The Two Columns

Published on September 25, 2004 by in General Mariology

Pope John Paul II continues to amaze the world and silence his critics.  Approaching his twenty-sixth anniversary as the Vicar of Jesus (October 16), and in his eighty-fourth year of life, this “giant of history,” as biographer George Weigel describes him, continues to guide the Church in innovative and dynamic ways towards the sanctification that our present Church and world situation so desperately call for.

Even though various media sources continue to emphasize his physical frailty in tones that imply his inability to govern, John Paul “the Great” (as Crisis Magazine referred to him) perseveres with new and historical initiatives of grace for the Church in the third millennium.

Last year it was the “Year of the Rosary,” which brought the Church the historic fruits of the five new Luminous Mysteries.  The Pope’s Marian initiative triggered a worldwide Rosary renewal, with estimates of millions upon millions of Rosaries being offered during the course of the year with particular emphasis upon the two intentions identified by the Pontiff as areas of grave contemporary crisis: world peace and the state of the family (Rosarium Virginis Mariae, n. 6).

The ecumenical fruits from the “Year of the Rosary” were also plentiful. Many Protestant theologians and pastors called upon their brethren to begin the scriptural prayer of the Rosary, exhorting their followers that it is time to ponder anew the revelation of the Mother of Jesus in the New Testament as it is conveyed through the scriptural meditation of the Rosary.

Now the Holy Father initiates the “Year of the Eucharist,” which begins on October 10, 2004, and will extend to October 2005. What untold graces await the Church and the world through this extraordinary inspiration from the Successor of Peter.

The Church is now commissioned by its Servant of Servants to explore and extol the inestimable riches of our Eucharistic Jesus.  How many innumerable acts of Eucharistic adoration, Eucharistic processions, Eucharistic homilies, Eucharistic conferences, worthy Eucharistic receptions, and much more, will take place in the Church during this next year.  And it is all due to the docility of John Paul II, who in spite of many physical and ecclesial obstacles, perseveres in obeying that still, small Voice that guides him in guiding the People of God.

It is as if John Paul II is seeking to direct the people of the twenty-first century, who are presently experiencing an unprecedented crisis of faith and morals in so many areas of culture and life, towards the protection and sanctification that can come only through a Christian renewal of faith upon the Traditional foundations of the Eucharist and the Mother of all peoples.

The historical initiatives of our Holy Father in declaring a “Year of the Eucharist” and a “Year of the Rosary” in back to back years seems reminiscent of one of the best known traditional prophecies of the last two centuries.

Sometimes referred to as “The Great Dream” or  “The Great Prophecy,” St. John Bosco recorded a prophetic dream he received in May of 1862.  In this dream, he saw two great columns in the sea—one column with the Holy Eucharist at its summit, and a second column with Our Lady on its top. These two great columns of the Eucharist and Mary, “Help of Christians,” would be the source of profound protection and grace during a future time of fierce persecution and attack upon the Church.

St. John’s Bosco account of the prophetic dream, as taken from the seventh volume of his Biographical Memoirs, is here presented for your own prayerful meditation:

The Two Columns in the Sea

Imagine yourselves to be with me on the seashore, or better, on an isolated rock and not to see any patch of land other than what is under your feet. On the whole of that vast sheet of water you see an innumerable fleet of ships in battle array. The prows of the ships are formed into sharp, spear-like points so that wherever they are thrust they pierce and completely destroy. These ships are armed with cannons, with lots of rifles, with incendiary materials, with other arms of all kinds, and also with books, and they advance against a ship very much bigger and higher than themselves and try to dash against it with the prows or to burn it or in some way to do it every possible harm.

As escorts to that majestic fully equipped ship, there are many smaller ships, which receive commands by signal from it and carry out movements to defend themselves from the opposing fleet.

In the midst of the immense expanse of sea, two mighty columns of great height arise a little distance the one from the other. On the top of one, there is the statue of the Immaculate Virgin, from whose feet hangs a large placard with this inscription: Auxilium Christianorum—”Help of Christians”; on the other, which is much higher and bigger, stands a Host of great size proportionate to the column and beneath is another placard with the words: Salus Credentium—”Salvation of the Faithful.”

The supreme commander on the big ship is the Sovereign Pontiff. He, on seeing the fury of the enemies and the evils among which his faithful find themselves, determines to summon around himself the captains of the smaller ships to hold a council and decide on what is to be done.

All the captains come aboard and gather around the Pope. They hold a meeting, but meanwhile the wind and the waves gather in storm, so they are sent back to control their own ships.

There comes a short lull; for a second time the Pope gathers the captains together around him, while the flag-ship goes on its course. But the frightful storm returns.

The Pope stands at the helm and all his energies are directed to steering the ship towards those two columns, from the top of which and from every side of which are hanging numerous anchors and big hooks, fastened to chains.

All the enemy ships move to attack it, and they try in every way to stop it and to sink it: some with writings or books or inflammable materials, of which they are full; others with guns, with rifles and with rams. The battle rages ever more relentlessly. The enemy prows thrust violently, but their efforts and impact prove useless. They make attempts in vain and waste all their labor and ammunition; the big ship goes safely and smoothly on its way. Sometimes it happens that, struck by formidable blows, it gets large, deep gaps in its sides; but no sooner is the harm done than a gentle breeze blows from the two columns and the cracks close up and the gaps are stopped immediately.

Meanwhile, the guns of the assailants are blown up, the rifles and other arms and prows are broken; many ships are shattered and sink into the sea. Then, the frenzied enemies strive to fight hand to hand, with fists, with blows, with blasphemy and with curses.

All at once the Pope falls gravely wounded. Immediately, those who are with him run to help him and they lift him up. A second time the Pope is struck, he falls again and dies. A shout of victory and of joy rings out amongst the enemies; from their ships an unspeakable mockery arises.

But hardly is the Pontiff dead then another Pope takes his place. The pilots, having met together, have elected the Pope so promptly that the news of the death of the Pope coincides with the news of the election of the successor. The adversaries begin to lose courage.

The new Pope, putting the enemy to rout and overcoming every obstacle, guides the ship right up to the two columns and comes to rest between them; he makes it fast with a light chain that hangs from the bow to an anchor of the column on which stands the Host; and with another light chain which hangs from the stern, he fastens it at the opposite end to another anchor hanging from the column on which stands the Immaculate Virgin.

Then a great convulsion takes place. All the ships that until then had fought against the Pope’s ship are scattered; they flee away, collide and break to pieces one against another. Some sink and try to sink others. Several small ships that had fought gallantly for the Pope race to be the first to bind themselves to those two columns.

Many other ships, having retreated through fear of the battle, cautiously watch from far away; the wrecks of the broken ships having been scattered in the whirlpools of the sea, they in their turn sail in good earnest to those two columns, and, having reached them, they make themselves fast to the hooks hanging down from them and there they remain safe, together with the principal ship, on which is the Pope. Over the sea there reigns a great calm.

(Compiled and Edited by Fr. J. Bacchiarello, S.D.B., from Biographical Memoirs, Vol. VII, Ch. XVIII, pp. 169 ff.).