How do we evangelize? What does evangelization mean? How do charity and evangelization relate? These types of questions Fr John Bartunek tried to enter in his latest book of meditations.
As I read through them, I had a mixed reaction: I already know this but this explanation and format of meditation may be perfect to explain this to other people. As I’m studying a grad theology degree specifically focused on evangelization, I realized I might have a little more knowledge on the topic that would be expected from an average reader. I think Fr Bartunek does a much better job than I would have to overcome the “knowledge trap.” (The knowledge trap is the fact that when we know a topic we can sometimes assume other facts that someone who doesn’t know the topic would not be familiar with.)
GO! 30 Meditations on How Best to Love Your Neighbor as Yourself doesn’t have some set of stellar pull quotes that will blow you away. If anything, Fr John seems to have avoided overly strong quotes to focus our mind more in a meditative manner rather than in the explosive manner tons of pull quotes might be read. The exception is his chapter epigraphs. (Here’s a perfect example of the knowledge trap, because I’m guessing at least half of you didn’t know an epigraph in the book was the quotation after the chapter title before the text.) Instead, it really follows through on what it promises as a book of meditations to now each person to pray over and thoughtfully consider different aspects of evangelization.
The structure is quite obvious in 30 meditations, as the title says, but these are broken up into four parts which each start general and then work on specifics. The first part talks about how we are all called to evangelize as evangelization is the deepest identity of the Church. Then it moves to the call to the individual talk about the different traits we all have which can be used to evangelize. The third section focuses on a wide variety of ways people can evangelize. It concludes with a short section of four meditations on maintaining ourselves in the practical life of an apostle.
The meditations follow a point with ample quotes from the Bible and catechism but don’t have a strict structure except questions and a closing prayer at the end. It is clear that Fr John has chosen to focus meditations around themes rather than other meditation books that focus on explaining a Bible passage in each mediation to illustrate a theme. I think this leads to him going over each topic quicker than I would have liked to try to cover such a wide swath in a short book. This is a matter of difference in what style you like.
I would highly recommend the book for people just starting out in the spiritual or apostolic life. However, for those with lots of experience, you may find some of the material a little on the basic side like I did.
Let me leave you with one of the best lines from the book which sums the whole thing up: “Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelize, that is to say, in order to preach and teach, to be the channel of the gift of grace, to reconcile sinners with God, and to perpetuate Christ’s sacrifice in the Mass, which is the memorial of His death and glorious resurrection.” – Bl Pope Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi 14
[Disclosure: I was given a free copy of this book for the purpose of reviewing it.]