Mystics in Your Neighborhood


by David Pearson Servant/Charis, 2002 177 pages, $10.99 Available in online and retail bookstores or call (800) 486-8505

Every February I attend a festive Alcoholics Anonymous meeting to mark a friend' sanniversary of sobriety. I walk away each year with the same thought: These regular folks conduct the rigorous self-examination and reform of life that one would only expect of a monk.

I was left with a similar impression after reading this collection of interviews, conducted by Register features editor David Pearson, with lay Catholics who have taken up regular adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

The book demonstrates how Catholics who make a weekly holy hour— a practice that has become more common with the spread of perpetual adoration of the exposed Eucharist— often experience all the delights and challenges, the dryness and consolations, that saints such as Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross outlined in their great works on prayer.

“I couldn't believe the warmth that I felt, this ineffable love,”says Simonetta of her early experiences in adoration. In time, she learned how occasional “dryness and darkness— the nagging sense that God isn't there anymore— is the most important source of grace there is in adoration.”

Arranged in a question-and-answer format in which the subjects are identified only by first name, Pearson'sbook confirms that regular prayer before the Eucharist is profoundly transforming and of immense value to the Church as a whole.

“Things will never be the same for you,” was the prediction of two different priests to a school teacher and track coach named Jay who signed up for weekly adoration on something of a lark. And they haven't. Jay was not especially pious, but he soon became more active in his parish and eager to learn as much about his faith as he could. “Right off the bat,”he says of the spiritual life, “I just got the sense that this was something I had been missing out on.”In addition to a better marriage and greater job satisfaction, Jay has acquired something that most of Pearson'ssubjects have also found: a deeper understanding of, and appreciation for, Mass and holy Communion.

Pearson's subjects demonstrate that adoration of the Blessed Sacrament uses a classic form of Catholic piety — one that has retained its power to draw the laity— to foster contemplative prayer and help realize the Second Vatican Council'suniversal call to holiness. “You can't very well sit in Jesus' presence hour after hour, week after week, and tell him how much you love him, how much you want to follow him and be close to him and change for him— and then go and casually commit all kinds of little sins,”says Mal, a former U.S. Marine.

Entries in the growing library of recent books about adoration range from collections of prayers and meditations to theological explanations and apologetics. Pearson'sbook goes in a different direction, taking the pulse of the adoration movement and providing nine testimonials from a representative sample of participants who have allowed their faith lives— and their lives in general — to be re-ordered, in some cases radically. Interior transformation that bears fruit exteriorly as greater witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ: This is the theme that informs Pearson'sinquiry throughout.

No Wonder They Call it the Real Presence is ideal for anyone considering a commitment to adoration or just starting the practice. It is a highly readable introduction to the romantic adventure and serious work that is prayer. The book also offers a vivid glimpse at what this leads to— authentic intimacy with Christ.

Veteran eucharistic adorers may benefit the most by No Wonder— they and the people they pray for. “A lot of very down-to-earth, non-fanatical people are having transcendent, mystical experiences in eucharistic-adoration chapels,”writes Pearson. “They're retreating from the world for a while [and]ábecoming more realistic, more concerned for the welfare of other peoples' souls.”Both groups will find in this book plenty of motivation to persevere in prayer.

Joe Cullen, a financial writer

for a Wall Street firm,

is a regular participant in

eucharistic adoration.