I once recently read the story of Blessed Franz Jaegerstaetter’s dream of the Hellbound Train. It represented Socialism (the Nazi agenda of World War II). It reminded me of a dream I had a couple years ago.
First, Franz’s dream:
In an essay that he wrote in 1942, “On Today’s Issue: Catholic or National Socialist,” Franz Jägerstätter recalls a dream that he had …
“I saw [in a dream] a wonderful train as it came around a mountain. With little regard for the adults, children flowed to this train and were not held back. There were present a few adults who did not go into the area. I do not want to give their names or describe them. Then a voice said to me, This train is going to hell.’ Immediately, it happened that someone took my hand, and the same voice said to me; ‘Now we are going to purgatory.’ What I glimpsed and perceived was fearful. If this voice had not told me that we were going to purgatory, I would have judged that I had found myself in hell.”
For Franz Jägerstätter, the train symbolizes National Socialism with all of its sub-organizations and programs (the National Socialist Public Assistance Program, Hitler Youth, etc). As he puts it, “the train represents the National Socialist Volk community and everything for which it struggles and sacrifices.” He remembers that just prior to having this dream, he had read that 150,000 young Austrian people had joined Hitler Youth. He recounts, sadly, that the Christians of Austria had never donated as much money to charitable organizations as they now donated to Nazi party organizations. He realized that it wasn’t really the money that the Nazis were after, it was the souls of the Austrian people: You were either with the Fuhrer or you were nothing. Upon this realization, Franz Jägerstätter writes, “I would like to cry out to the people aboard the National Socialism train: ‘Jump off this train before it arrives at your last stop where you will pay with your life!'”
His admonition to “jump off the train” is one that must be heard and acted upon, perhaps never more so than today. In his recent meditation on Franz Jägerstätter’s life, Father Daniel Berrigan urges that we not become complacent in these “post-Hitler” times: ‘To speak of today; it is no longer Hitler’s death train we ride, the train of the living dead. Or is it? The same train. Only, if possible (it is possible) longer, faster, cheaper. On schedule, every hour on the hour, speedy and cheap and unimaginably lethal. An image of life in the world. A ghost train still bound, mad as March weather, for hell. On earth… Despite all fantasies and homilies and ‘States of the Union’ urging the contrary. Today, a world of normalized violence, a world of standoff, of bunkers and missiles nose to nose, a world of subhuman superpowers and the easy riders. The train beats its way across the world, crowded with contented passenger-citizen-Christians.”
Now, my dream. What I remember of it.
This was a little different. In my dream, the train cars were receiving adults more than children. Or, should I say that some – though not all – of the train cars segregated adults and children, while some contained whole families. I could not help but think of the character of the Pied Piper, promising sweets to children but intending to delivering them to death with macabre hypocrisy. My parents and I were lined up to enter a train car. They were small train cars, intended to go along a track to a larger train for passengers to board. The littler train was composed of cars that resembled mining carts. The revelation of what was intended hit me in an infused way like a ton of bricks. I had to get them away. It was easier to convince my Dad than my Mom, but Dad took them both to safety. I had to refuse to go with them to the refuge, because the big bad were after me once they knew I knew their purposes. I still had to run. I found it odd that I was wearing a ladybug pattern dress (I am not a fan of polka dots, thank you). In running, I also had to steal a gold key for some reason and getting away from the big bad then (while trying to escape a brick loft studio) nearly got me caught. Very close shave.
Almost all of the buildings, former homes, in the area were deserted, so it was relatively easy to hide temporarily. They did not know I could fly. It was a surprise to me too. But I was evading them with an ease (in their eyes, not from my perspective) and that frustrated them very much. They set up cameras which I had to be especially careful to avoid. Once one caught me inside an abandoned house, I had hidden well in an attic and got to change clothes, but looking around the place for a way to leave with ease got me caught on a camera and not long after the men came. I had to fight and use stealth to get past them. It was a very close shave to being caught. That was when we all learned I could fly. I even sprouted wings.
I was able to hide, but then they set up cord across every roof and window and door, all linked technologically. The tiniest touch or pluck would reveal my location. And I had to stay low, so that the helicopters would not spot me. They had me in a pickle of circumstances. Once, my wing tipped off my location accidentally when I was trying to land on a roof, I had to make fast work of a getaway. I withdrew my wings and changed into pauper’s clothes, and hid among those in the streets. Eventually, after trial and error, the big bad imposed incentives and harsher conditions on the destitute poor (who had originally received me supportively since I was on the run from the government they already hated), to pressure them to aid them in finding me. I knew I wouldn’t be able to stay among them after that. They started giving me dirty looks, and I overheard others blaming me for how the government was making life harder for them.
Dad was driving a vehicle and noticed me, and we got to communicate again, which was nice. I got in the vehicle with him this time, and he began to drive us to the refuge in a convoluted fashion to be sure no one was following us. We found someone trailing us, and then began a car chase. I began to realize that there would be no escaping this conflict, and I would be pursued and hounded after even to the ends of the earth. After a while of riding along with Dad, I told him to let me go. Of course he resisted. I had no plan about what to say or do to these evil people. I had no assurance that my continuing with Dad would not put the whole refuge at serious danger. We were not being led there by the prophesied flame at this time. I told him to drop me off at a particular back alley, and return to Mom and the others. I had to face this. We prayed together, and he let me off. I stepped out into the open, at an intersection. Helicopters, armored vehicles, the works, all surrounded me. I wasn’t afraid. I was proud of myself that I had been so difficult to them. They finally had to accept that they would not be able to hold me against my will. The men who stepped out of the helicopter wore top tier black suits. There was a mutual silence between they and I, as we stared each other down.
And then I woke up.
The most annoyingly ANTI-climactic dream ever… But certainly not the first.