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BOOK THAT INSPIRED ST. THÉRÈSE DETAILED THE RISE AND REIGN OF COMING 'ANTI-CHRIST'
It was when she was 14 and thinking of joining a novitiate that the girl who would become St. Thérèse the Little Flower -- among the greatest saints since St. Francis -- read a book on future times and the mysteries of life as she sat by the window of her study.
It was a book called The End of the Present World (and the Mysteries of the Future Life), by a French priest named Father Charles Arminjon, and the future saint found it to be like "honey and oil in abundance."
"This book had been lent to Papa by my dear Carmelites, and, contrary to my custom (I didn't read Papa's books), I asked to read it.
"This reading was one of the greatest graces in my life," she wrote in her classic Story of a Soul (page 102 of the Institute of Carmelites Study version).
There are some differences in various abridgements and translations. But the essence was that upon reading it, this tremendously famous saint found herself in near-ecstasy -- with love for God "plundering" into her heart unforgettably. That this book should come to the surface now (it is in English for the first time) seems curious.
Did she agree with all of the book? She was only fourteen when she encountered it (in 1887) although it was still with her powerfully when she penned her autobiography ten years later (1897) -- describing it as causing her to see that sacrifices in life were minor compared to the glory of eternity.
"I copied out several passages on perfect love, on the reception God will give His elect at the moment He becomes their Reward, great and eternal, and I repeated over and over the words of love burning in my heart," this saint and doctor of the Church wrote.
In short, part of Father Arminjon's work served to inspire her, perhaps in a pivotal way. Much of it seemed to do with its discussions of Heaven, hell, and purgatory.
That discussion is too lengthy to summarize here. There are some who can quibble with its interpretations, including its speculations on how the physical and eternal bodies join at the end of time (this can seem at odds with other mystical reports) and of the Final Judgment. It is not known what the saint thought about each aspect, some of which can seem unlikely.
But Thérèse's tremendously strong reaction to the book -- "one of the greatest graces" -- causes us to consider certain of the speculative passages, including a long treatise on the anti-christ.
What did St. Thérèse think of the priest's projections into the future of the world?
When "Divine Mercy is exhausted," wrote Father Arminjon, there will "appear on earth a profoundly evil man, invested with a quasi-superhuman power, who, challenging Christ, will wage an impious and foolish war against Him.
"Through the fear this man will inspire, and, particularly, by his stratagems and seductive genius, he will succeed in conquering almost the entire universe; he will have altars erected to himself and will compel all peoples to adore him."
Feast days and Sunday services will be suppressed, and Christian names will be removed from the calendars. Education will be "lay, compulsory, and godless."
The personage of evil -- the anti-christ -- will seem to resurrect, posited Father Arminjon. He will seem to make fire fall from the heavens. He will make a statue speak. Demons, transformed into angels of light, will appear in the air. He will present false oracles in trees and with wood. He will cause furniture to move of its own accord (a seeming reference to spiritualistic phenomena).
These were all parts of this highly-regarded scholar's conferences in the cathedral at Chambéry. The passages go into far more detail. We can but touch the surface. The point: evil will manifest as a human at a time when worship of Christ is extinguished and peak when the Sacrifice ceases to be celebrated.
After the great tribulation, he theorized, the world will be transformed into a new order, and the Church will be more glorious than ever. The power of evil will be broken by a manifestation of Jesus (see here!).
But before that, claims Father Arminjon, there will be the bloodiest persecution in all of Christian history (outdoing even the lion dens). It will be at a time when the devil is allowed to leave his fiery prison and granted full permission to "seduce and satisfy his hatred of the human race."
Some believe that period started right around the time of Father Arminjon's lectures in the 1880s, when Pope Leo XIII had his famous vision of Satan given a "century" to test the Church. Is there a connection?
There is much more in the book. Its lengthy discussion on the afterlife makes interesting reading, especially for Lent. Again, it was this part that seems to have truly inspired St. Thérèse.
But the parts on the "end" of the present world and the anti-christ tend to haunt.
This evil personage -- said the priest -- will attack anyone who believes in the existence of a supreme being -- whether Jews, schismatics, heretics, deists, or any sect.
However, God will draw good from evil.
The horrible tempest "will result in the disappearance of false religions," he claimed. "Along with Judaism, it will abolish the remains of Mohammedanism, idolatrous superstitions, and every religion hostile to the Church.
It will deal a finishing blow to the sects of darkness, the priest believed.
"Freemasonry, Carbonarism, Illuminism, and all subversive societies will vanish in the vortex of wickedness which will be their work, and which they had prepared for centuries in the belief that it would be their definitive, supreme triumph," he wrote (and St. Thérèse read).
For your discernment. Controversial stuff. Tough stuff. Old-time religion.
In the end, one should take from this fascinating if speculative book -- this book that even guesses at how and where the Final Judgment will occur -- the love that is necessary to attain Heaven (the love of everyone, no matter their religion), and the value of sacrifices here on earth to avoid deepest purgatory.
That's what St. Therese did. That's what we must do. The key is love.
"I experienced already what God reserves for those who love Him (not with the eye of man, but with that of the heart), and seeing [in this book] that the eternal rewards had no proportion to the light sacrifices of life, I wanted to love, to love Jesus, with passion, to give Him a thousand proofs of love," she said, "while I still could."
[resources: The End of the Present World, The Final Hour, and Tower of Light]
[see also: Mystery book 'endorsed' by St. Thérèse on 'end time' makes first U.S. appearance]
[Tampa retreat with Michael Brown: afterlife, prophecy, preparing for times]
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