Archive for the ‘John Bosco’ Category

Interview: Tim Bartel – Catholic Writer’s Guild

Friday, February 25th, 2011
Dream of the Great Ship - by Tim Bartel

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“Indeed, ‘interpretation’ can apply whether the story is a dream from God or a parable of Bosco’s invention… He enjoyed creating mystery, which kept people involved and aided them to contemplate holy things, conjecturing what they mean and how best to live out their morals, and simply filled them with wonder. “


The following is an excerpt from the February 2011 Catholic Writer’s Guild interview with Tim Bartel, author of Dream of the Great Ship – Interpretations of Saint John Bosco’s Dream of the Two Columns. The complete interview is available to guild members.

Maria Tim, I’m so glad I ran into you in the CWG Sunday chat! Your book sounds so interesting, but first, tell us, how did you come to CWG, a wild Google search, or did someone lead you to CWG?

Tim I owe my gratitude for the discovery of CWG to our Blessed Mother. I am honored to be part of a group of friends in southern California who several years ago journeyed to Mexico to purchase a hand crafted statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe. This statue became a pilgrim statue, traveling from home to home with each family daily praying the Holy Rosary for one or two weeks at a time. In this way the Rosary is perpetuated by a growing community joined by common devotion. Thanks to my wife Becca’s planning, my family has had the statue numerous times and thanks to God’s providence, the last visit came from writer and CWG member Connie C., whom I met for the first time and who recommended CWG. I had for a long time been seeking to initiate a sort of Inklings group, a trusted place to creatively brainstorm with other like minded Catholics. I am certainly blessed to have found it in Catholic Writer’s Guild.

Maria Well, we are delighted to have you. Back to your book: Dream of the Great Ship. The book shows the interpretation of one of St. John Bosco’s most revealing dreams. How, or what inspired you to write about such an interesting topic?

Tim Shortly after my conversion to Catholicism about fifteen years ago, when the World Wide Web was experiencing an extraordinary boom, I happened to surf across a post of the dream and upon reading it I immediately saw myself on the great ship of the Church amid storms and sieges, its members defending and battling their way to safety between the steadfast pillars of the Eucharist and Mary. This was precisely the experience I had gone through in conversion as I was confronted on all sides by opposition. So Saint John Bosco’s story struck a chord with me and I began to contemplate the depth of it while on my daily commute home from work. I quickly began to see more than myself in this plot; I began to see Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, the first and second Vatican Councils, wars in Europe, intellectual and philosophical upheaval and much, much more. As my mind began to expand with these new connections my heart began to fill up with gratitude and I felt that writing about it would do me good and perhaps the Lord might make some use of my book for His own purposes.

Maria How long did you have to research to provide the reader with such a complete interpretation?

Tim First let me address this word ‘interpretation’ which you aptly applied from the subtitle of my book, and which sometimes gives people pause. Indeed, ‘interpretation’ can apply whether the story is a dream from God or a parable of Bosco’s invention, and the Saint encouraged students and the priests who were their teachers to explain the stories, often without expressing from which category they sprung. He enjoyed creating mystery, which kept people involved and aided them to contemplate holy things, conjecturing what they mean and how best to live out their morals, and simply filled them with wonder. Instead of interpretation we might just as well call it reflection or contemplation, for the affect of all these on the intellect, the heart and the soul, as I understand and experience it, is equally profitable when the subject under consideration is holy. This is why, during what I like to call the incubation period of book writing, I consider reflection and contemplation a form of research; because it prepares me and helps me to identify areas needing more information and development.

Research for Dream of the Great Ship never seems to end even after the book is in print. I am constantly finding new facts like the one I just posted on my blog ) describing architectural structures that may have inspired Saint John Bosco (aka Don Bosco) to compose this parable. But the hours I put in for research were far more extensive and intensive than I had anticipated. I was expecting maybe a few months of dedicated time but it actually went on for more than a year before the first print. It took another year after that for me to officially put research to rest and to publish a revision. I am always grateful when authors post their sources so that I can read further if the topic interests me and so that I can verify that quotes are given in context when I have questions; so in my own writings I work at stuffing footnotes, bibliographies and parenthetical thoughts full to the brim and overflowing the page at times.

Maria This book is written for those who know Don Bosco, and those who’ve never heard of him. What has been your reception among those who don’t know Don Bosco.

