Monday, February 25, 2013

My amazing discovery about St John Bosco and his vision of the Popes

Our convent library has the 14 volume set of The Biographical Memoirs of St. John Bosco. This is a very authoritative source for information about the saint, written by Fr. Giovanni Lemoyne (1839-1916) who knew Don Bosco and carefully chronicled his life, working from eyewitness and other reliable sources.

St. John Bosco

Vol. 7, pp 107-110, has the account of the famous dream of the two columns. It's true, of course, that such things have to be interpreted carefully. They are not meant to give us photo ops of the future, so we will know exactly what will happen. But I must confess I have gotten intrigued by Pope speculation following Benedict's resignation. And saints are good sources to go to, rather than the rather absurd speculation of most media outlets right now.

So last night I sat down with vol. 7 to read about the dream. And what I found out was rather shocking. This new information puts the dream in a completely different light. That's why it's so important to go to the primary source.

But first, here's some background about the dream. Don Bosco told it to the boys in one of his "Good Night" talks, which were spiritual pep talks he gave them at night. It was May 26, 1862. Four of the boys wrote it down and Fr Lemoyne gives the details of their names etc., which I'll skip here. Suffice it to say that the Salesians have their manuscripts which basically agree on the details. Except for one thing--the number of the popes on the ship.

Lemoyne says, "Some claimed that the popes who successively commanded the flagship were three, not two." Three popes? I never heard that before! Two of them fell while steering the ship, and then the third took over and brought it to safety.

None of the accounts of the dream that I found on the internet mentions three popes, only two.

One detail Fr Lemoyne gives is quite interesting, about a priest named Fr John Bourlot, who was present when Don Bosco gave the talk. He visited Don Bosco in 1886 (Bosco died in 1888) and reminisced about the old days. The dream came up. Fr Bourlot insisted that there were three popes and said, "When the first was struck down, the captains of the other ships exclaimed, 'Let's hurry! We can quickly replace him' whereas when they gathered a second time they did not say that. While Canon Bourlot was speaking, the author of these Memoirs was talking with the one next to him at the table. Noticing this, Don Bosco said to him, 'Listen carefully to what Fr Bourlot is saying.' "

Fr Lemoyne writes, referring to himself in the third person, "When he replied that he was well acquainted with the matter, thanks to the manuscripts in his possession, and that he believed there had been two popes--no more--on the flagship, Don Bosco rejoined, 'You know nothing at all!'"  (That made me laugh, because I could just hear Mother Paula, who started our congregation in America, talking the same way. She was from the same Piemonte area of Italy and the people there brook no nonsense.)

Lemoyne concludes by saying that Fr Bourlot always insisted on the three popes. "In view of the above, which of the two versions is correct? Events may still resolve the doubt. We shall conclude by saying that Caesar Chiala--as he himself told us--and the three above-mentioned clerics took this dream as a genuine vision and prophecy, even though Don Bosco in telling it seemed to have no other purpose than spurring the boys to pray for the Church and the Pope and fostering their devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and Mary Immaculate."

So let the speculation begin. If there were indeed three popes, perhaps John Paul II was the first one, the one who fell, then Benedict was the second one. And the third one? Will it be the next pope, the one who will safely bring the Church through persecution into an era of peace? A long conclave might give us a hint. It only took 2 days to elect Benedict, with a mere 4 ballots. What do you think?


Anonymous said...

Hello! I LOVE St. John Bosco! I need to get my hands on the Memoirs. During my two years with the Salesian Sisters, I got a start on them and wish I could continue but it is impossible to get a hold of them outside of the convent!

God Bless and happy reading!

Sr. Lorraine said...

Thanks, Ash. I'm finding there's a lot in common with St John Bosco and our own founder, Bl. James Alberione. They're from the same part of Italy, and some of the spiritual practices that Bosco taught are part of our Pauline tradition too.
God bless you!

Clare Krishan said...

⁖ three is a sacred number after all ...
Is Salesian spirituality not sourced in a cerebral mysticism (like that which inspired JPII in the heroism of Carmelites such as Edith Stein) or in the patristic tradition (a vast cosmic worldview of intellectuals like du Lubac that guided BXVI) rather in the imminent personal cor ad cor loquitur evangelical simplicity that moves hearts and makes converts of luminaries such as Blessed John Henry Newman - via "Introduction to the Devout Life" and the "Treatise on the Love of God" counter-Reformation Bishop St. Frances de Sales.

