There is one dream of Don Bosco’s that Penny and I use 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.”
Brothers and sisters,
This last April, our Pope Benedict XVI visited our land and brought the message of hope and affirmation. As we watched him opening his arms to all his children: Jews, Muslims, Christians – Catholics and non-Catholics , we knew the Lord had raised up the pontiff in Don Bosco’s dream. When we lost our Pope John Paul II to the Angel of Death, a sadness clouded our days and our hopes for a new world – one of Peace and Harmony, a world where the Lamb will lay down beside the Lion. But Our Lord did not leave us orphans, alone to brave the storm. Jesus said He would be with us till the end of the world. He always used loyal, faithful men, our Pontiffs, to guide and save His children. Be not afraid, Pope John Paul II said endearingly and often. And his successor Pope Benedict XVI has picked up the battle cry!
We are not afraid, Lord, for “You are with us; You love us; we trust in You.” (Abbot Jerome of Subiaco Monastery, in Subiaco, Arkansas.)