen says.
Bobby, too, had a sudden change. Confined to a wheelchair, he showed a lot of energy.
"It was unusual how he had a very gleeful smile on his face," Fr. Seraphim later recalled. "We noticed that something was happening with him. He was sort of listless before that."
Father Seraphim noticed, too, that Maureen seemed radiant and peaceful and calm, which she was not up till the moment when the prayers begun.
Father Seraphim gave him a bouquet of flowers and knitted roses. Following the prayers, he was able to pick Bobby out of the wheelchair so that Bobby could put the flowers on the tomb.
Back at the room, Maureen inspected her leg. The swelling was gone. At first fearful, she didn't tell anyone and went to bed. She slept till 5 o'clock the next afternoon. So did Bobby. As Maureen roused awake, he had sat up and was coloring. Sitting up on his own was not something he had been able to do.
Maureen looked at her leg. The swelling was still gone. She called her husband over to see.
"Yeah," said Bob. "That's what we came here for. You've been healed."
It took several days for Maureen to accept that she received a blessed gift of healing from God.
When she returned to the United States, five doctors examined her independently. They each concluded she had been completely healed. They had no medical explanation. The Sacred Congregation for the Causes of Saints, in consultation with five doctors, examined the accumulated evidence. Then, a team of theologians did the same, followed by a team of cardinals and bishops. The cure was accepted by all as a miracle caused through Sr. Faustina's intercession to The Divine Mercy, which led to St. Faustina's beatification on April 18, 1993.
The Digans say Bobby received a dramatic but incomplete healing. Even during the trip itself, they were able to take him off his seizure medication, something they warn people NOT to do without medical advice or supervision.
"He didn't even have a twitch," Bob says. He lived another 10 years. During this time, he learned to ride a bike. He played wheelchair basketball. He won gold and silver medals in the Special Olympics. They were planning to buy a special van so that Maureen and Bobby could run errands together and be more independent.
By this time, Bob and Maureen had left the city and moved out to western Massachusetts, where the couple took jobs with the Marians in Stockbridge to help spread the message of Divine Mercy. Believing that the message of Divine Mercy is the prophetic message for our age Bob sacrificed a very solid job with a reduction of pay, benefits and retirement pension.
Life was good for the Digans. But in 1989, Bobby underwent what was expected to be a routine operation to correct scoliosis. It didn't go well due to surgical complications Bobby became paralyzed unable to eat, drink or walk ever again. Then his condition suddenly and increasingly deteriorated.
By May 1991, bed-bound, Bobby called his mother into his room. "Mommy," he said, "I have something to tell you. God is going to send His Son Jesus to take me to heaven soon. Don't be sad and cry."
He then asked her to send his daddy in.
"I just called Bob, and then I went into the bathroom and turned on all the faucets so Bobby wouldn't hear me crying," says Maureen.
To this day, she and Bob cannot talk about Bobby without it bringing tears. They still miss him terribly.
Bobby, despite his developmental disabilities, prepared for his own death. Though he had little understanding for the arrangement of dates and time, to everyone's amazement he said he wouldn't be there for his mother's birthday in June but that he'd be there for Mother's Day. He arranged to have one of his nurses fill a planter outside the Digan home with flowers for Mother's Day. He then arranged to have the nurse get his mother flowers for her birthday — flowers, he insisted, "that will never die."
Father Seraphim, who had grown close to Bobby over the years, said the boy had "a fine sense of the spiritual, which was unusual for someone of his age." He recalls how Bobby liked things to be blessed so that they had some connection with God. Bobby would recite one very simple, very profound prayer that his parent taught him: "Mary, I give my heart to you".
He was with Bobby during the boy's last moments of life. He recalls how Bobby was unresponsive. They celebrated Holy Mass at his bedside.
