Tips for getting comfortable with evangelization
Sophia Institute Press has hit the spot again with a new and very straightforward book on how we can make ourselves more comfortable with the task of spreading the Gospel. The author, Shaun McAfee, is a convert who currently serves as Director of Marketing and Content for Holy Apostles College and Seminary as well as Social Media Administrator for Patrick Madrid’s Envoy Institute. The title of the book is Filling Our Father’s House.
McAfee draws some of his ideas from the habits of Christians in denominations that tend to be more “evangelical”—more prone to outreach in the name of Christ—than cradle Catholics sometimes are. This explains the subtitle, “What Converts Can Teach Us about Evangelization”.
The answer is quite a bit. After explaining the compelling need for evangelization, McAfee offers chapters that may “sound” Protestant to some but are not—such as developing and delivering personal testimony, regular Scripture reading, and deepening our personal relationship with Jesus Christ. He also emphasizes the importance of getting involved with others in common Catholic activities and prayer, and the need to be active in one’s parish. The principle is that if we do not habituate ourselves to acting with others in a Christian context, we will find extending that context more difficult than it needs to be.
The Catholic flavor of the book is well-captured in McAfee’s testimony about his own conversion, but it is also immediately obvious when you look at the subtitles for the various succinct sections which make up each chapter. For example, in Chapter 4 (“Deepen Your Personal Relationship with Jesus”), the subtitles are:
- Give God control
- A relationship with the Church
- ‘Behold your mother’
- Perpetual conversion; and
- Spiritual direction
- Get to know Christ and see Him in others
Similarly, the “Get Involved” chapter emphasizes the role of the laity, small groups, third orders, the permanent diaconate, and the fact that each person can find a way to activate his or her evangelical spirit in a wider context.
From his somewhat sketchy Protestant background and his broad familiarity with other famous converts from Protestantism to Catholicism, McAfee is able to draw on same fine techniques for building a familiarity with Sacred Scripture, but he recommends only Bibles approved by ecclesiastical authority and he understands the importance of what the Church calls lectio divina (a deeply prayerful reading and meditation on Scripture).
The only suggestion I balk at is the idea, in the chapter on being active in your parish, that we should encourage people to take notes on the homilies, and even provide homily outlines for people at Mass which include extra space for note-taking. Whatever the benefits of this for learning and remembering, I think McAfee shows here an insensitivity to the nature and purpose of the Mass, which will be weakened by approaching it as a study session. In the Mass, Christ’s own work of Redemption is the center and summit; His action demands a different sort of attention and participation throughout.
This is a mistake a cradle Catholic would instinctively avoid. But it is an exceedingly minor off-note in an otherwise very useful and accessible book. In fact, the author’s brief and well-organized presentation—just a hundred pages—is ideal for any Catholic who feels uncomfortable being part of the “new evangelization”. The author includes recommendations for further reading in each chapter—all of them absolutely impeccable—and even offers a list of additional resources at the end.
This is not spiritual reading; nor is it the best book for those who relish deep explorations of theology or the spiritual life. It is a series of practical tips for those who wish to become more active Christians with greater practical confidence in the reality of their Baptism. Reading and acting on the advice Shaun McAfee offers can help us become more comfortable with what sometimes seems like a foreign idea: spreading the Gospel.
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