Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Review: The Second Greatest Story Ever Told

These weeks of Lent and Easter we’ve heard much about how the Old Testament foretold the coming of Christ.  This book walks through the words of the New Testament, apparitions, inspirations, and martyrs who foretell of Christ’s second coming, and how we should prepare for it.
In the book’s conclusion Fr. Michael Gaitley writes:
This book makes a bold claim.  The greatest story in the history of the Church (the second greatest story after the Bible) is that surrounding the life and witness of St. John Paul II.  The story begins in the 20th century, the time of greatest evil and suffering in the history of the world, right in the place that bore the worst of it:  Poland.  And the story ends with St. John Paul II’s witness:  Now is the time of mercy … Now is a time of unprecedented glorious grace.
In 1917, Our Lady prophetized at Fatima that wars would come, but in the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph.   In that same year in Rome a young seminarian decided to form “an active society that would engage and conquer the kind of evil he saw,” and 3 days after the Miracle of the Sun at Fatima, formed the Militia Immaculata … “to convert sinners and win the world for God” by consecrating their lives to Mary:  “Our Mom, is the instrument of God’s mercy, not however of His justice.”  Through their consecration, Kolbe’s followers would act as instruments of Mercy.
A small convent of sisters provided the printing press Kolbe used to publish a monthly newsletter --- four years later Helen Kowalska would enter that convent and take the name “Faustina,” and Jesus would begin talking to her.  By 1938, Kolbe was printing 1 million copies of his monthly letter, along with a daily newspaper.  Then WWII began.  No country lost a greater portion of its population than Poland; Kolbe had prepared them for their suffering.  And a young seminarian read Kolbe’s papers, survived the war, and would later become the first Polish pope, and would dedicate his papacy to Mary.  And although at Fatima it was predicted that a pope would die, he survived a bullet aimed at his heart, because, as he believed: Now is the time of mercy.
I’ve read and written much about our world today and this post-Christian society.  I wrote about “The Rise of Atheism” and what we might do about it.  Just last weekend I attended a conference at Franciscan University in Steubenville on “Challenging the Secular Culture.”  And I read each day about the increasing slaughter of Christians around the world, and I wonder:  “Where is God?  What can we do?”
Fr. Gaitley’s book says, with much data and reasoning:  “We can pray.”  We can pray to Mary not to hold back God’s justice for this sinful world, but to speak to Him as only a mother could, and say on our behalf:  Have mercy.  Kolbe, Faustina, and JPII have been declared to be saints, those chosen by God.  They said we need to dedicate our prayers to the Mother of God --- and our Mother --- and plead:  Mercy! These are the end times.  Will these times last centuries, decades, years, or only hours from now?  Our is not to know, but this book gives you much to think on, and pray on: today.
Even as a bullet predicted to kill a pope was deflected by the hand of God, the future is not cast in stone.  Through prayer we can change the future, and through love of neighbor be part of God’s mercy in these times of terror, and together survive even as Poland did in WWII.
Pope Francis said:  “We have been living in the time of mercy for 30 or more years, up to now.  It is the time of mercy in the whole Church.  Pope John Paul II instituted the feast day of Divine Mercy.”  Starting in 2015, Pope Francis has declared a Year of Mercy, and the focus of prayer for the entire Catholic Church.
Read this book.  Pray for Mercy.
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Now a personal testimony about this book:
I spent Holy Thursday night as I usually do, in the Adoration Chapel of my church.  On this night Jesus was alone --- His followers had fled.  A number of years ago, in part to atone for those years when I had fled His Church, I resolved to never let Jesus be alone that night again:  I would be there with Him, with Him in His sufferings.
This Holy Thursday night I had decided to read the four Gospel passages on the Passion.  I wanted to imagine what happened, be there, and feel the pain Jesus bore for me.  But despite my intentions, I felt no such sorrows.  As I read the words saying “This man is innocent,” and of how He was beaten, and mocked, and spat upon, I had a reaction I could not shake:  I was mad, and with each Gospel reading my anger only grew.  I tried to change my mood, my feelings; I wanted to feel sorrow for His sufferings and my sins.  But I could not overcome the growing anger, and I didn’t know why.
Then I began to read the book I had brought with me to church, one randomly picked up from my stack of “to-read” material.  It was Fr. Gaitley’s book.
I thought I knew much about St. Maximilian Kolbe, Fatima, St. Faustina and the life of St. John Paul II, but like the disciples on the Road to Immaus, I had much to learn.  Fr. Gaitley opened my eyes to recent events and New Testament descriptions of Christ’s Second Coming, and the most important role Mary plays in pleading for God’s Mercy. 
And suddenly I perceived the meaning of the anger I had felt earlier.  I was seeing the events of the Passion through the eyes of God the Father.  The abuses of His Son could only make Him angry.  And reading Gaitley’s book, and of the abuses that His Son and His Church bear today, I realized that this anger must be the Father’s feelings again, today:  After all His Son had done for this world, this is the result?  This is how His people behave?  And I perceived His righteous anger at the world today and could agree:  This calls for Divine Justice, even as it was administered to Sodom.
Fr. Gaitley’s book explains the events of today, and how very holy and intelligent people describe these as events of the end times which call for God’s justice, and which also call for our prayers for mercy.  In one of His appearances to Sr. Faustina, Jesus described a picture of Himself He wished her to paint, and under it to put the words:  “I Trust in You.”  A copy hangs in my kitchen.
This book is titled “The Second Greatest Story Ever Told” --- a bold claim.  But so it its claim that we can change the future of the world, even as a bullet was turned in its path to miss the heart of a pope.
You need to read this book, and pray on what it says.  And put the book on the shelf, to read again and not forget.  And like the disciple on the Road to Immaus, then say to Jesus:
Stay with us, because it is towards evening,
And the day is now far spent.
For the sake of His Sorrowful Passion,
Have mercy on us, and on the whole world.


  1. Before Christmas I read John Paul II the Great : His Five Loves coupled with 33 Days to Morning Glory, making the Act of Consecration to Mary on December 8th, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. All truly amazing. During Lent I read Consoling the Heart of Jesus and prayed the Novena of Divine Mercy for the nine days before Divine Mercy Sunday. Saint John Paul's example has helped me to add the Divine Mercy Chaplet to my regular prayer time. She truly has brought me to her Son and His great mercy over and over. I cannot wait to read this one. Thank you for the review.

    1. No Problem, Julie. I've ordered more copies of this book and my only concern is whether to give them out to friends now, or wait for Christmas gifts, as I usually do. I promised to get a copy to Fr. John Riccardo this morning. If you want to check out something different, you might check the You-tube video he recommended titled: An Open Letter From the Nation of the Cross to ISIS.