"We knew he was going," recalls Fr. Seraphim. "When we came to the moment of Holy Communion I said, 'Bobby, we are ready to give you Holy Communion. Would you please open your mouth so we can put some Precious Blood in.'" Bobby opened his mouth very quickly. Father Seraphim dripped some Precious Blood onto Bobby's tongue. It was too little, so Fr. Seraphim asked Bobby to open his mouth again.
Bobby "very slowly, and deliberately, opened his mouth. His tongue was cupped. He held it there long enough for me to put a spoonful into it," Fr. Seraphim said. "Slowly he withdrew his tongue, and slowly he closed his mouth. It was the most beautiful reception of the Eucharist I had ever seen."
Shortly afterwards, with Fr. Seraphim, Bob and Maureen all had their hands on Bobby. On May 23, 1991, at the age of 18, Bobby took his last breath.
Something was certainly afoot. Upon Bobby's death, his whole complexion changed. He no longer looked emaciated. Lying there, he suddenly looked like a healthy boy again. His color returned. His freckles, too. One could even detect a smile on his face.
Four flowers that will never die still hang on Maureen's bedroom wall.
How to sort it all out?
There are other things on other walls: an image of The Divine Mercy, a photo of Bobby on his bicycle, a print of the Last Supper, Maureen and Bob on their wedding day. All these things somehow interrelate. Bob and Maureen sorted it out years ago.
They've sorted out why they think God chose "stubborn Maureen" for a healing.
"It's to prove to people that God does love all of us," Maureen says. "It's us that turn our backs on God. He never turns His back on us, no matter how low we get."
They've sorted out why a miracle in this moment of history.
"In our day and age, when everything is so chaotic, and everything seems so discouraging and there's all this violence, the answer is still very clear: God is still with us," says Bob. "He allowed the healing to take place to let us know that He is still with us. But it is also a preparation for His final coming.
"We do believe this message of Divine Mercy is the prophetic message for our age, a call for people to turn back to God. Christ told St. Faustina that before He returns as a just Judge, 'I first open wide the door of My mercy. He who refuses to pass through the door of My mercy must pass through the door of My justice,'" (see Diary, 1146).
"We believed God had touched our lives, not for ourselves, but for a witness to the Church," says Bob.
They've sorted out why they think Bobby didn't receive a "complete" healing.
"Bobby's vocation in life was finished," Maureen says. "It was time for him to go home. This is a witness for others that the greatest healing comes in going to the Promised Land."
"Maureen said that Bobby was the one who received the ultimate healing," says Bob.
Bob and Maureen are both retired. As of recently, Maureen contends with diabetes. They're in need of a new minivan that's better equipped for wheel chair access. Comparatively speaking, she's healthy. Bob is studying for the permanent deaconate.
They've given talks to various groups and conferences from coast to coast and in other countries. Sometimes it can get weird. Particularly when some misguided souls seem intent on putting too much emphasis on Maureen's healing rather than the message of God's merciful love. Apparently, believing Bob and Maureen hold special sway with the heavens, some people seek to touch them as if magic powder will rub off. And, of course, it doesn't.
They receive requests for special prayers as though they have "a special phone line to God."
"We don't," says Bob. "We are just ordinary people living out our faith in a world needing faith. But it's touching and humbling for us that people ask us to pray for them."
And they do pray for them. They keep an offering cup in their living room with all the names of people who request prayers before a large Image of The Divine Mercy an a relic of St. Faustina.
"People — even priests — think that because you received a healing that you are able to walk on water almost," Maureen says. "You're not. You're no different. I mean, you're different because you have God in your life, but I'm still Maureen. I still fall. I still need confession. I still need God's help and Faustina's help."
"Yes, life goes on," Bob says.
Yes, it does. Yet when the earth shakes, Bob and Maureen don't flinch. They've felt things far more powerful.
Editor's note: The Digans are making a DVD that will be released soon. To contact them, email@example.com; fax 413-243-2828; or write to Bob and Maureen Digan, P.O. Box 537, Lee, MA 01238.