Catholic Culture Overview
Catholic Culture Overview

Friendship and evangelization

By Dr. Jeff Mirus ( bio - articles - email ) | Oct 11, 2021 | In Reviews

Mike Aquilina, host of our Way of the Fathers podcast, has just written a new book about the role of friendship in evangelization, as perceived by the Fathers of the Church. Entitled Friendship and the Fathers: How the Early Church Evangelized, this is a delightful excursion through the writings of the great early Catholic theologians, in which they reveal the value of friendship in both spreading and retaining the Faith.

More than any other subject, the Fathers of the Church constitute Aquilina’s persistent and extensive expertise. This is a happy choice of specialties because we find in the Patristic writings such a wide variety of topics and styles that there is something available to engage and even captivate readers of almost any background or interest. In this enchanting volume, Mike introduces the role of friendship in the life and work of fourteen Church fathers, and follows each introduction with excerpts from the writings which showcase how friendship influenced their lives and missions.

As Aquilina points out in his Conclusion, there are times in history when friendship means trying to bring hostile pagans to the joy of knowing Christ, and there are times when friendship means trying to awaken faith and virtue in those who consider themselves Christians only by default. In Western history, the condition in the third century was usually the former, and by the mid-fourth century it was more often the latter. There have been oscillations ever since, but in the twentieth century the pendulum swung decisively from the latter position back to the former. Not only did a great many people become pagan by default, but cultural pressure contributed immensely to a new lethargy among many others, who remain nominally Christian—Christian insofar as it is respectable in this world.

Regardless of the pendulum, friendship is a key factor in protecting those we love from the temptations of the world, and awakening them to the Presence of God. Authentic friendship is a special form of love, far less challenged by the passions than the attractions which lead to sex or even to marriage, and so capable of deep connections and profoundly positive influence whenever it is fueled by the grace of Him who said, “I have called you friends” (Jn 15:15). The Fathers of the Church pay tribute to this special love and influence again and again in their lives and work.

Though Mike Aquilina knows the Fathers well, this is not an “academic” book. Mike has even updated the translations of the excerpts he offers so they may be read easily and naturally by all today. At the same time, each voice is different, and that is equally important. It means that, in Friendship and the Fathers, there is something to stir up in each reader the love and virtue of the highest form of friendship, friendship rooted in Jesus Christ.

Mike Aquilina, Friendship and the Fathers: How the Early Church Evangelized. Emmaus Road Publishing, 2021. 210 pp. Hardback $22.95; eBook $15.95.

Jeffrey Mirus holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Princeton University. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and See full bio.

Sound Off! supporters weigh in.

All comments are moderated. To lighten our editing burden, only current donors are allowed to Sound Off. If you are a current donor, log in to see the comment form; otherwise please support our work, and Sound Off!

  • Posted by: miketimmer499385 - Oct. 13, 2021 2:38 PM ET USA

    I would be overjoyed if could say at the end of my life that I had influenced one friend to join our faith. I have never asked directly butI saw a Catholic friend attempt that approach within a golf group once upon a time to a direct and instant rebuff. Then, again, I was assigned as a sponsor to a candidate in our RCIA program not once, but the same fellow twice in two years. He backed out several weeks before Easter each year. I think today it would take a long developed friendship.