Tim Once while flying on a plane I sat next to a worldly man who made a cursory review of my book and ironically pronounced it pithy. I can only hope that he later gave the book a more serious read. The very fact that Don Bosco came up with these themes before history proved them true ought to legitimize Don Bosco in the eyes of any rational, open minded and fair hearted person. His work with the youth, apart from this dream/parable makes him a champion to those concerned with social justice in Italy regardless of one’s position religiously. Often I find that fellow Catholics who have not heard of Don Bosco are excited to hear his stories. There are some fantastic and inspiring tales associated with Don Bosco, rich enough, deep enough and sensational enough to satisfy demanding contemporary minds. He is said to have multiplied Eucharistic Hosts and breakfast rolls, raised a boy from the dead to save his soul, touched the wall of Hell and returned. He was known to read consciences such that he knew what his students needed to confess; a feat that sometimes compelled boys to shield their heads as he walked by.

Maria I was so intrigued by all the information in your website, your blog entries are very informative. I was truly blown away by the aerial picture of the Piazza di Spagna in Rome showing the visual of the ship between two columns. How did you come about this information?

Tim The Piazza di Spagna is one of those ongoing research items that just fell into place. My discovery of it was a coincidence that I must credit to the Holy Spirit, a God-incidence if you will. I read a Vatican News Service bulletin announcing that on the Solemnity of Immaculate Conception Pope Benedict XVI had continued a tradition of visiting the statue of the Immaculate Conception, which rests atop a column in the Piazza di Spagna. Knowing that the Immaculate Conception was one of Don Bosco’s personal devotions, along with Mary Help of Christians, and seeing that this statue was on a column in public view, I began to search online for information about the piazza. Imagine my surprise when I found that the Church of the Most Holy Trinity, which the article had said the Pope visited just prior to the statue of Mary, turned out to be landmarked by another column topped by a cross. It seemed too much to expect there to be a boat there too but in fact the Fontana della Barcaccia was placed there before the second column. I have been to Rome twice and both times I have missed this conglomeration of architectural inspiration that may very well have provided Saint John Bosco with the essential images to contemplate what we now call the Dream of the Two Columns.

Maria Would you consider yourself a dream expert or a Don Bosco expert? In your opinion why are so many people into dream interpretations, yet when it comes to dreams such as Don Bosco’s so few people even think about it as foretelling?

Tim I am not a dream expert, nor am I an expert on all things Don Bosco, but about this one particular dream or parable of the Two Columns I have done considerable research and reflection. We are fortunate that Don Bosco is a relatively new saint in that there is extensive record keeping of his life and ministry. He died in 1888 and was canonized less than fifty years later in 1934, which means that while I was in high school there were still people alive who might have personally known him and remembered his canonization ceremony. I have never met any of them but I am fortunate enough to have spoken with some Salesian priests who are involved with the archiving of his records.

If a great number of people find dream interpretation compelling it’s probably because a great number of people dream: If only a small number of people find Don Bosco’s dreams and stories foretelling it’s probably because only a small number of people dream foretelling dreams. These kinds of dreams are not common but they have a prevalent role in salvation history. For instance, Genesis occupies us with more than a handful of dreams over several chapters while relating the story of Joseph’s meteoric plummet and star-like rise to the highest position next to Pharaoh. Incidentally, Joseph provides with a very useful quote in Genesis 40:8, “Surely, interpretation [of dreams] comes from God.” Daniel shares a similar story of interpreting dreams for King Nebuchadnezzar. Matthew tells us how twice during dreams an angel confirmed and instructed Joseph to receive and protect Mary and Jesus.

Maria Your book reminded me of the interpretation of the Apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe, all that can be seen in the reflection of her eyes. Do you have an interest in any other hidden vision or prophecies of the Catholic Church?

Tim This kind of reading fascinates me and the Catholic Church is rich with it. I consider myself fortunate and blessed that there is an abundance of approved visions, canonized saints and flat out miracles to provide me with more material than I could thoroughly assimilate in my lifetime much less write about. Because I have developed a vocabulary of images through considering Saint John Bosco’s dreams, my next project will be to collage and paint these image-words together in a novel of hybrid historical fantasy fiction about a ‘hidden’ relic. This genre still requires research but there’s more latitude and creativity in expressing truths through signs in narrative form, so I relish the thought.

Maria Who is your favorite saint? Do you have a ‘writing patron’?

