Devotion for the Dying, by Ven. Mother Mary Potter, Mary's call to her loving children to help those who may be in danger of an unpleasant afterlife -- and even hell. This book by a saintly nun tells how we can help others and are required to in the form of prayers and good works -- aiding those ready to make the passage and we too will one day! CLICK HERE
BOOK ON 'END' SAVED GREATEST ELEVATION FOR PASSAGE ON JOYS AND LIGHT OF HEAVEN
It was not the fear of hell, it was not the presentment of final disasters, it was not the terror of the "end" or unknown that elevated the soul of Thérèse the Little Flower when she read The End of the Present World (ironically enough).
It was the book's descriptions of Heaven.
For in this tome on eschatology are not only discussions of the end times and anti-christ but also the afterlife -- Heaven, hell, and purgatory.
And interesting they are. We have covered what the book said about hell. The descriptions of Heaven?
They're surprisingly in line with what we now call near-death experiences. Was the author, Father Charles Arminjon, informed or inspired in a special way?
Time and again, this French priest who was respected by bishops and laity alike in the 19th century -- long before near-death episodes became popular -- describes the incredible Light of Heaven just as do those with such experiences: as more brilliant than the sun, radiating in a way that not even a precious gem could reflect -- a place where, as the priest quotes St. Augustine, "praises and songs resound that are unlimited in duration. There are fragrances the air does not blow away, savors that never fade, goods and sweet joys unaccompanied by any distaste or surfeit. There, God is contemplated continuously, is known without any error of apprehension, and praised without weariness or diminution."
Perhaps St. Augustine too had a glimpse!
"In a twinkling of an eye, [the soul] comprehends both the entirety and every detail of this palace of Creation, which is now his inheritance," wrote Father Arminjon of entry into paradise.
"With a single glance, he takes in its immensity. He fathoms the properties, secrets, and innermost forces of the elements; with a single turn of his thoughts, he visits those huge globes in the firmament, which are so distant that they escape our knowledge and calculations."
"No human voice, no lyre, can ever succeed in producing songs and tunes in unison with the melodies and sweet harmonies with which that indescribable city resounds," wrote the priest in referring to the "City of God" (just as some near-death witnesses claim to have seen a city, and just as they see so much in a flash).
In Heaven, said the mystical scholar (whose book Thérèse described as "one of the greatest graces in my life"), everyone sees and recognizes each other. We will love one another. No more antagonism! A section is called, "We shall see our loved ones in Heaven."
"Your children are not lost, but remain safe and sound for you, and as soon as you have reached the end of this temporal life, you will see them again, full of joy and gladness," Father Arminjon quotes St. Theodore of Studium as saying. Added the priest, "In Heaven, we shall find our friends spotless, and their features will be more radiant than the clearest sky."
This too is in line with near-death episodes, which often describe those on the other side as impossibly radiant, full of joy, and at an age that seems like it is between 25 and 35 -- the prime of life. All the objects and causes that captivate our hearts and arouse love in this world will act, said Father Arminjon, "with an intensity a thousand times greater."
"There will no longer be any place for rivalry or jealousy," he added.
"Surprisingly, Heaven is somehow the opposite of earth!" the priest wrote in a book that has been translated for the first time into English -- a book some believe was a significant factor in Thérèse's very vocation. "Here below, man is restored and bathed anew in dignity and moral value through suffering and sacrifice.
"In Heaven, it is the reverse," explained the priest. "He is perfected and deified by the flood of delights wherein he is immersed.
"The ages will succeed one another without diminishing their happiness, and without a single line creasing their brows.
"The joys of Heaven are lasting; they are not subject to any succession. The elect in Heaven are no longer prisoners of time. Their new life does not slip by in measurable hours. For them there is no more past or future; but, living the life of God, they are fixed in a permanent present."
Indeed! How many who "die" and return say the same! Are there controversial aspects? Of course. Like any human work, there may be imperfections. He wrote at a time when limbo was still a teaching of the Church and believed that un-baptized souls never entered God's greatest Presence.
But one can hardly deny that the discussion of Heaven does indeed elevate the soul -- and can see why it had an effect on St. Thérèse (a doctor of the Church). The saint wrote about it in private correspondence as well as in her own autobiography (The Story of a Soul), discussing it with her sister, Celine -- who also read the book and who also entered a Carmelite convent.
"Oh!" wrote Father Arminjon. "The Lord cannot forget that the saints, when they once lived on earth, paid homage to Him by the total donation of their repose, their happiness, and their whole being; that they would have liked to have had an inexhaustible flow of blood in their veins, in order to shed it as a living and imperishable pledge of their faith; that they would have desired a thousand hearts in their breasts, so as to consume them in the unquenchable fires of their love, and to possess a thousand bodies, in order that they might deliver them to martyrdom, like victims unceasingly renewed. And the grateful God cries out, 'Now it is My turn!'"
That was a passage cited in a special way by St. Thérèse.
Suffering on earth?
The point is that life is a brief moment in comparison to eternity. The earth, said the priest, is "less than mud and foul smoke," where paradise would be "such a spectacle all mankind would be lost in breathless wonderment from which no other marvel could rouse them," excelling in beauty "all that our language has in its power to depict or our mind to conceive" -- if a writer could depict it.
Heaven is where every good desire, every enjoyment, is quenched without end.
[resources: The End of the Present World, The Story of a Soul, and The Other Side]
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