National Catholic Register


Eucharistic Eloquence

Weekly Book Pick

BY Tim Drake

Dec. 19, 2004-Jan. 1, 2005 Issue | Posted 12/19/04 at 12:00 PM





by Barry Michaels

Pauline, 2004 66 pages, $6.95

To order: (800) 836-9723 or

In convoking the Year of the Eucharist in October, Pope John Paul II encouraged the faithful to ask, “Who is the Eucharist?” It was this very question that led me into the fullness of the Catholic Church nine years ago. Kneeling in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament as a Lutheran, I was first forced to ask myself: “Who is this?”

Once I knew the answer to that question, nothing could hold me back from joining the Church. Christ had made himself known to me, as he first had to the disciples on the road to Emmaus, “in the breaking of the bread.”

In Eucharist: The Church's Treasure, the most recent entry in Pauline's Church Documents: Prayer & Study Guide series, Register contributor Barry Michaels provides valuable insights and poses thought-provoking questions on the Holy Father's 14th encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia (On the Eucharist in Its Relationship to the Church).

In concert with the Pope's encyclical, Michaels' book should be required reading for every lay Catholic during the Year of the Eucharist. It shakes the reader from his or her complacency and offers an irresistible invitation to reflect upon the place of the Eucharist within the Church — and within our lives.

The Holy Father has said, “Daily participation in the Eucharist is capable of transforming the life of believers.” Michaels' book will help to rekindle Eucharistic amazement in the reader or, as he warns readers early on, “Thinking seriously about this material may result in never being able to daydream through your parish Mass again.”

Michaels guides the reader, with appropriate analogies and sometimes humor, through the encyclical, chapter by chapter. Each chapter contains reflection questions and prayer prompts, providing helpful starting points for contemplative prayer before the Blessed Sacrament and practical suggestions for putting the information learned into action. Each chapter concludes with a Eucharistic reflection or prayer taken from the Pope, the saints and others.

In Chapter 1, “The Mystery of Faith,” Michaels writes, “By his sovereign power, he makes one event — the event so ‘decisive for the salvation of the human race’ that took place two millennia ago — present in the now. A past event becomes present in the now. It becomes our event.” Nuggets such as this brought a broad smile of familiarity to my face. As I read, I was led to rediscover why I first embraced the Eucharistic Christ found within the Catholic Church and how the discovery of that “event” propelled me inexorably toward conversion.

In addition to the mystery of the Eucharist, Michaels also addresses how the Eucharist builds the Church, the apostolicity of the Eucharist and the role of Mary — “woman of the Eucharist.”

Michaels mines the “gold nuggets” from the Pope's encyclical, revealing the glorious treasure who is our Eucharistic Lord.

Here's another nugget that provided some good reflection for me personally. “Humanity was made for communion, because we are made in the image of a God who is communion (Father, Son and Spirit).”

Thankfully, Michaels isn't afraid to tackle the difficult issues, such as intercommunion, the common irreverence shown the Eucharist and the importance of abstaining from holy Communion while in a state of mortal sin. Readers will come away with a much clearer sense of “who the Eucharist is.”

Michaels reminds us that, with Jesus inside of us, we can be transformed like so many living tabernacles. If you haven't yet read Ecclesia de Eucharistia, Michaels' book will compel you to rush out and get a copy (or download it for free from the Internet). At less than $10, the guide would be the perfect last-minute gift to give yourself for Christmas — with an eye on including an hour a week before the Blessed Sacrament in your New Year resolutions.

Register staff writer Tim Drake has just released a new book, Young and Catholic: The Face of Tomorrow's Church (Sophia).