Tim My most favorite saint is unequivocally Mary, then John Bosco (he would want it that way). After Mary and Bosco, Thomas Aquinas and Therese of Avila rank pretty highly as do Joseph and the Archangel Michael. If John Paul II were canonized I imagine he would place somewhere around here. The same goes for Fulton Sheen. Then there is also Augustine, Ignatius, Padre Pio, Maximilian Kolbe, Martin, Lawrence, Francis… soon the orchestra will play over this acknowledgment speech and ushers will escort me off stage… Gertrude, Bridget, Therese of Lisieux, Faustina, Thomas More…

Maria That’s funny. And lastly, what does Tim Bartel do in his free time?

Tim I write books and blogs in my spare time since they do not yet pay the bills. What I do while I’m not writing, or rather for work is graphics and web design. Presently I’m learning ASP.Net

Maria Thank you so much for taking the time! I’m looking forward to ordering your book and reading it.

Tim I so enjoyed this interview! Happy belated feast day of Saint John Bosco (Jan 31)!!!

Genesis 40:8
View in: NAB Vulg Hebrew
8They answered: We have dreamed a dream, and there is nobody to interpret it to us. And Joseph said to them: Doth not interpretation belong to God? Tell me what you have dreamed.

Pope Benedict and the Pillars of Saint John Bosco

Saturday, December 11th, 2010

Pope Benedict XVI at the statue of Mary the Immaculate Conception

This is a fantastic portrait that seems to have gone otherwise unnoticed. What a profound resemblance to the images of St. John Bosco’s parable of the Two Pillars (1862) was shown to the public at the Piazza della Spagna in Rome on Wednesday December 8th 2010! Pope Benedict XVI made the short pilgrimage to the thirty-nine foot tall Colonna dell’ Immacolata (statue of Mary the Immaculate Conception 1857) to honor the solemnity of Mary’s Immaculate Conception by placing a wreath at the foot of the column upon which her image stands. Just prior Benedict had visited the Dominican Friars at the Trinità dei Monti (Church of The Most Holy Trinity 1585) located at the opposite end of the Piazza and landmarked by another taller one-hundred foot column (Obelisco Sallustiano erected 1789) upon which stands a cross. Remarkably triangulated at the apex between the two columns is Bernini’s 1627 Fontana della Barcaccia (fountain of the old boat). This turn of events is invocative of the final events in John Bosco’s famous dream where the Pope moors the great ship, which represents the Church, first to the pillar bearing the Holy Eucharist and then to the smaller pillar bearing the image of Mary. Here is how Saint Bosco is recorded to have preached that moment:

“Breaking through all resistance, the new Pope steers his ship safely between the two columns. Once in between them, he attaches the prow to an anchor hanging from the column with the Host. With another anchor he attaches the other side of the ship to the column with the Blessed Virgin Immaculate.”

The only difference seems to be that in the dream/parable the taller pillar is topped by the Eucharist whereas at the piazza the taller obelisk is topped by a cross, yet behind the obelisk is the Church of the Most Holy Trinity where, of course, there would be a tabernacle reposing the Eucharist.

If Saint John Bosco’s story of the Two Columns is a parable then the similarities between it and the structures in the piazza give one cause to wonder if they were the inspiration, if the same story is indeed a dream then the same structures give cause to wonder if they were the impetus.

Both columns have placards explaining their history but the name of the Obelisk Sallustiano is particularly noteworthy. It is named after Sallust who was a roman historian who owned this replica of an obelisk in Egypt. St. John Bosco envisioned the column with the Eucharist as having a plaque with the words Salus Credentium (Salvation of Believers) inscribed on it. He evidently derived or borrowed Salus from Sallust or Sallustiano and gave it a Christian meaning by coupling it’s root with Credentium and the Holy Eucharist.

Church of The Most Holy Trinity with the Obelisk Sallustiano


Column of the Immaculate Conception


Foutain of the Old Boat with Immaculate Conception in the background


Fontana della Barcaccia


Aerial view of the Piazza della Spagna showing the two pillars and the ship

Sources:
Vatican Information Service; 12.09.2010 – Twentieth Year – Num. 219
Radio vaticana
Images – Wiki Media Commons
Google Earth

Genesis 40:8
View in: NAB Vulg Hebrew
8They answered: We have dreamed a dream, and there is nobody to interpret it to us. And Joseph said to them: Doth not interpretation belong to God? Tell me what you have dreamed.