Wednesday 22 November 2017

Reform Yourself! - Shaun McAfee How to Pray, Find Peace, and Grow in Faith with the Saints of the Counter-Reformation

Reform Yourself! 
How to Pray, Find Peace, and Grow in Faith with the Saints of the Counter-Reformation
Paul Thigpen (Foreword)
ISBN 9781683570547
eISBN 9781683570561

As soon as I saw the title and cover of this book I wanted to read it. And to be completely honest I did not know what it was about, other than the words REFORM YOURSELF! screaming at me. Part of the description for the book is:
"The sixteenth-century Catholic Church was definitely in need of reform. Too many of its leaders were worldly and corrupt; too many of the faithful were living in laxity or ignorance. Unfortunately, Protestantism brought revolution rather than reform, but the saints who rose up in response to it helped renew and transform the Church for generations to come.  
Our own souls, too, are in constant need of reform, of re-conversion to God and his will for us. We struggle with sin, we become distracted in prayer, we find it hard to be loving and easy to be selfish. In Reform Yourself!, Shaun McAfee (founder of Epic Pew and author of Filling Our Father's House) shows you how these magnificent saints can be guides in your own personal transformation." 
So drawing from saints from the Counter Reformation he does that. He gives clear concise guidance on how to work on yourself. For nearly 20 years my tag line in emails has been 'Learing to be' and when I was asked about it I would say I am striving to learn to be, and be good at being. This book uses the examples of 10 Saints to help us do just that. The saints that Shaun calls out in this book are:

St. Francis de Sales: The Apologist Next Door
St. Ignatius of Loyola: Reformer of Education and Spirituality
St. Teresa of Ávila: The Mystical Reformer
St. Robert Bellarmine: Our Model Apologist
St. Aloysius Gonzaga: Reformer of Youthful Piety
Pope St. Pius V: Reformer of Faithful Leadership
St. Philip Neri: Reformer of Solemn Humor
St. John of the Cross: The Contemplative Reformer
St. Jane Frances de Chantal: The Simple Reformer
St. Charles Borromeo: Our Consummate Pastor

Paul Thigpen begins the forward with these words:
"More than thirty years ago, I was a Protestant pastor working my way through a Ph.D. program in Church History at a Methodist university. The process was an essential factor in my eventually becoming Catholic. As Blessed John Henry Newman famously observed, "To be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant."  
As I studied, I learned almost daily not only how much I didn't know, but also how much of what I thought I knew was actually untrue. 
One of the great surprises awaiting me when I studied what Church historians call the "Reformation Period" was the Catholic movement known as the Counter-Reformation. Many prefer to call it the Catholic Reformation, and for good reason: it was not just a reaction, a "counter," to the Protestant revolt. The spirit of genuine reform within the Catholic Church, as opposed to her attempted reform through fragmentation, long preceded Martin Luther's posting of the Ninety-Five Theses on October 31, 1517-the episode commonly considered the birth of the Protestant movement."
And looking back on this the 500th anniversary of the reformation One can only hope and pray for the unity that Christ called for among his followers. And Thigpen ends the forward with these words:
"In these pages you'll read about ten of these genuine spiritual heroes and what they have to teach us today. Their stories should stir us with admiration for their exceptional holiness, wisdom, courage, and perseverance-and often a fine sense of humor as well. But the author has given us much more than simple biography; he connects these stories to our everyday work of self-reform, of ongoing conversion, as well as to our baptismal call to explain and defend the Faith. Always, he approaches these saints with an essential question in mind: What can we learn from their example?  
I trust this book will find a wide audience. My hope is that readers will respond eagerly to the challenges it issues through its perceptive look at ten extraordinary saints with profound lessons for ordinary Catholics."
And after devouring this book I agree. I can think immediately of numerous friends and family who would benefit from reading this book. And I will likely read it again within the next few months. Shaun in the forward states:
"It is said that if you want to become a saint, you must read the saints. But I say, if you want to become a saint, you must do more than read: you must study the saints! You must read the saints in detail, analyzing them to the degree to which you come to know your own friends and family, taking an interest in every detail of their characters. To know these saints, we must devote ourselves to them. Only when we do this can we become like them." 
And this book is the beginning of that journey. The first saint covered in the book is St. Francis ds Sales, his feast day is my birthday and this chapter begins with this quote from him "Be who you are and be that well". Then the chapter on St. Ignatius of Loyola begins with this quote "To conquer himself is the greatest victory that man can gain.". Each chapter of this book begins with the key dates for the saint. It starts with a quote. Outlines the example that saint is in our process of reforming ourselves and then each chapter ends with one or more prayer. 

This book is very well written. It was hard to put down. The bibliography at the end it excellent for going deeper with one or more of the saints highlighted in the book. The only thing I fell the book really needed was a conclusion. It has a wonderful forward, and great introduction, incredible teaching and then just ends. But even with that it is a great read that I highly recommend.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2017 Catholic Reading Plan!

Books by Shaun McAfee:
Reform Yourself! How to Pray, Find Peace, and Grow in Faith with the Saints of the Counter-Reformation
Filling Our Father's House: What Converts Can Teach Us About Evangelization
St. Robert Bellarmine

Social Media Magisterium: A No-Nonsense Guide to the Proper Use of Media
I'm Catholic. Now What?
20 Answers Conversion - Catholic Answers
Epic Saints: Wild, Wonderful, and Weird Stories of God's Heroes 

Contributed to:
Surprised By Life: 10 Converts Explain How Catholic Teachings On Life Led Them To The Church

Inseparable: Five Perspectives on Sex, Life, and Love in Defense of Humanae Vitae 

Other reviews of books from Catholic Answers.

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