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Books Faith Formation Ink Slingers Michelle Reviews Saints Spiritual Growth

Reform Yourself! A New Year’s Resolution and Book Review

As the New Year rolls in many of us are taking a long, hard look at our lives. If we are honest with ourselves we can see many areas where we could use improvement and where we long for change. Some of us may want to get our health in order; others may want to seek a new job- one that is more fulfilling and helps to provide for their families more. There are some who may wish to be a better spouse, parent, or friend and still others who to serve their communities more. Finally, there are many who wish to strengthen their faith lives and become connected with Christ in a more meaningful and personal way.

Change can be very good for us but it is often hard to follow through to achieve that change. There is so much that can get in our way from achieving our goals. It is sometimes easier to give up than to follow our dreams to fruition. There is a quote by Maya Angelou that I love which says, “We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.” Change takes time and it takes effort. It can be daunting and overwhelming. We may decide that it’s just too hard to endure what it takes to turn into that beautiful butterfly.

How can we make change easier and more attainable? They say that having an accountability partner can help boost our success in achieving the goals we set for ourselves. As Catholic Christians we are fortunate to have not only our family and friends here to support us and urge us on, but we also have access to the community of Saints in heaven too. There are so many who have gone before us who can lead the way through the example of their lives and through their prayers for us.

I was recently blessed to have been asked to review a new book by Shaun McAfee called ReformYourself! How to pray, Find Peace, and Grow in Faith with the Saints of the Counter-Reformation. It focuses on the saints of the Counter-Reformation (the much needed reformation that took place in the Catholic Church during the same time the Protestant Reformation was taking place), how these saints are relevant today, and how they, through their teachings and example, can help us to achieve long-lasting reformation in our own lives.

Like Mr. McAfee’s previous book (Filling Our Father’s House), this book is an easy and enjoyable read. The book does not have to be read in chronological order and to be honest it seems as if it is better when read as the Holy Spirit guides you, allowing Him to bring you to the saint He knows you need to connect with right now.

The chapters highlight ten different saints from the Counter-Reformation including St. Francis de Sales, St. Ignatius, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Robert Bellarmine, St. Aloysius Gonzaga, Pope St. Pius V, St. Philip Neri, St. John of the Cross, St. Jane Frances de Chantal, and St. Charles Borromeo. Mr. McAfee did an amazing amount of research into the saints’ lives. He shows how they were important to the Counter-Reformation happening within the Church, he masterfully translates their stories into very intriguing and relatable lessons for today’s Christians, and then he connects it all through prayer.

So many of us want change in our lives and yet we are scared to actively seek out that change. We worry that we will fail. We think it is too difficult. We feel we don’t have the support we need. Thankfully we are not alone! There are some pretty amazing saints who have gone before us whom we can look up to as we strive to institute reformation in our own lives. I talked about how having an accountability partner can boost your chances of success… in his book Mr. McAfee provides us 10 different accountability partners who are eager to inspire us and pray for us as we work to change our hearts and lives for the better.

As you think about how you want to change your life in this New Year I encourage you to look to the saints for guidance and encouragement. It can seem as if change is just too far out of reach, but if you have the support and prayers of those around you plus the saints in heaven, well, there’s no telling what you can accomplish!

I was given this book in exchange for an honest review, but I can tell you that I would definitely buy this book. The insights provided here are invaluable. As Mr. McAfee states, “… the man who moves a mountain begins with carrying away small stones” (98). If we wish to change ourselves we have to begin somewhere and the easiest place to start is with small changes- picking up one stone and moving it. Eventually those small changes become big changes and suddenly we realize we have moved mountains! Studying the saints’ lives, looking to them for inspiration, and asking for their prayers can all help us take that first step and to continue on the path towards personal reformation.

This year if you want to change something about yourself and your relationship with God or with others begin by moving that first stone. Don’t think about the entire task ahead, simply pick up that first stone and move it. As the journey becomes more arduous ask those around you to help but also ask the saints to help too. You will be surprised at how eager they are to guide you and how amazing your reformation can be when you have a little help from your heavenly friends.

Interested in Shaun McAfee’s book? You can find it here. Don’t be afraid to Reform Yourself!

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Books Evangelization Faith Formation Ink Slingers Michelle Reviews Spiritual Growth

Filling Our Father’s House: What Converts Can Teach Us about Evangelization

Several months ago, probably more than I would like to admit since time seems to slip away from me, as I got home from the store the kids presented me with a package that had come in the mail. The package was from Sophia Press. I hadn’t ordered anything so I felt a little confused. Still, I eagerly opened the package to see what was inside. A book slipped out and into my hands.

fillingIt has been a while since Shaun McAfee and I had talked about me reviewing his new book, “Filling Our Father’s House; What Converts Can Teach Us about Evangelization”. I had forgotten that the book was to be on its way to me at some point. But, that day as I held it in my hands, I couldn’t wait to get started reading it and to write a review of it.

