“When deep sleep falls upon men, in slumberings upon the bed; then He opens the ears of men, and seals their instruction” (Job 7:14).
God has revealed things to men in dreams throughout time. In the Bible we read many stories of how God spoke to His people through dreams. He revealed to Joseph that Mary was with child through the power of the Holy Spirit. He spoke to Joseph again to take Mary and the child Jesus to Egypt to escape King Herod. These are but two instances in the Bible where God spoke through dreams.
God still speaks to people through dreams. One such person was John Bosco (John Bosco is also known as Don Bosco. Don is a Spanish title for Father.)
John Bosco was only nine years old when he had a dream that he could not forget. It turned out to be prophetic. John dreamed that he was in a field with many other young boys who were cursing and misbehaving and totally out of control. They were shouting, shoving and fighting. Suddenly a man dressed in white and whose face shone with light appeared and summoned John. He told John, “You will have to win these friends of yours, not with blows, but with gentleness and kindness.” John was astounded. He was just a kid himself and this man expected him to bring these unruly children under control? John answered, “I’m just a boy. How can you order me to do something that looks impossible?” The man answered, “What seems so impossible you must attain by being obedient and acquiring knowledge.” The boys turned into the wild animals that they had been acting like. The man then told John that the field was John’s life’s work and that once John changed and grew in humility and faithfulness, he would see a change in the children — a change that the man then demonstrated. The wild animals suddenly changed into gentle lambs.
John’s family did not encourage his dreams. They made fun of them, and his grandmother told him not to pay any attention to dreams, that they didn’t mean anything. But even though John believed his grandmother, he couldn’t forget the dream.
When John was 16, he entered the seminary at Chieri and continued his studies at Turin where he was ordained. At the encouragement of Fr. Joseph Cafasso, John began working with neglected boys. He was appointed chaplain of St. Philomena’s Hospice for girls so he housed the boys that he was helping in an abandoned building on the grounds of the hospice. He began workshops and schools and built a church.
John continued to have dreams that turned out to be prophetic. Pope Pius IX learned about his dreams and right away felt that these dreams were from God. He encouraged Don Bosco to keep records of his dreams by writing down every detail. John also used his dreams to help instruct the boys in how to live moral lives. Once he related to them a dream he’d had about four kinds of bread. He said he saw them eating these different types of bread and that each bread indicated the state of that boy’s soul. He urged each of them to come and speak with him later so that he could reveal to them individually the state of their souls so that they would have the opportunity to change if need be. This worked also as a way of getting them to use the Sacrament of Reconciliation and receive moral guidance from John.
By 1856, John was housing 150 boys and had another 500 in oratories. Many of Don Bosco’s boys became priests. His dream at the age of nine had come true. He was immensely successful with children. His patience, love, and encouragement — along with a little discipline — proved to be very effective. After a while, John’s need for dependable assistants led him to found the Society of St. Francis de Sales. The men in this society became known as the Salesians. The Salesian Order received formal approval in 1884. By 1888, there were 64 Salesian foundations in Europe and the Americas and almost 800 Salesian priests. Don Bosco did not limit his help to boys. In 1872, he founded the Daughters of Our Lady, Help of Christians to help young girls who were poor and neglected. John died in Turin, Italy, on January 31, 1888 at the age of 72. He was canonized in 1934.
St. John Bosco had a deep devotion to our Blessed Mother Mary. He once had a dream that Mary led him into a beautiful garden full of roses. The scent of the roses filled the air. Mary told him to take off his shoes and walk along a rose-strewn path through a rose arbor. After just a few steps, however, his feet were cut and bleeding from the thorns. John said he would have to have shoes or he could go no further. Mary told him to put on sturdy shoes. When he continued his walk, he was followed by helpers. Then the walls of the arbor started closing, the roof sank lower and thorns were tearing into his legs. He pushed them aside, cutting his hands, and becoming tangled in the roses, but he continued to push forward until he finally climbed through the roses and thorns and entered another garden. A cool breeze soothed his torn flesh and healed his wounds. His interpretation was that the path was his mission, the roses were his charity to the boys and the thorns were all the obstacles, distractions, and frustrations that he would encounter along the way. The message of the dream was that he must persevere and not lose faith in God or fail to continue in his mission. This is a lesson for us all. When God calls us, like St. John Bosco, we are to lean on God and press forward knowing that He is always with us and He will bring us through.
From Johnnette Benkovic’s Graceful Living: Meditations to Help You Grow Closer to God Day by Day
There must be no hostility in our minds, no contempt in our eyes, no insult on our lips. We must use mercy for the present and have hope for the future, as is fitting for true fathers who are eager for real correction and improvement.
— From a letter of St. John Bosco on disciplining boys
How can I apply this advice in my dealings with children — mine or those entrusted to me? How does this advice apply to my actions with all people?
Thank you, Jesus, for speaking to us through many means. Help us to remember that You not only speak to us in dreams and visions, but also through friends, books, or even a beautiful picture. May we always seek You and be open to hearing You speak to us, Lord. And through the intercession of Saint John Bosco, may we also be inspired to help others through love. Amen.