Joseph Pronechen is staff writer with the National Catholic Register since 2005. His articles have appeared regularly in a number of national publications including Columbia magazine, Faith and Family, Catholic Digest, and Marian Helper. His religion features have also appeared in Fairfield County Catholic and in one of Connecticut’s largest news dailies. He holds BS and MS degrees and formerly taught English and courses in film study that he developed at a Catholic high school in Connecticut. Joseph and his wife Mary reside in Connecticut.
In 1887, when she was 14, St. Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower, came upon a book that really impressed her.
In her autobiography, Story of a Soul, she recounts how her father was loaned this particular book. When she asked if she could read it, he allowed her request.
“This reading was one of the greatest graces in my life,” she later recounted. "I read it by the window of my study, and the impressions I received are too deep to express in human words.”
The book was The End of the Present World and the Mysteries of the Future Life. It was by Father Charles Arminjon — a collection of nine conferences he had given in 1881 at the Chambery cathedral about the subjects the title captures so succinctly. He became renowned as a preacher all over France and beyond. He was held in high regard by bishops, archbishops and cardinals.
Little wonder Therese (whose feast day is Oct. 1) continued her thoughts about this book with:
“All the great truths of religion, the mysteries of eternity, plunged my soul into a state of joy not of this earth. I experienced already what God reserved for those who love him (not with the eyes, but with the heart); and seeing the eternal rewards had no proportion to life’s small sacrifices, I wanted to love, to love Jesus with a passion. … 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.”
Not long after she read the book, she asked her father for permission to enter a cloistered Carmelite monastery.
Even with that endorsement in her autobiography, the book was never translated from the French, and it eventually appeared to be all but forgotten — a treasure lost somewhere in a vast field of print.
But in the later part of the 20th century, Susan Conroy followed St. Therese’s endorsement and tried to find a copy of the book. It took her seven years, but she finally tracked down one copy from a Carmelite priest. She had discovered a “lost treasure,” as she later put it. (Conroy’s name should be familiar to EWTN viewers. She is host of the more recent Speaking of Saints series on EWTN and Coming to Christ: Resting in His Love.)
Once Conroy got a copy, she wanted to get the book into English. She began translating it in the 1990s; and after several years, she found others to collaborate with for the translation and completion.
The result of the search and the meticulous translation is Sophia Institute Press' The End of the Present World and the Mysteries of the Future Life (2008). It proved so popular that, shortly after its release, it had to go into a second printing.
Now, everyone can read the treasure St. Therese found.
She surely must be smiling down from heaven at all of the faithful who have found the same treasure.
St. Therese, pray for us!