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Issue Date:  February 3, 2006

A psychic guru prays the rosary

John Edward's new book promotes the ancient prayer


If John Edward’s new book turns out to be as popular as his previous endeavors, we could soon see rosaries for sale at Wal-Mart.

With Practical Praying: Using the Rosary to Enhance Your Life, the best-selling author and TV psychic medium is putting himself on the line in an entirely new way. “I had major, major blocks on a personal level,” he said in a telephone interview. “I’ve been very private about my rosary praying.”

A book about the rosary wouldn’t be commercial coming from most writers, but Mr. Edward, 35, has such a built-in following of far-reaching fans that his book could prompt a new devotion to this ancient form of prayer. His previous books One Last Time, Crossing Over and After Life were New York Times bestsellers, he hosted his own syndicated television show, “Crossing Over with John Edward,” for four years -- that show is now syndicated internationally -- and conducts sold-out seminars and workshops around the country, with tickets usually $100 and up. A private session with Mr. Edward costs hundreds of dollars and needs to be booked a couple years in advance.

Although he is commonly known as the man who talks to the dead, he also talks to Mary and has been devoted to her since as a teenager he was drawn to accounts of a woman in Queens, N.Y., who said she was receiving messages from Mary and seeing apparitions. He joined the crowds that gathered in her neighborhood to share in the experience.

“I don’t know if it was real, but what I got out of it was such amazing unity and prayer. It didn’t matter if it was real.”

That’s when he began praying the rosary. Before long, out of “necessity and laziness,” he developed his own method. Instead of concentrating on the lives of Mary and Jesus and trying to remember which decade came next, he began praying each decade by focusing on an intention of his own or for someone else. He prays the rosary this way every day and always carries one with him. Although he grew up attending three different Catholic churches on Long Island, he no longer goes to church. “I feel I’m in church every day with the amount of praying I do. I don’t feel I have to go to church to connect with God.”

The idea, or “message,” for the book came from “the Boys,” his spirit guides, while he was on a book tour. “At that precise moment, the phone in my room rang,” he writes, explaining that it was his publisher asking if he could talk to him. “I told him to come on by, and I immediately started trying to figure out how to tell him what my spirit guides had just told me to do. I was sure that he’d say it was a crazy idea.”

After a few minutes of small talk, his publisher said he wanted Mr. Edward to write a book on a specific topic. “I prepared myself, expecting him to suggest something really New-Agey,” Mr. Edward writes. Instead, his editor said he wanted a book about the rosary.

Although he took this as further validation, Mr. Edward put it off , knowing it would be a vulnerable book. The 103-page book he ended up writing took him two years and recounts not just his devotion to Mary but some amazing encounters he has had, such as one with a kindly stranger with whom he spent a day and only upon parting learned his name was Jesus.

For the title, he chose Practical Praying because he says he is a practical person and that’s how he prays. The subtitle, Using the Rosary to Enhance Your Life, reflects his desire that people will use the rosary as a tool to create their own “prayer dialogue” with God.

It’s not just the title that sounds contemporary; much of the writing has a yuppie-get-ahead quality to it, such as his description of the benefits of rosary praying: “Prayer is an energy that I believe acts as a catalyst in our lives to increase our productivity, enhance our personal fulfillment and assist us in acquiring the life lessons we’re put on this planet to learn.” In other places the book has a pre-Vatican II sensibility, such as in the inclusion of “The 15 Promises of the Virgin Mary to those who pray the rosary.” An accompanying CD features actress Roma Downey explaining how to pray the rosary, teaching its prayers and leading one, followed by Mr. Edward praying a rosary in his method, which I find to be moving and meaningful because of the personal element of adding one’s own intentions.

Mr. Edward told his publisher he wouldn’t go on a tour for this book. “It’s not the kind of book to promote. It’s got to find its way to the people who need it.”

Retta Blaney is NCR’s theater reviewer. She lives in New York.

Editor's note: For a discussion about this article, read The chatter behind the story.

National Catholic Reporter, February 3, 2006

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