Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Vision of Don Bosco

St John Bosco, seated, in his later years
 St John Bosco was born on August 16, 1815 and died on January 31, 1888. He was an Italian Catholic priest, educator and writer who put into practice the convictions of his religion, dedicating his life to the betterment and education of street children, juvenile delinquents, and other disadvantaged youth and employing teaching methods based on love rather than punishment, a method that is known as the preventive system. A follower of the spirituality and philosophy of Francis de Sales, Bosco dedicated his works to him when he founded the Society of St. Francis de Sales (more commonly known as the Salesians of Don Bosco). Together with St Maria Domenica Mazzarello, he founded the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, a religious congregation of nuns dedicated to the care and education of poor girls, and popularly known as Salesian Sisters. In 1875 he published Bollettino Salesiano Mensuale (A Salesian Monthly Bulletin) and it has remained in continuous publication, and is currently published in 50 different editions and 30 languages. He was canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1934.

In 1862 Saint John Bosco warned about “persecutions that are in store for the Church.” This had been revealed to him in a dream, which he told to four hundred boys. In the dream there was a great ship steered by the pope heading for pillars of the Eucharist and Mary amid storms and hostile enemy ships. John told of these ships ramming the great ship of the Church and of one blow that gravely injures the Pope, who suddenly falls down. Those around him immediately help him to get up, but he is struck by a second blow, falls again, and dies. But no sooner is the Pope dead than another takes his place. The enemy loses courage as the new Pope overcomes every obstacle and routs all the tottering ships with his. Various captains meet with him, and breaking through all resistance, the new Pope steers his ship safely between the two columns. Once in between them, he attaches the prow to an anchor hanging from the column with the Host. With another anchor he attaches the other side of the ship to the column with the Blessed Virgin Immaculate.

St. John Bosco’s dream has meaning on more than one level. The basic message is that we should anchor our selves to the Eucharist and Mary for safe harbor. The dream also warns us to stay away from destructive literature and media that promote a culture of death. Having the Eucharist as a goal of the pilgrimage shows us that we have to nourish ourselves with this spiritual food from heaven. The image of Mary also has been so dominant in our lives, starting with 4 years earlier when Mary appeared in Lourdes, and later in Fatima. The clashes described may represent concepts, ideologies, philosophies and principles that came out of writings of the 1800s and 1900s. The enemy forces can be political and military powers from Marxist, Fascist, or Communistic countries. The struggle to maintain course can mean the personal strain of Popes to keep the Church on course after Vatican II. Beyond that, the dream has a prophetic dimension. Many people can instantly recognize John Paul II as the Pope who falls in the dream and many can see the meeting of captains as the Vatican Council II.

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