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Book Reviews

Real People, Real Presence
Ordinary Catholics On The Extraordinary Power Of The Eucharist

by Cardinal William H. Keeler

Reviewed by Eileen Quinn Knight, Ph.D.

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Cardinal Keeler has gathered together some interesting stories of how the Eucharist made a difference in people’s lives. He divided the stories into 8 themes or chapters.  The purpose of this book is to offer ordinary stories about how important the Eucharist is to all participants. In the forward, Fr. Benedict J. Groeschel, CFR, states that the  “{Eucharist} opens the soul and makes it more docile to God’s inspirations, Giving us courage and strength and letting us know that we are never alone”. The stories in this book “compose a song of love to the Lord, striking a variety of chords and resonating from deep within”. The Cardinal continues with his understanding of the importance of the Eucharist when he states: “Allow yourself to be God’s holy and humble instrument to share this wonderful love story with others.

Chapter one begins with a quote from St. John Paul II  “The Church has received the Eucharist from Christ her Lord not as one gift---however precious—among so many others, but as the gift par excellence, for it is the gift of himself, of his person in his sacred humanity, as well as the fit of his saving work”. There are 12 stores that resonate the gift that the Eucharist is.  The last story is entitled: “Devotion to the Eucharist is a Gift” in which the author states that the reason she is devoted to the Eucharist is because she ‘intensely desires to be in love with God”.  She states too, that she is afraid of what that intense relationship means. Should she put others before the relationship she wants?  There are several questions at the end of the chapter that call us to some deep reflection.

The beginning of each of the chapters is a quote from one of the saints dedicated to the Eucharist.  In chapter two there is a quote from St. John Vianney “The man who receives Holy Communion loses himself in God like a drop of water in the ocean: It’s impossible to separate them anymore....In these vast depths of love, there’s enough to lose yourself for eternity”. The theme of the chapter is transformation and one of the questions is: “Do you ever fear the possible changes in your life that might occur if you allowed Jesus to transform you? Why or why not?” Personally, the Eucharist has been a powerful transforming power in which Christ gives me the strength to be a disciple and to transform others with His graces. When I feel hesitant, He is there. When I feel strong He is there.  When I need more transforming graces He comes to assist me. I long for His presence all day and it certainly effects/affects my work.

The theme of Chapter three is ‘presence’. In conjunction with my last remarks, there is a story of a woman named Charlotte, who speaks of the power of presence of another even someone you don’t know well. There is a sense of the presence of God in that person.  It can happen anywhere: in the fast-food line, in a child, in driving past the house of someone we admire and feel their sense of Christ within.  Our Lord is very generous in revealing Himself in others and letting us catch their goodness. Sometimes when I am walking somewhere I can feel that sense of the presence of Christ within others…….they often smile knowingly.

In chapter four we read a quote from St. Therese of Lisieux who states:” Do you realize that Jesus is there in the tabernacle expressly for you, for you alone? He burns with the desire to come into your heart”.  One of the stories came from a girl of 15 entitled Falling Back to God, in which she tells her story of being in Adoration, I asked God questions about the past and wondered why he hadn’t been there for me”. She decided to ask him to come back into her life and she would apologize to Him for how she had been in the past. She fell backward and people came around her to pray. She related that it was a very moving experience and that she felt there still is and always was a God who will always be there for me no matter what I do.

In Chapter five we read about the Eucharistic ministry. There is a story by a woman named Jacki who started her journey with Christ in the Eucharist in 1955. On her journey she became more aware of His relationship and realized that she wanted to be a Eucharistic minister so she could offer Christ to others. She felt compelled to share the Eucharist with everyone. When I bring the Eucharist to people in the hospital, I feel that I receive grace from the person I give Communion to and they are so grateful. It is a truly spiritual moment.

The questions for reflection in Chapter six begins: “When we receive the Eucharist, we are united more closely to Christ, who unites us to all the faithful in one body. How does praying with your family make you aware of this unity? Reflect on other situations where you have experienced the unity of the body in Christ.”  This truly is a call to meditate on the significance of the words: one bread, one body, one Lord of all.  This is a time when we are called to realize the enormity of our understanding of being one Body with Christ.

In Chapter seven, the theme is forgiveness and healing. The story about a young girl who had an abortion was amazingly moving. Twenty year elapsed and she was at a Bible study for women who had undergone abortions. She began to experience healing –Satan was powerful and wanted to make her filled with doubt.  Instead God called me to RCIA, I especially enjoyed Eucharistic adoration. She says: “As I prayed for God’s forgiveness again, I suddenly had the feeling that I was not alone.  I called God’s name and asked, “Is that you?” His answer was, “yes” At that moment, a shimmering white being came down and sat beside me.  For about the next fifteen minutes, he and I sat in each other’s presence.  From him I sensed no anger or condemnation, simply warm unconditional love and joy.”   The Eucharist gave her peace and joy.

In chapter eight the Cardinal speaks about “Strength for the Journey”. He offers a question that effects/affects us all. “Why do you think we are often tempted to depend on ourselves for strength rather than on the Lord? If this is a temptation for you what can you do to combat it?  The author offers us 6 stories to assist us in thinking about the strength that God gives us. In one story, the family dealt with bipolar disorder, cancer (both prostate and breast) and yet “The only thing that kept me from despair was the store of spiritual nourishment that Christ has left us in the Eucharist. The Bread of Life continued to sustain me even as I felt so weak.”

Chapternine gives us an outline of how to write our own personal witness. As St. John Paul II writes: “Once we have truly met the Risen One by partaking of his body and blood, we cannot keep to ourselves the joy we have experienced ….For the Eucharist is a mode of being, which passes from Jesus into each Christian, through whose testimony it is meant to spread throughout society and culture.”  In the Appendix we have the Apostolic Letter to read: Mane Nobiscum Domine.