September 16, 2009 // Local

Hahn speaks at St. Catherine of Siena at St. Jude

Dr. Scott Hahn sits down with Today’s Catholic for a one-on-one interview on current issues facing Catholic families.

Dr. Scott Hahn sits down with Today’s Catholic for a one-on-one interview on current issues facing Catholic families.

By Karen Clifford

SOUTH BEND — “It’s a joy to be here not only to share this evening but to also bask in the afterglow of Notre Dame’s opening victory,” Dr. Scott Hahn proclaimed to the enthusiastic crowd of 500 people. Hahn, renowned speaker and bestselling author, greeted his audience at St. Catherine of Siena at St. Jude Church with a topic of special local interest.

Hahn shared his early faith journey as a teenager who was in trouble with the law. After several appearances in the juvenile court system, he attended a retreat to get to know a girl he admired. At the retreat he recalled a speaker who pointed to the cross and said Christ paid a debt he didn’t owe.

“So by the end of the weekend I decided to open my heart and make Christ my personal savior and to give my life to him, as Christ had for me,” Hahn said.

Later he was invited to a Bible study group studying the book of Revelation. The group leader was teaching that they were at the end of time and awaiting the Antichrist and the rapture where people would be “left behind.”

After a few months, Hahn decided to read the Bible on his own. Over the next two years he read it three times and fell in love with sacred Scripture. During his third year of Greek study in college Hahn was surprised as he was translating the book of Revelation for a semester project that the words Antichrist, rapture and second coming did not appear.

As the semester progressed, Hahn met Kimberly, “the most beautiful girl on campus.” They later married and moved to Boston where Hahn studied the early church fathers and earned a master’s degree in theology at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

Following graduation Hahn and his wife moved to Fairfax, Va., where he began his first job as a Presbyterian minister. Early in his ministry, Hahn delved more deeply into the concept of the body and blood of Christ while reading the first five chapters of John. It was at this point that Hahn discovered John’s Gospel showed that the Eucharist was not meant to be symbolic as he had learned in the Protestant faith, but the actual body and blood of Christ.

Amid all the confusion on his faith journey, Hahn was approached by a teacher in a Presbyterian seminary to teach. Reluctantly, he agreed and began his first class on the Gospel of John. The discussions in the class regarding the meaning of Scripture in John’s Gospel lead to spirited debates.

During one such discussion Hahn challenged the students with a question. “Where does the sacrifice of Jesus really begin and does it start at Calvary?” he asked.

One undaunted seminary student replied that the sacrifice began in the upper room, which led the class to the conclusion that Eucharist and Calvary are inseparable. The seminarian then announced gleefully, “That’s what I learned as a kid from the Baltimore catechism.”

Hahn knew that something stronger was pushing him to live out what he had been teaching his students so he resigned from the seminary and his vocation as a minister in the Presbyterian Church. He was accepted into the doctorate program at Marquette University in Wisconsin, where he attended Catholic Mass with some trepidation. As he watched he was struck by how saturated the Mass was with Scripture. When the priest announced the words of consecration Hahn whispered under his breath, “My Lord and my God, I know that is you.”

At the Easter Vigil of 1986, Hahn became a Roman Catholic. His wife Kimberly, who had originally objected to the idea of his Catholic conversion, saw how the Old Testament Scriptures read during the vigil connected to the new covenant in Christ’s resurrection in the New Testament. It wasn’t until a Bible study led by Scott in their home that Kimberly finally understood why the Catholic students in attendance picked up on the Scriptures more easily that she did. “We’ve studied the menu for years, and they are enjoying the meal.”

Kimberly “came home” to the Catholic church at the Easter Vigil in 1990.

At the conclusion of Hahn’s talk, a reception and book signing were held in the parish basement. Father John Delaney, pastor of St. Catherine of Siena at St. Jude, remarked that Hahn shows people outside of the Catholic Church that the gift of the Catholic faith comes from the time of the apostles and Jesus himself.

