I just read the book Dearest Sister Wendy… A Surprising Story of Faith and Friendship. It is a collection of daily email letters between Sister Wendy Beckett (consecrated virgin and art critic) and Robert Ellsberg (publisher and author) during the last three years of her life. The two discuss matters of life and faith. Ellsberg often recounts his dreams in length. These are like dramas—a far cry from my own dreams. The two glean messages from his dreams. The book prompted me to write a post on dreams. Then I discovered I had written one a few years ago. Here it is with some adaptations:
After reading about Ellsberg’s dreams, one night I asked God if he would send me a message in a dream. Again, I had no story-dream, but only a brief event: I was handed a pretty, square box. On its side was written the word Fortitude. When I woke up, at first I thought, Well, that wasn’t much. Later I realized that the dream really did hold a message for me. At the time I was facing a problem that was causing me grief. Planning how to deal with it was constantly my mind. It seems as though God were reminding me to act with fortitude (courage) in solving the problem. And, yes, fortitude is a gift of the Holy Spirit that I received when I was baptized.
Scripture reveals that God sometimes communicates through dreams. In the Old Testament, the patriarch Joseph’s dream about sheaves and stars foretold that his eleven brothers would someday do him homage. Later Joseph’s ability to interpret prophetic dreams, in particular the Pharaoh’s, catapulted him to power and helped to feed the world during a famine. Another hero, Daniel, while a prisoner in Babylon, explained to King Nebuchadnezzar the dire meaning of his dreams for his country and his future.
In the New Testament, God spoke to St. Joseph in dreams four times. In a dream Joseph learned about Mary’s Son and was told to marry her. Later he learned he must take his little family to Egypt to save this divine Son from Herod’s wrath. After Herod died, twice Joseph was given directions: to move back and where to move. The Magi were warned in a dream not to report back to Herod.
Saints also received messages in dreams. St. Patrick was guided in a dream to escape captivity. Later in another dream he was instructed to go to Ireland.
Before St. Dominic was born, his mother dreamed of a black and white dog carrying a burning torch. The Latin name for the Dominicans, who set the world on fire for God, is Domini canes (dogs of the Lord).
St. John Bosco dreamed that vicious dogs were turned into lambs, a hint of his future work of transforming rough boys into people of integrity. One book is entitled “The Forty Dreams of St. John Bosco.”
There is no reason to doubt that God speaks to you through dreams too. After all, God can speak through anything.
The year I entered the convent I had a strange dream. My father had lost his faith during World War II. One night I dreamed that I was helping him climb a steep hill. He was breathing hard. Then he said, “I see saints and angels at the top.” This made me feel happy in my dream. When I awoke, I was worried about my father. If I recall, we had a little blue book in which we recorded our intention and good work for the day. My intention that day was my father. During lunch, although I was only a postulant, the novice director asked me to come to her room. There she told me that my mother had called. My dad was in the hospital. Sister said the phone connection was bad, but it sounded like he had cancer. My dad worked night shift. When I called my mother, she said he didn’t have cancer. During the night at work my father’s lungs had collapsed. He couldn’t breathe. My father lived years after that. Right before he died, he was anointed and received Communion.
Books and workshops give advice for analyzing dreams. It’s said that only you can interpret your dreams.
By the way, did you know that St. Raphael the Archangel is the patron against nightmares? This is because of what he did for Tobias as told in the Old Testament book of Tobit. A demon had killed seven of Sarah’s husbands on their wedding night. After Tobias married Sarah, that night Raphael chased the demon faraway to Egypt and bound him hand and foot!
• Have you ever received a message from God in a dream?