Saint Therese: Herald of the Apocalypse?

Who could describe as “sweet” the reading of a book that gives an account of the rise of the Anti-Christ, the tribulations that will mark the end times, followed by meditations on death, judgment, Heaven and Hell? “Reading this book was one of the greatest graces of my life …The impression I received from it is too sweet to express. All the great truths of religion and the mysteries of eternity plunged into my soul a happiness not of this earth.”

So wrote Saint Thérèse in her autobiography about End of the Present World and the Mysteries of the Future Life, a book she cherished for preparing her for the trials of monastic life as well as the happiness of Heaven.

Here we might be inclined to dismiss Saint Thérèse. We might say: “Sure—Saint Thérèse would enjoy a book like that! She’s a great saint in Heaven who had a high tolerance for pain and suffering in this life!  She was confident in the glory that awaited someone with her sanctity—but what about the rest of us?”

Such statements, I believe, misread Therese, misread the book, and misunderstand the sovereignty of God. Thérèse had no illusions about either the trials or the brevity of life; she was no stranger to physical and interior suffering; her discipleship shielded her from no cross. What made the book “sweet” for her was its account of Christ’s inevitable triumph—the victory won at Calvary, a victory confirmed by the Resurrection, a victory we are offered a share in by grace.

More than that: Saint Thérèse was sure, in a way that I think most of aren’t, that Christ the King—crucified, risen and returning—is our King who is reigning right now.


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