Visions and signs ...

I'd received THE FINAL HOUR as a gift a couple years ago now, but I had a feeling that the subject matter would not resonate with me so I'd avoided putting it off until recently. 

2/5 I don't want to tear this book apart as I think it was written with a desire to do good, but I just found myself in such a poor mental, emotional, and spiritual state while reading most of THE FINAL HOUR which was clearly not the author's intent.

At it's core, THE FINAL HOUR seems like it is meant to be a very spiritual and perhaps even inspirational book about the signs of the end times and various Marian visions from Fatima to Medjugorje and a host of other sites where the Blessed Mother is said to have appeared to faithful and unfaithful alike. The book is at it's best when it sticks to the details of these apparitions and echoes the message of how important and powerful prayer is. The reasons the book fell so flat for me, when it really should have spoken to my soul as a practicing Catholic, had to do with the author's pretentious and presumptuous tone, his overemphasis on demons, and the fact that prayer seems to only be encouraged as a means of averting chastisement rather than prayer for the sake of achieving goodness through drawing closer to God. While I am firmly in the camp of acknowledging evil in all it's forms, I just felt like the way Brown talks about demons comes off as sensational and sometimes a bit cartoonish which sharply detracted from the credibility of his word. On the topic of credibility, I distinctly felt like there was a "just trust me" kind of tone, especially in the first half of the book. While there is a Notes section in the back of the book citing Brown's sources, I wish those references were worked into the actual content of this book and I also wish it was stated more clearly which of the apparition sites Brown visited (as it appeared as though he had first hand accounts of at least some of them). When there are lines that presume the movements or sentiments of Heaven and Hell chucked in with passages that resemble actual journalism, I just found it too difficult to take anything said as being at all factual. I know the author probably wanted his writing to be engaging rather than a dry summary of the Marian visions, but his overindulgence in dramatic, sweeping statements poisons the entire book with an air of fantasy.  

For the most part, the physical book construction is perfectly fine. I felt like there was an awful lot of text crammed onto each page which could make it tiring to read, but fortunately, the chapters are all pretty short which made it easy to pick up and put down. I also appreciated that various photographs were included in different parts of the book, BUT, they really should have been credited. Even if they were in the public domain, it still would have been nice to know where they came from and this omission felt like one more small little ding to the book's legitimacy overall.

I feel like this will probably be a hit with a certain segment of Christians who eagerly await the end of days (and by extension, the end of evil). While I do get this, I just find that focusing so heavily on the end of the world has a rather toxic effect on people and can distract them from the importance of seeking out holiness in the present. It is true that evil seems to have it's claws in many aspects of the world and, at at some point, I am sure the world will indeed end. That said, I think it is hubris to try to predict when such a day will come (as this book tries to do repeatedly, with the year 2000 or the late 90s laughably being eyeballed as potential dates) and I just don't know if giving so much attention to that end leads to a healthy spiritual life. I feel like Christians would be much better served in thinking through how they can spread good to those around them in the present and enjoying the life given to them rather than looking forward to an end that may or may not come in this lifetime. Clearly this was not a book meant for me and I am sure there are those who would love it. If you are not already on board with this type of literature, then I severely doubt this book will do anything to change your mind (regardless of how much Brown insists that this is a book that should be read by any Christian, Muslim, or Jew). 


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