A Time for Mercy
A review of the children's book, The Thief Who Stole Heaven, by Raymond Arroyo (being released March 9, 2021. Available for pre-order now!)
+JMJ+ The message of God's mercy, an extension of His love, is a timeless one. However, the season of Lent in which we now find ourselves is a special time to, not only practice mercy, but to receive God's mercy. Each and every one of us need to give mercy as well as receive it. This is a message we should be sharing with others and passing onto our children.
Raymond Arroyo's new children's book is a wonderful way to teach that message. The Thief Who Stole Heaven tells the story of a hardened thief named Dismas. While reading this story to my children for the first time, my heart went out to Dismas who, as a young boy, was treated harshly and cruelly and had only the bad example of thieves to learn from. We see how easily an innocent and sweet heart such as Dismas's can be corrupted by the evil example of others. The good news illustrated in this story is that even if one does go about their entire life doing evil rather than good, there is hope for them even at the last moment of life. Such is the story of Dismas. God's love is unending. His mercy is endless. All we have to do is open our hearts to accepting that mercy...and offer it to others as well!
I won't spoil the surprise and tell you who Dismas turns out to be, but The Thief Who Stole Heaven cleverly ands somewhat subtly combines the Christmas story with that of Good Friday. It is a beautiful take on a character many of us may perhaps overlook at times, but one who most of us familiar with the Good Friday story will recognize. Towards the end of the story, my two older children were saying, “Oooooh I think I know who Dismas is!”
One of the other aspects of the book that really made an impression on me was the focus, although brief, put on the Holy Family. We see St. Joseph as a stoic and strong protector, Mary as a gentle, loving mother, and we see the tremendous love and mercy of Jesus (once as a baby ands again as an adult).
As a mother of four (we just welcomed our fourth baby into the world last month), the parts of the story with Mary and Jesus had a particular significance for me. Yes, I am extra emotional (thank you, postpartum hormones) at the moment and, yes, I had to catch myself from bursting into tears at two parts in particular. These were sweet (and bittersweet in a way) and powerful reminders of the love of Mary - for her Son and for us. Mary is our Heavenly Mother and she will intercede for us in our times of need. Her greatest desire is to that we draw closer to Jesus. I have shared with followers on several occasions (as well as in my book) how I have felt her love and sought her intercession many, many times, particularly at some very low points in my life. How blessed we are to have such a Mother!
At the end of the story, I appreciate that the author, the incomparable Raymond Arroyo, offers a brief explanation of the legends that the story originates from. This is something he did in his Christmas children's book The Spider Who Saved Christmas. Just as his Christmas book explored a story of a character who most people might not ordinarily think about, The Thief Who Stole Heaven does very much the same. I love that Raymond is bringing some light to these overlooked characters! The stories may or may not be true, but they serve to teach powerful lessons to children (and even to adults) in a beautiful and profound way.
If you're looking for a book for the Lenten or Easter seasons, The Thief Who Stole Heaven is one you're going to want. I received a digital copy and I can bet that the pictures on a screen don't do justice to the hard copy pictures. Even so, the stunning illustrations by Randy Gallegos entranced my family and the easy to read story paved the way for some very good and fruitful discussions about mercy.
Raymond's latest book comes at the perfect time, during the Lenten season and during some very difficult times in our world. Readers young and old alike will be taught about the need for mercy, about offering and receiving it. I am looking forward to receiving my hard copy of The Thief Who Stole Heaven!
***To pre-order your copy of The Thief Who Stole Heaven, you can go HERE (non-commissioned link)***
Disclaimer: this post is in no way sponsored by Sophia Press. I received a digital copy of the book in exchange for my honest feedback and am simply sharing my thoughts in this blog post.