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Catholic Review of: Good News, Bad News

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This item received 5 stars overall. (10/14/2009)

Orthodoxy: Completely orthodox.
Reading Level: Easy

 Catholics United for the FaithBy Catholics United for the Faith (OH) - See all my reviews


The Secret Ingredient of Evangelization Revealed

Evaluator Comments

Every Catholic struggles with the meaning of conversion—both its process in one’s own life and the necessity of assisting others to find God. Fr. C. John McCloskey III and Russell Shaw have composed a guidebook to assist Catholics in this task.

Good News, Bad News: Evangelization, Conversion and the Crisis of Faith is smaller than one might expect. It could easily take volumes to tackle such a daunting subject. Yet the simplicity of Good News, Bad News is one of its strengths. It has the effect of convicting the reader with important, if basic, points that often need to be ruminated upon—perhaps for the thousandth time—if one is to be an effective bearer of the Gospel of Christ.

Two insights resound throughout the 134-page book: the importance of friendship in the work of conversion and the often-overlooked fact that Catholics who feel that they are not well-versed in their faith probably know more than those whom they are evangelizing.

An insightful few pages are spent exploring the notion of "friendship deficit syndrome," a plague the authors say is particularly affecting men in today’s society. McCloskey and Shaw opine, "As it stands, for many men—Catholics along with the rest—‘friendship’ has come to signify an attenuated and largely artificial tie based on little more than a common interest in beer, cars, sports, and/or the promiscuous pursuit of young women. By contrast, a genuine male friendship is a deep and lasting bond that reaches to the two friends’ depth. Such friendships are not common among American men today."

The reason for the discourse on "friendship deficit syndrome" in a book about conversion and evangelization? "Perhaps second in importance only to God’s grace, friendship is a central ingredient in countless conversions," the authors explain. Earlier in the chapter they write, "Evangelization always involves a personal relationship of love expressed in the evangelizer’s gift of self."

Good News, Bad News broadly examines evangelization in American society today. The authors break down major characteristics of two Christian denominations from which people are making their way into the Catholic Church—Episcopalians and Evangelicals—and explore reasons why people from varying backgrounds—fallen-away Catholics, non-Catholic Christians and non- Christians—are coming home to the Church.

For those who may question whether evangelization is their responsibility, the authors pose a convicting question: "What’s so strange, I ask you, about the idea of trying to lead people to the faith? People aren’t shy about recommending restaurants, movies, TV shows, and a great deal else of very minor importance to those they care about. Are Jesus Christ and his Church of less importance than the greatest new sushi place in town or the hottest new flick of the last six months?"

McCloskey and Shaw show that evangelization can be as simple as asking a friend if he has ever considered becoming Catholic.

Good News, Bad News is a practical work, even including common questions and appropriate answers to concerns about Catholicism or becoming a Catholic. The book’s appendix is McCloskey’s lifetime reading list for Catholics to assist the reader in continuing his own conversion while fostering that of friends or other people God places in his path.

Written in a conversational tone, the book is peppered with anecdotes from Catholic converts who were helped along their journey by McCloskey. This aspect of the book was inspired by Shaw, who suggested that such stories might enhance its message. McCloskey e-mailed converts with whom he had contact—many of them well-known, such as former abortionist Dr. Bernard Nathanson, presidential candidate Sen. Sam Brownback, and political journalist Bob Novak—and requested a paragraph or two about their conversion stories. Full names are not used, and some of the accounts are anonymous. The stories are used to explain what attracted the converts to the Catholic Church and what encouraged them to enter.

Whether you’re looking for the motivation to begin leading others to Christ and His Church or the encouragement to continue in this work, Good News, Bad News is a short read to jumpstart your role in someone else’s conversion—and it will help you to continue your own ongoing conversion, too.

- Emily Bissonnette (from Lay Witness magazine.

You can purchase this title here.

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