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It's one of those books that come out of nowhere -- almost literally. Is it all correct -- everything it states about the future, both for the world and the soul?

From the vantage point of earth, who can say? It is written by a human.

But we can know this: a saint, and a major one at that -- Thérèse the Little Flower -- was so taken by the book (or at least aspects of it) that it may have helped spur her entry into a convent.

It has never been in English before. It's called The End of the Present World (and the Mysteries of the Future Life), by Father Charles Arminjon -- and St. Thérèse once said that "reading this was one of the greatest graces of my life. I read it at the window of my study, and the impression I received from it is too intimate and too sweet for me to express.

"All the great truths of religion, the mysteries of eternity, plunged into my soul a happiness not of this earth."

We offer it for your discernment. The author, who died in 1885, was a former seminary professor and highly esteemed preacher in France and the book consists of nine easy-to-read conferences that he presented at the Chambéry Cathedral and published four years before his death.

In spite of the "enormous" influence this book had on the life of one of the greatest saints, "no one had ever translated it into English and published it in America," notes Susan Conroy, who spearheaded efforts to secure the "lost" tome. "I personally felt called -- compelled -- to bring back to life again this book."

It took Conroy seven years of searching before she discovered a single copy of this book, written in the original French and owned by a Carmelite priest. "As I held this book in my hands, I felt as if I were holding a 'lost treasure'!" she recounts in the book's preface. "Since 1987, I have dreamed of making this book available for English-speaking readers here in America. You are now holding my dream in your hands!"

St. Thérèse first read the book in May of 1887, when she was but 14. It taught her that the sacrifices in this life are almost nothing compared with the rewards that await us in everlasting life.

It reminded her too that earth passes quickly.

"Very shortly after reading this book," notes Conroy, "Thérèse requested and obtained her father's permission to enter the cloistered Carmelite Monastery in Lisieux."

While the book's exhortations on hell, purgatory, and Heaven were what seems to have most inspired the saint, it's not known what she thought of the lengthy discussion in the book of the anti-christ, Second Coming, and end of the world. Father Arminjon does not claim special knowledge, but presents intriguing scenarios based on the Bible and tradition. In fact, it's how the book -- chapter after chapter -- starts.

We'll investigate that next. Fascinating are the book's opening lines:

"It has seemed to us that one of the saddest fruits of rationalism, the fatal error and great plague of our century, the pestilential sources from which our revolutions and social disasters arise, is the absence of the sense of the supernatural and the profound neglect of the great truths of the future life."

(That sentence is worth re-reading. Are current seminary professors listening? And are we approaching the fullness of error he describes?)

[resources: The End of the Present World]

[see also: 'The End of the Present World': a book on future events]

[Tampa retreat with Michael Brown: afterlife, prophecy, preparing for times]

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