In these last 2 (very emotionally trying) days, I’ve seen several refutations of the dubious Prophecy of St. Malachy and a fact-check on the apocalypse-seeking crowd regarding the legend of St. Paul Outside the Walls. To my surprise, I haven’t seen a single reference to the prophecies of St. John Bosco.
It was during the conclave of 2005 that I was first introduced to these much more credible dreams of this lion-tamer of adolescents, the priest of Turin who as a lad himself dreamed of turning wild animals into virtuous, reasonable, religious, kind young men. A prophetic dream was not an unusual occurrence for Bosco, but one has garnered great attention in the last few decades following the 1981 assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II. Pope Benedict’s recent announcement raises the topic again.
By way of summary – you may read the whole thing in chilling detail here; for the sake of this post, I’m retelling it in a slightly different order:
The dream opens on an epic oceanic battle scene. (I always imagined something like Lepanto.) The Barque of Peter had at the helm the pope, and his sister ships accompanying him were piloted by his cardinals. All around them were hostile ships, the enemies of the Church, firing traditional weapons, but also books and pamphlets. (One begins to understand that the enemies of the Church would use the media in the attack.) At one point, the Holy Father was struck down by enemy fire, but rose again from the attack and continued to steer the ship toward the horizon. Nevertheless, he was struck down again and died, but the cardinals replaced him quickly.
Are you following? The popular theory in 2005 was that Pope John Paul II was the pope-shot-but-recovered, while his as yet unknown successor would be the second pope. Now I’ll reveal some details from the beginning of the prophecy:
The new pope continued to steer the ship of the Church toward the same goal as the previous pope, two pillars on the horizon. Both were massive, but the smaller was topped with the Blessed Virgin Mary and read, “Our Lady, Help of Christians,” the title invoked by St. John Bosco’s Salesian Order. The larger pillar was topped with the Eucharistic host and the words, “Salvation of Believers.” The moment the new pope anchored to the pillars, the enemy ships began to fire on one another, while the rest of the holy fleet anchored beside the Barque of Peter.
On July 7, 2007, our beloved Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, anchored the ship of the Church to the glorious and inestimable dignity of the Blessed Sacrament by graciously returning to the Church the proper understanding of the role of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. Whether this was the Eucharistic pillar remains to be seen, but oh, how so many of us want it to be!
Having at the time just graduated from Franciscan University of Steubenville, I knew at that moment what my classmates would be saying: “Come on, Pope Benedict, just declare the Dogma of Mary Co-Redemptrix!” It’s kind of a favorite pet cause among the Steubenville crowd. I don’t want to get into that tangent. What I want to point out is that there was never anything particularly Marian about any of Pope Benedict’s decrees – though, to be fair, that’s in contrast to his predecessor – and we still see the media and the whole secular world rabidly attacking the Church. I’m not saying that Mary has been unimportant to Pope Benedict; far from it, I’m simply suggesting that he never declared anything specific to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and certainly not anything along the lines of the long-expected dogmatic title. Now we found out he’s departing the office of the papacy.
So, back to the titular question: Where does this leave our popular interpretation of the Prophecy of St. John Bosco? I see a few possibilities:
- Pope Benedict could still declare something spectacularly Marian in these last days of his pontificate. It doesn’t suit the pope very well to have a lame duck session; it’s not like he was ever in danger of a veto. Nevertheless, one wonders if there are any late-breaking plans stirring in his brilliant mind.
- The prophecy is not about JPII and BXVI. If true, this would mean a serious re-evaluation of the prophecy, but hey, it could be fulfilled in the future, and what an awesome thing that is to look forward to!
- The prophecy is about JPII and BXVI and we just overlooked the Marian aspect. This theory would, of course, allow us to continue looking for indications of the prophesies veracity and might even do some good, as it will lead people to a deeper study of his documents searching out the answers.
- The prophecy is one of those instances of where a possible private revelation is not really a revelation from God at all. Personally, this one would be hard to accept. I’m a fan of St. John Bosco and I want to believe there’s something to his prophecy, but it is private revelation, belief in which is not required of the faithful. Maybe it was just a dream.
I think this sufficiently muddies the waters for everybody going into the conclave. My work here is done.
Highly speculative update: A sign of things to come?