There is one dream of Don Bosco’s that Bob and Penny Lord used in all our talks, to accentuate the focus of our ministry and what we believe has to be the direction the Church has to take, in order to survive. He shared this vision with his boys, on May 30, 1862.
“A few nights ago I had a dream. True, dreams are nothing but dreams, but still I’ll tell it to you for your spiritual benefit, just as I would tell you even my sins – only I’m afraid I’d send you scurrying away before the roof fell in. Try to picture yourselves with me on the seashore, or better still, on an outlying cliff with no other land in sight. The vast expanse of water is covered with a formidable array of ships in battle formation, prows fitted with sharp, spearlike beaks capable of breaking through any defense. All are heavily armed with cannons, incendiary bombs and firearms of all sorts – even books – and are heading toward one stately ship, mightier than them all. As they close in, they try to ram it, set it afire and cripple it as much as possible.
“This stately vessel is shielded by a flotilla escort. Winds and waves are with the enemy. In the midst of this endless sea, two solid columns, a short distance apart, soar high into the sky: one surmounted by a statue of the Immaculate Virgin at whose feet a large inscription reads: Help of Christians; the other, far loftier and sturdier, supports a Host of proportionate size and bears beneath it the inscription Salvation of believers.
“The flagship commander – the Roman Pontiff – seeing the enemy’s fury and his auxiliary ships’ very grave predicament, summons his captains to a conference. However, as they discuss their strategy, a furious storm breaks out and they must return to their ships.
“When the storm abates, the Pope again summons his captains as the flagship keeps on its course. But the storm rages again. Standing at the helm, the Pope strains every muscle to steer his ship between the two columns from whose summits hang many anchors and strong hooks linked to chains.
“The entire enemy fleet closes in to intercept and sink the flagship at all costs. They bombard it with everything they have: books and pamphlets, incendiary bombs, firearms, cannons. The battle rages ever more furious. Beaked prows ram the flagship again and again, but to no avail, as unscathed and undaunted, it keeps on its course. At times a formidable ram splinters a gaping hole into its hull, but immediately, a breeze from the two columns instantly seals the gash.
“Meanwhile, enemy cannons blow up, firearms and beaks fall to pieces, ships crack up and sink to the bottom. In blind fury the enemy takes to hand-to-hand combat, cursing and blaspheming. Suddenly the Pope falls, seriously wounded, He is instantly helped up, but, struck down a second time, dies. A shout of victory rises from the enemy and wild rejoicing sweeps their ships. But no sooner is the Pope dead than another takes his place. The captains of the auxiliary ships elected him so quickly that the news of the Pope’s death coincides with that of his successor’s election. The enemy’s self-assurance waned.
“Breaking through all resistance, the new Pope steers the ship safely between the two columns and moors it to the two columns; first, to the one surmounted by the Host and then to the other, topped by the statue of the Virgin. At this point, something unexpected happens. The enemy ships panic and disperse, colliding with and scuttling each other.
“Some auxiliary ships which had gallantly fought alongside their flagship are the first to tie up at the two columns. Many others, which had fearfully kept far away from the fight, stand still, cautiously waiting until the wrecked enemy ships vanish under the waves. Then, they too head for the two columns, tie up at the swinging hooks and ride safe and tranquil beside their flagship. A great calm now covers the sea.”
Most of Don Bosco’s dreams were realized during his lifetime. He made predictions about the events of the Franco-Prussian war, which were so accurate, it was as if he read a script. He also predicted the death of Pope Pius IX. But the dream about the two columns has struck us from the first time we read it, as being more for today’s church, then for the time of Don Bosco. Could Don Bosco see what would be happening in the Church of today, how we would be floundering so badly in a violent storm, not knowing what to believe, or who to listen to? Was this dream or vision or prophecy to help us see clearly, what and where our loyalties must be, if we are to save the Church? We like to think of this vision as being a directive to follow the great strengths of our Church, the Body of Christ, in the Eucharist, the Mother of Christ, through the Vicar of Christ.
After Don Bosco shared his dream, he asked his priests and students to comment on its meaning. None of them, not the priest, nor the students, said anything at that time, about one Pope being killed and being replaced immediately by another. Was that a prophecy of an event that took place in our time, when Pope John Paul I died after only 33 days in office, to be replaced immediately by Pope John Paul II? Or was the Lord telling us through Don Bosco that the Papacy does not depend on a man, but solely on God? Was that prophecy for Don Bosco’s time, or for a hundred years later?