Of course, life got in the way. I was going to school full time to finish my psychology degree, doing volunteer work both in our parish and our community, homeschooling my kids, writing for Catholic Sistas and Catholic Stand, and being a wife, mother, and friend. Life was hectic and there seemed to be no extra time to sit quietly and read. I sadly put the book on my nightstand and promised myself that as soon as I had the time it would be the first book outside of a textbook that I would read.

I truly believe that God brings us to what we need, when we need it. Reading this book several months ago probably would have not been good for me. But now, at this place in my life, it seemed God was telling me that I needed what was contained within pages of this book.

As I dove into reading, I found it was an easy read. With young children interrupting me at every page it seemed, I needed that gift of ease. Written at the layman’s level, it was easy to understand and connect with. I devoured every page. Highlighting and hand written notes soon filled the pages and I began to think of ways I could change my own life to become a stronger beacon of God’s light to others. As a cradle Catholic I was never taught that evangelization was necessary. This book showed me that not only is evangelization is necessary but also beneficial to our own souls too.

Mr. McAfee, a convert to the Catholic faith, brings new ideas and encouragement to those of us who would like to follow the call to be a part of the New Evangelization. His book outlines what steps we should look to take if we want to bring God’s light and love to those around us. While we don’t consider Catholics an “evangelizing type”, we are all called to spread God’s Word and His love to each person we encounter. Filling Our Father’s House gives us a great way to begin this journey of becoming people who are able to share God’s Word and hopefully bring others to Christ.

Mr. McAfee begins his book by explaining why we need to evangelize and why it is important for us to be a part of this movement. He reminds us that the USCCB tells us,

“The New Evangelization calls each of us to deepen our faith, believe in the Gospel message and go forth to proclaim the Gospel. The focus of the New Evangelization calls all Catholics to be evangelized and then go forth and evangelize.” (p. 7)

He then sets out to help us realize this goal- both to be evangelized to and to evangelize to others.

Your Personal Testimony

Mr. McAfee encourages us to each develop our own personal testimony. Don’t think you have one? Wrong! We each have a testimony of how we got to where we are in our faith life whether we are converts, reverts, or cradle Catholics who never left the faith. Our testimonies are a powerful part of how and why we evangelize. Sharing our story, whether in brief or in depth, helps others to understand why we do what we do and why we believe what we believe. Our stories have the power to help others come to Christ.

Reading-scriptureDive Into Scripture

After developing our testimonies, we are encouraged to truly read Scripture. Mr. McAfee lists out several wonderful ways to dive into Scripture. We often forget that what works well for one person may not work well for another. Mr. McAfee encourages us to find the way that works best for us so that we will want to study Scripture. He also lists websites and other helpful resources that can make our Scripture study more meaningful and fruitful.

A  Close and Personal Relationship with Christ

Continuing on with his encouragement of diving deeper into our faith, Mr. McAfee reminds us of our need to have a close and personal relationship with Christ. In our harried world, sometimes this seems impossible. But Christ desires a relationship with us. He doesn’t want us to just show up for Mass and walk through the motions; no, He wants us to want to know Him as deeply and personally as He already knows us. In the book we are given several ways to foster this personal relationship with Christ.

Faith is to be Shared

Mr. McAfee reminds us that our faith is meant to be shared. We are the Church, and as such, if we want to grow in holiness and if we want to be a part of this New Evangelization, we must become active within our families, our parishes, and our communities. We are reminded that “after the family unity, the parish is where the souls of the Church are formed and nurtured” (p. 75). We must be willing to take on both leadership roles and supportive roles if we wish to help bring Christ to the world. In these chapters we find suggestions on how to welcome new members, converts, and how to reach out to those who may have become apathetic about their faith. We also read of ways to connect with those who are active in our congregations in new and meaningful ways.

Filling Our Father’s House provides us with a great base for encouraging personal spiritual growth as well as ways to help us share that growth with others. It reminds us that as followers of Christ we are each called to share Christ’s love and light to all that we encounter. Christ longs for all His people to live in unity and peace. If we choose to learn and grow in faith we stand a greater chance at bringing unity to all of Christ’s followers.

The question remains- are you ready to be a part of the New Evangelization? If so, “Filling Our Father’s House; What Converts Can Teach Us about Evangelization” can help you answer this calling.

new evangelization