Review: Real Presence by Timothy P. O’Malley

Review: Real Presence by Timothy P. O’Malley May 14, 2021

I’ll be honest. I’ve struggled to find a good book on the Catholic belief in the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. The books with the most comprehensive approach tend to be so academically focused that they are difficult for the average reader to understand. Those written for popular audiences tend to fall into some common traps.

Some of these books reduce the theology to a rigidly formulaic approach – relying on an Aristotelian cosmology which no longer connects with contemporary worldviews. Others express a mystical richness and beauty but offer little concrete scaffolding upon which a substantive understanding can be built. Few touch on the historical development of the doctrine in any significant way which disconnects the theology from the context in which it was developed.

Real Presence by Timothy P. O’Malley is a popular-level book on the doctrine that manages to successfully navigate all the above-mentioned issues masterfully. He helps the reader understand the landscape biblically, historically, and theologically in a way that has practical relevance. He preserves love and appreciation for terms like “Transubstantiation” while acknowledging the real challenges associated with creating meaning around the underlying categories which in a post-Aristotelian world.

Perhaps most importantly, O’Malley manages to make the subject joyful and fun to read about.

I will certainly be recommending this volume to many. For those new to the study of sacramental theology, it’s a primer without rival on the doctrine of Real Presence.

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