I hope the new Pope is from the communio school of witness to the faith - fresh shoots from deep roots ready to blossom and bear fruit! All is gift. Let us pray that the cardinals' hearts open to receptivity and in a spirit of concordia, unpack carefully whatever is sent their way - as hinted at by our Emeritus Papa Benedetto:
"... Together we can thank the Lord who has helped us grow in communion, to pray to together, to help you to continue to grow in this deep unity so that the College of Cardinals is like an orchestra, where diversity, an expression of the universal Church, always contributes to a superior harmony of concord. I would like to leave you with a simple thought that is close to my heart, a thought on the Church, Her mystery, which is for all of us, we can say, the reason and the passion of our lives. I am helped by an expression of Romano Guardini’s, written in the year in which the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council approved the Constitution Lumen Gentium, his last with a personal dedication to me, so the words of this book are particularly dear to me . Guardini says: "The Church is not an institution devised and built at table, but a living reality. She lives along the course of time by transforming Herself, like any living being, yet Her nature remains the same. At Her heart is Christ... "

As St Frances taught on the spiritual gifts, that they dynamically descend and ascend into and out of souls as befitting God's plans, and indeed the heart itself is plumbed with two separate circulations - one returning spent oxygen-depleted blood from the limbs and head and the other sending it out to the lungs to be replenished and sent back to the limbs and head, circulating in a cruciform logic, see here:

Our Polish Pope enjoined us to breath with both lungs, our German Pope concluded the Year of Priests on the Feast of the Sacred Heart encouraging 'heart bypass surgery' on clerics who had brown lukewarm (or even pumped the blood the wrong way round the body in some cases, losing sight of the Decolog's conformity with the natural law). Our next Pope may be called to coach us -- in the limbs of the mystical body of Christ's church -- to get up and get out, into action, to "walk the talk" of subsidiarity, not always depending on a superstar in the Vatican to do all the heavy lifting work of confronting the culture, localizing and healing its wounds!

Clare Krishan said...

urgh - that should read "...grown..." lukewarm!
More haste the less speed...

Clare Krishan said...

marvelous serendipity re: next proverb on that page:
"when the sky falls" perhaps
Adele's Oscar-winning anthem
could be just the lyrical melody the Cardinals need to have in mind beneath Michelangelo's 'skyfall' (his Sistine Last Judgment) ... all the best canticles are echoes of Divine Love, no?

- non abbiata paura !

Sr. Lorraine said...

Thanks, Clare, for your thoughts and the quotes here.
Your point about subsidiarity is a very good one. We can't depend on the Pope to do it all!

John said...

Thank you, Sister!

If I may ask: how did the prophecy exactly play out in the vision of the three Popes you read, did it give any more details?

I mean: one Pope got struck down. Then the second one was elected relatively fast, 'Let's hurry! We can quickly replace him' (the Pope elected was Pope Benedict, lets presume). Then with the next Pontiff "they did not say that" - basically they took their time with the election? Then we have the third Pope that would guide the ship to the two columns. Now did the original say anything about the election of a Pope coinciding with the death of his predecessor?

I find all of this very interesting. Thanks again!

Sr. Lorraine said...

Hello John,
It is very intriguing, isn't it? I think that perhaps Pope Francis may be the Pope that leads the Church safely through the storm.

You can find the whole dream recounted here:

The version there basically agrees with that in the printed book, the memoirs of Don Bosco. The blog post I wrote has the additional details about the discussion of whether there were two or three popes.
From the account, it seems to me that it's more likely there were three popes involved. But it's a little unclear, so I hesitate to assert that definitively. But it seems likely.

The book of memoirs did say that 4 of the boys wrote down the account, which may be why there are some versions that differ a little in the details. Between my blog post here and the link above, you will have the full account as it appears in the book.

Regarding your question, the original did not specifically say that the election of the pope would completely coincide with the death of his predecessor. But it seems to me both events happen so closely together that they would coincide. However, I am happy that so far it seems Pope Benedict still has good health and will be with us for some time!

If you are interested in these topics, there is a blog devoted to them that is very interesting: Unveiling the Apocalypse by Emmett O'Regan:

I've been following his blog and he has a lot of interesting material on these subjects.

God bless you! Thanks for visiting my blog too!