The Wolves

lion witch wardrobeSetting: My son Joel’s bedroom. About 9:30 pm on a Wednesday night. I’m there to tuck him in. He’s been in bed for at least 15 minutes before I get there.

Joel: I can’t stop thinking about the wolves.

Mom: What wolves?

Joel: The wolves in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. I keep thinking about them chasing me and attacking me.

Mom, pensively: Hmmmm.

I’m wondering how to help him over this. I remember being that age, when things like this are very real. I spend several minutes thinking about it, to no avail. I decide to “go fishing,” to ask him questions and see if his answers can help me help him.

Mom: How do we make the wolves go away? What can we do?

Joel: I don’t know. I just want them to disappear.

A swing and a miss. Spending more time thinking about it, an idea springs to mind:

Mom: Is my love stronger than the wolves?

This is an honest question: I do not know what is true for him. I want him to answer honestly.

Joel: Yes.

This is spoken without hesitation. Slightly puzzled, I proceed:

Mom: Is Daddy’s love stronger than the wolves?

Joel: Yes.

Again, spoken without hesitation. I need to know if this is his truth, or if he’s just telling me what he thinks I want to hear.

Mom: Are you sure?

This time he looks puzzled.

Joel: Yes.

Inside, I hope he’s told me the truth, because if he has, I’ve found the key.

Mom, with determination: Ok, I want you to remember something: love is stronger than the wolves. Love always wins against hate, because love is stronger. It always wins. Always. Can you remember that?

He nods his head and sets it on the pillow. I wait by his side, my hand on his arm. Without saying another word, he’s asleep within five minutes, and stays in bed all night. Next morning….

Mom: So, how did you sleep?

Joel, smiling: Fine.

Mom: What happened to the wolves?

Joel, puzzled: What?

Mom: The wolves. Remember, last night?

Joel, still smiling: Oh yea! They went away.

Mom: Wow! That’s pretty cool, isn’t it Joel?

Joel nods his head, still smiling. I say a silent prayer of gratitude. The wolves have never returned.

[Note: I don’t remember exactly when this happened. It probably happened a year or two before 2006, which was when I wrote this.]

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My dreams about the Blessed Virgin Mary

Today is All Soul’s Day, so it is a great time to tell the story of my dreams about the Blessed Virgin Mary. I had two dreams, about four decades apart. The second dream interpreted the first, and they both were about purgatory although I did not know that until after the second dream.

The first dream

After my parents split up, my mother and I moved to a condo in the town where I was born. I think we lived there by ourselves at first but am not 100% sure. The man who would later become my step dad might have moved in with us right away but it’s a bit foggy. I was about four years old, I think.

One night I had a dream. My mother and I were in a very small room, like a box really. She was lying on her back, holding me up. The entire room was on fire, the floor, ceiling, walls. She was holding me up out of the flames. It was really scary. When the morning came, I think I told her about the dream but I don’t remember what she said.

I often wondered what the dream meant. After I became a Christian, I wondered if the fire represented hell, and this scared me a lot. But even that didn’t really make sense, since I wasn’t getting burned in the dream. It seemed that the dream had some meaning but I could not figure it out. As the years turned to decades, I just filed the dream away in the back of mind.

The second dream

In the late summer of 2011, after attending mass regularly for 8-9 months, I enrolled in RCIA. I had just learned the Hail Mary prayer:

Hail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

I was a little bit reluctant to learn this prayer, because, being a former Protestant I had plenty of reservations about Mary. I even remember the cult leader denigrating her from time to time. So I learned the prayer. I figured that since I was going to become Catholic, I should know it.

Right around that time, I had a dream. I was walking along a road that was paved with black asphalt. As I walked along, there was a very large hole in the road, with flames coming out. With trepidation I approached the hole and could hear people screaming and crying inside it. I wondered to myself if it was hell, and felt very afraid that if I fell in, I wouldn’t be able to get out. That’s the nature of hell, after all. Once you’re there, that’s it. Game over.

Well, somehow I fell in. And I was utterly terrified because I thought I had fallen into hell, the place where there is no escape. People were screaming and crying and there were flames of fire everywhere. I wasn’t in pain, but for a reason I still cannot explain, reflexively I began to say the Hail Mary prayer that I had only memorized the prior week or so:

Hail Mary, Full of Grace, the Lord is with thee…

I had not finished it, and was lifted up out of the flaming pit into the air above it. Lifted, sort of like flying while staying upright but not on my own effort. And I’m not sure if this was part of the dream, or if I had this thought after waking up, but I saw Mary (or a statue of her) above me in the sky.

So I woke up and was completely bewildered. The dream was scary and didn’t make sense to me. But as I thought about it the next day, two amazing things occurred to me:

  • The pit was not hell, it was purgatory.
  • That dream interpreted the dream I had as a child. They both gave the same message.

holy-souls-in-purgatoryIt was purgatory, since people do get out of purgatory and the only way out is up. And the woman in the first dream was actually Mary. She was interceding for me. This knowledge came to me suddenly and I knew it was true.

What is really interesting is that I had not learned all that much about purgatory up to that point, and had definitely not learned anything about Mary’s intercession for those there. It was only much later that I learned about it. Here are some links for more info:

For more than four decades, the first dream made no sense to me, although I have since learned that there are a few Protestants who believe in purgatory. See here and here for examples. So God, in his good time, gave me the interpretation. It enabled me to let go of my ALL of reservations about Mary. Seriously. Overnight every reservation vanished and I joyfully embraced what the Church taught about her. God orchestrated both dreams, giving me the second dream when I needed it to help me enter into the Church.

Believe me, as a former Protestant (and Gnostic) I know how strange all this sounds. I really, really do. I can very easy put myself in those shoes and see how off-the-wall it seems. But that’s the beauty and the liberty of having a Bible interpreter, the beauty and liberty of not needing to be my own Bible interpreter. As I have stated many times, I am not responsible for figuring out the faith in order to establish it; I only need to enter into that which has already been established (per Jude 3). I can help defend that which has already been established, and perhaps develop it, but I can’t establish it as if the Holy Spirit were using me for something entirely new. There is so much peace and freedom there, far more than I ever experienced before. 

Thanks to SR, who inspired me to write this post after I read her post about Mary:

My Conversion Story: How the Blessed Mother Called Me to the Catholic Church

See also:

The Screwtape Letters, Letter 1

I have studied and practically memorized the first letter of The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. It is brilliant. I found it to be a great consolation after the election of 2012. I was still working in an office at that time, and to console myself I copied and pasted portions of it into a Word document, formatted it nicely, printed it and taped it to the door to my office. I’d stand there and read it from time to time, and have ruminated on it for several years now. Please do read at least Letter 1, several times. It is available here.

I later learned that the actor John Cleese narrated the entire book, and it is available on YouTube. He does a phenomenal job. Start with Letter 1, then go from there. I recommend buying the book too. I used to have a copy of the book but can’t remember the last time I saw it. It might still be at Dad’s house. About three years ago I bought one for my Kindle. You can probably find an older edition very inexpensively on Amazon.