About this blogger:
Veronica Brandt holds a Bachelor Degree in Electrical Engineering. As editor, she has produced fine publications (as well as valuable reprints) dealing with Gregorian chant, hymnody, Latin, and other subjects. These publications are distinguished on account of their tastefulness. She lives in the Blue Mountains near Sydney, Australia, with her husband Peter and six children.
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“To me nothing is so consoling, so piercing, so thrilling, so overcoming, as the Mass, said as it is among us. I could attend Masses for ever, and not be tired.”
— John Henry Cardinal Newman (1848)

Dreaming in Latin
published 12 July 2014 by Veronica Brandt

Don Bosco INDING BEDTIME STORIES THAT ARE edifying for both parents and children can be a bit hit and miss (and miss and miss…) Many times there are stories I enjoyed from my youth that I am happy to read again, but that is a finite list. There are many books I would like to find time to read that would bore my kids to tears, but not this one.

My kids often wake up ready to compare dreams. There is nothing like listening to someone recounting a dream to bring home how ridiculous and pointless they can be. Most times they are much better forgotten.

Don Bosco’s dreams were startlingly thought-provoking. He was not allowed to forget them. His dreams were structured, usually with a guide to lead him and explain things (and to tell him to stop taking notes). They often provided guidance for his work, giving him material for talks and also letting him know the spiritual state of the boys in his care.

The dreams themselves, though useful, were not very comfortable. He was not overly keen to reveal his dreams, sometimes it would take a series of nightmares to convince him to retell a dream. They left him exhausted. Some left him in pain or with a foul stench that stayed for the rest of the day. Sometimes he would avoid sleep altogether.

But the aspect that might interest some readers here was that in the dreams there would be inscriptions or exclamations in Latin. Many were quotes from the Bible. Some came from the liturgy. It showed how this common sacral language could be used to emphasize timeless truths. It also heightened the sense of drama and mystery in the already very dramatic and mysterious dreams.

As the accounts of the dreams came from transcriptions from the talks of St John Bosco to his boys and his religious, he must have used the Latin in his talks, rather than just the vernacular. You could argue that Italian is so close to Latin it wouldn’t make so much difference, but these boys were from rough backgrounds.

Apart from the rhetorical effect of using Latin, maybe the main thing is that he used Latin because the messengers in his dreams used Latin.

A great book with much food for thought on the importance of prayer, the Sacraments, work and temperance, the four last things and especially on raising boys.