Father Delaney noted that Catholics shouldn’t take their faith for granted as well. “As Scott said in his talk you really need to be thankful for what we have. The presence of Christ is in the Eucharist and we don’t always come with the ability to appreciate what is really there.”

Scott Hahn shares Catholic beliefs
Today’s Catholic sat down with renowned speaker and bestselling author Dr. Scott Hahn during his visit to St. Catherine of Siena at St. Jude where he spoke on Sept. 6.

Today’s Catholic: In today’s culture, couples and families are bombarded by images of sex and violence on a daily basis. How do we have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and still grow closer to each other in the midst of these images?

Hahn: It’s never been harder to be Catholic and to raise a Catholic family. But it’s never been more exciting and important. Given the nature of our sex-saturated culture, what we have to do is recapture the notion that sex is not just great, but it is sacred and holy. When you take something sacred and just treat it like it is just good and fun, you desecrate it.

In the sacrament of matrimony, where we live out true love, and you can experience the life-giving power of covenantal sex, that is the only way that we can convince the world that what they really settle for is counterfeit. The Catholic Church alone gives us the truth of love.

Today’s Catholic: I have a non-Catholic friend who does not understand why she cannot receive the Eucharist. Could you explain why the Catholic Church believes that a non-Catholic is not considered in full communion with the church?
Hahn: I’ve gone through my own personal development on this. When I was a new convert as a teenager, I saw the Eucharist or Lord’s Supper as a sign of love, but only a symbol. It was like a handshake. When I became a Presbyterian, I realized it was more than that. It became like a kiss, a real symbol of intimate love. When I became a Catholic, I realized it was more than a handshake and it’s more than a kiss. It’s comparable in the Catholic tradition to the marital embrace, the life-giving love of marital intimacy. And I would say that once you understand that, then you begin to realize that if the Eucharist is a handshake or hug then it’s there for all. If it’s a kiss, you can kiss outside of marriage.

But if it really is a one flesh union where Christ is giving himself body, blood, soul and divinity to his bride, then it really calls for a public commitment that is nothing less than a covenant to that bride.

Today’s Catholic: What is your opinion of the new “mega” Protestant churches with the massive theatrical productions and rock concert music and settings? What would you say to friends who are attendees to help them see the fullness and richness of the Catholic faith?

Hahn: I don’t want to criticize any non-Catholics. I would say this: The desire to make the faith seeker friendly is a good thing. But the desire to transform the church as Christ founded it into something that is really defined by supply and demand and market forces is pointing the church in the wrong direction. It’s trying to transform a church that is really God’s family into a business to build up the customer base.

It seems to me that the church ought to see itself not only as a family, but as a hospital for those that are needy. It’s not a health spa, it’s not an all-star team, it’s not just trying to recruit people and get bigger and bigger, so that our numbers beat your numbers. The church isn’t something that we started, but what Christ started. He said, “On this rock I will build my church.” The more carefully we look at the rock of Peter on which Christ said “I will build my church,” he didn’t say “Peter, go build me a church, and James and John, you go build me one too, and we will reunite after a couple of thousand years.” The father sends the son to build one family and a family is one of those beautiful places we love to call home. And yet in the home is where we find that we take each other for granted. As the family of God we have to be very patient with each other and be willing to grow at God’s pace and not simply adopt business models.

Today’s Catholic: What would you consider the best way of reaching fallen away Catholics and encouraging them to come back to their faith? What would you tell them?

Hahn: Welcome them home. Look at the church, you’ve got questions, everybody does. The church is a home, it’s a family, it’s not just a denomination, and it’s not just an institution. God is the father, the Son is son and they pour out their spirit to make us one in terms of sons and daughters. So please come back and visit us.

But I will also tell you this, if you reach out to fallen away Catholics or non-Catholics, make sure you are enjoying the faith because a joyless Catholic on one level is a contradiction, and on another level it’s not uncommon. And there is nothing on earth that we should enjoy more than this life that takes us to heaven and enables us to share in heaven.

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