The first thing that jumps to my mind when I hear “I have/had a dream” is Martin Luther King’s famous speech on the National Mall in 1963. In that noble dream, Dr. King foresaw a time when people were no longer prejudged by their race.
The second thing that jumps to my mind is all the times I have heard it from family and friends. “I had a dream” is implicitly followed by “that I just have to tell you about.” These are almost always bizarre, usually with one odd and impossible scene following another.
We probably do not remember most of our dreams. When I wake-up and recall a dream, it is usually of the boring, make-work kind. Dreams where I need to get something done, deadlines have to be met, time organized, plans executed, etc. I don’t mention these to others because they are not interesting, even to me.
I am not a psychologist, but on occasion have wondered how our sleeping minds create dreams. I assume that the plots come, in part, from concerns we have in life. The sets probably come from our extended environment, our homes, our work places, television and movies we have seen, and our “mind’s eye” of things we have read. The cast almost always features ourselves, often our family, sometimes our friends and pets, and other characters that we synthesize from all of these.
Last night I had a dream (I will get to that in a moment) which got me thinking about another possible ingredient – what is in our heart. It is possible that our dreams give us an objective glimpse at the current state of our souls. I believe that sometimes, dreams are one mechanism by which the Holy Spirit talks to us. There are plenty examples of that in Holy Scripture.
Last Friday was the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus followed by the Immaculate Heart of Mary on Saturday. I read meditations and thought about the nature of Jesus and Mary, trying to better understand their holy natures in comparison to my fallen one.
I also thought about the hearts of Saints and those on a possible path to Sainthood such as Blessed Teresa of Calcutta and Blessed John Paul II. What kind of dreams did these people have?
Sometimes in the past, I may have dreamed of something like winning the lottery (unlikely as I have never bought a ticket!). In a dream I could explore how people would react and how I would spend the money. I would have sudden fame, people would give me special deference as they often do towards the extremely wealthy and the money might be spent on fine but unnecessary luxuries. In short, pride and greed. What might Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II have dreamt if their dreams gave them wealth? Somehow, I do not think their dreams would have been like mine at all.
In my dream last night, I was presented with a moral choice. Of course, as in life, no one said “George, you have a moral choice,” but an immoral opportunity arose. I found myself accepting that opportunity without giving it a lot of thought at first. As I proceeded, but before anything “happened,” it occurred to me that it was gravely sinful. I specifically remember that and deciding to proceed anyway. I even remember thinking that I will have to confess it and when and where to go to confession. Mercifully at that point I woke up.
A flood of emotions came to me as I laid in bed. Even though it was a dream, I was disappointed in myself, felt shameful, and very remorseful. Most of all I was mortified that I could act and think like this (it being a dream not withstanding). I could commit a mortal sin, clear and unambiguous. The matter was grave, I had sufficient reflection to completely understand the sinfulness, and I purposefully decided to go ahead anyway.
Since this was only a dream, I lacked the full capacity for free will of my waking self. No mortal sin was actually committed. Yet, I can not help feeling it was sinful none-the-less and that a small, hidden part of me was complicit. All I could do was say an act of contrition.
Why did I have a dream like that? Upon reflection, I think it may have been the Holy Spirit showing me the stark difference in my heart and that of Jesus and Mary. A lesson and ultimately a blessing to ask for and accept their grace to reject sin.
It also occurs to me, the fullness of God’s mercy in preparing our souls to be received into heaven after death. That is, the role of purgatory and its place in His plan seems a little clearer to me today.