Evangelizing the Lost and Hurting Catholics: A Review of Shaun McAfee’s “Filling Our Father’s House”

Why should we care about apathetic Catholics?

Throughout the world, there are many Catholics who have grown disinterested in the faith. They have no desire to further their devotion. At times they stop practicing the faith altogether, especially after negative experiences with priests or parishes. Yet, despite the fact that so many of these apathetic Catholics occasionally sit next to us in church or walk past us in the parish’s parking lot, we easily can turn a blind eye to their lack of concern. Instead, following a culture that focuses so much on the individual, we satisfy ourselves with attending Mass each week and observing the Precepts of the Church, not thinking about the plight of others in the pews. However, in Filling Our Father’s House: What Converts Can Teach Us about Evangelization (Sophia Institute Press, 2014), author Shaun McAfee challenges this individualized outlook. He challenges people to truly care about evangelizing other Catholics, since we are all one family in the Catholic Church:

“No family is ever happy or ambivalent when a member is in a rough place, is sick, or feels unwanted, just as no one is satisfied with a part of his body having an infection or being broken. It matters even more for those who are Christian because we identify with the reality that we are Christ’s Body,” McAfee notes.

As members of the Body of Christ, we have a mission to reach out to the other members who are hurting or lost. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops declares, “The focus of the New Evangelization calls all Catholics to be evangelized and then go forth to evangelize.” Filling Our Father’s House is directed towards helping Catholics in this mission. This concise book provides ways for people to deepen their faith lives and be evangelized themselves, so that they may go forth and bring the Gospel to others.

Drawing from his personal experiences as a convert to Catholicism, McAfee illustrates the ways in which Catholics may grow in their faith and then share it with others. After reflecting on the importance of giving one’s personal testimony in evangelization, McAfee walks the reader through the process of developing his or her own personal testimony, so that he or she will be able to present it when asked about the faith. Reflecting on 1 Peter 3:15, McAfee affirms that “Every child of God has a story worth hearing, and Catholics are no exception.” He continues to remind the reader that “you might provide someone’s only chance to hear a moving story about the real life-changing power of Christ.”

After addressing the need to develop a personal testimony, McAfee then dives into the ways in which Catholics can grow stronger in their relationship with God. He discusses the importance of reading and studying Scripture, while providing several accessible resources for this. He notes the importance of prayer as well. I especially appreciated the emphasis that McAfee places on growth in and through the parish community. He states, “After the family unity, the parish is where the souls of the Church are formed and nurtured.” From social media to surveys of talent and small groups, McAfee discusses a variety of ways in which Catholics can become involved in their parish communities as they grow stronger in their faith.

Finally, after discussing ways in which Catholics can grow stronger in their faith and help other Catholics grow as well, McAfee touches on the importance of going out to non-Catholics. Drawing from papal encyclicals and Scripture, McAfee encourages us to recognize the importance of ecumenism, and to work for unity among the various groups of Christians that exist.

Reading Filling Our Father’s House encouraged me not only to take my own relationship with God more seriously, but also to intentionally think about the ways in which I may reach out to those Catholics who slip into my pew at church. After all, we never know who may be waiting for a friendly greeting or a helping hand in the journey towards God.