As the New Year began pundits took to the airwaves to look back at what they had predicted for the year just gone, with the inevitable comment that they had got things completely wrong. They would surely be completely wrong with their predictions for 2018. Listening them, and with 2017 having just passed, my thoughts immediately turned to all that Our Lady of Fatima had said would happen, which came true. Only God’s prophecies can be relied on.
And so to Saint John Bosco. He is rightly remembered for his attractive, charismatic character, and for his work among young people. This alone would make a good blog as to how the Church should follow his example of nurturing our own young people, and giving them models far more prepossessing than many a person lauded in secular society.
However, John is also renowned for the prophetic dreams that guided his life, from the first vision he received as a young boy, of wild young animals being turned into docile sheep, foretelling his work among the youth. Some 153 are recorded, most of which he shared with his young charges, as well as with his confreres in his religious order that he founded. At first, he was sceptical about his dreams, but when they continued to be fulfilled, and guided by his confessors, he was eventually confident that they did indeed come from God.
Prophecies are popularly thought to be foretelling the future, but in the Catholic, biblical sense they ‘reveal something of God and his Truth’.
In baptism, every Christian is anointed to share in Christ’s anointing as ‘prophet, priest and king’, and so we have the role of discerning ‘the signs of the times’ from God’s perspective, which is at the heart of prophecy. Most of John Bosco’s dreams referred only to his own time and circumstances, but perhaps his most famous dream was that of the ship (of the Church) being buffeted and attacked on all sides, but however battered, steered by the Pope, sailing safely through the two pillars of the Eucharist and Our Lady. It can give us confidence that the gates of hell will indeed not prevail against the Church, however many trials it goes through, when it is being buffeted and attacked in our own days, and all the opposition it will face in the future, both within and without.
There is one important point to make, though. Many prophecies are contingent upon human response, as the prophecies of Fatima remind us. It’s amazing to think that our redemption hung upon human consent. Jesus, St John says, (John 2:24) knew people’s hearts and human nature, so at the beginning of our redemption he knew the purity of Mary’s heart and her consent to be Mother of God, but he also knew the hearts of those who would nail him to the Cross, so that what was a free offering of himself would be fulfilled through human beings.
We cannot be complacent, knowing that the Church will always be safeguarded as Jesus assured us, because he needs us human beings to make sure it will. It is up to us to help fulfil that dream of St John Bosco, of the ship of the Church sailing safely through the two pillars of the Eucharist and Our Lady. For this year just begun, we can ask ourselves: how important is the Eucharist in our lives?
Do we truly revere and believe that it is Jesus himself, body, blood, soul and divinity, who is offered up on our altars and who gives himself totally to us in Holy Communion? How important is Mary in our lives? Do we give her the love and honour that Jesus gives her, and do what she continually asks of us, to join her in the prayer of the rosary? By renewing and deepening our faith, we can be a part of fulfilled prophecy.
John saw the vital role that young people have in the life of the Church, because they are the Church of the future and the Faith is passed on from generation to generation. We have to pass the baton on to them, by showing, as did John Bosco, the joy of living the Christian life, and how the Eucharist and Mary are the two vital pillars in our own living of our Catholic Faith.