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Scott Hahn’s teaching, conversion story draws huge crowd to speaker series

By Tanya Connor
March 28th, 2008
The Catholic Free Press (www.catholicfreepress.org)

FITCHBURG, MA (The Catholic Free Press) - “I was at the edge of my pew: ‘My Lord, that’s you, isn’t it?’”

Scott Hahn, Presbyterian minister turned Catholic author and speaker was describing the first time he witnessed the consecration at Mass.

“I’m sitting there stunned,” he told a packed Immaculate Conception Church Saturday. “Where have I been? To a basement chapel or the heavenly Jerusalem?”

Immaculate Conception’s third annual “March with Christ Lenten Speaker Series” featured “A day with Scott Hahn” which Father Thien X. Nguyen, pastor, said drew about 500 people from Massachusetts and neighboring states.

“We learn so much from converts,” Father Nguyen said later.

“We take too much for granted.”

Bishop Rueger said Mr. Hahn can speak with authority because the Church has taught the same things for 2,000 years.

“You and I grew up in an easier Church,” he said, adding that he worries about youth he confirms today. But the Spirit prayed into them is the same Spirit who made martyrs die for Christ, he said; “We have to believe that same Spirit is working.”

Popular author, speaker

Sue Cote, of St. Boniface Parish in Lunenburg, told The Catholic Free Press she has had her teenagers read some of Mr. Hahn’s books, which they can relate to. She expressed pleasure that the speaker she’s heard at homeschooling conferences was in Fitchburg.

“We have quite a few of Scott Hahn’s tapes and a few books,” said Nancy Pepin, of St. Patrick Parish in Whitinsville, who came with her husband and college-student son. “We just find him an amazing speaker, and I feel that he’s influential in re-establishing my Catholic faith.” She said she has always had a lot of faith in God, but Mr. Hahn has promoted more interest in the Bible, which has brought her and her husband closer to God.

Asked what brought her to the speaker series, Jacie Daley, of Boxford, said simply, “Scott Hahn.” She said she’s heard him on Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) and seen DVDs of him at church.

“If I can have in my pinkie a little bit of what he has…” she said, adding that she wishes she could share Christ like he does.

Richard White, of Our Lady Immaculate Parish in Athol, said he’d been hearing about Mr. Hahn, listened to a tape of his on the way to the diocesan men’s conference and got tickets there for the speaker series.

“I’ve heard good things about him, so I was more than anxious to come,” his wife added.

Bernadette Lysaght came with her sister from North Branford, Conn. She said they have read all Mr. Hahn’s books and that her son, a student at Franciscan University of Steubenville where Mr. Hahn is a professor of Theology and Scripture, cleans his office.

Hahn’s journey of faith, intellect

Mr. Hahn began with his talk, “Letter and Spirit,” saying he would follow with “Hail Holy Queen” and “Reasons to Believe.”

“If you have a Bible, turn with me to Luke,” he said. “If you don’t have a Bible, follow along with the Protestant next to you, or the convert.” BYOB should mean Bring Your Own Bible, he said.

“What a Bible study that must have been,” he said of the risen Christ interpreting the Scriptures to the disciples on the road to Emmaus. Then, he said, Jesus was made known to them in the breaking of the bread – he took, blessed, broke and gave it, one of the earliest expressions of the Eucharist.

Mr. Hahn said his own heart burned as he studied Scripture, but his eyes were really opened when he first attended Mass.

As a teenager he formed a relationship with God, attended Bible studies of the book of Revelation that focused on the rapture and the antichrist, and read through the Bible almost three times, he said. While studying Greek and translating Revelation, he discovered the words rapture and antichrist aren’t there, he said.

The Real Presence

As a Presbyterian preacher he used ideas of early church fathers, who linked the Old and New Testaments, he said. Imagining Moses telling Jesus, “I turned water into blood, but you only turned it into wine,” he told listeners at Immaculate Conception, “I think our Lord might have said, ‘Keep your eyes on that wine.’”

In John 6 “Jesus declares, ‘The bread I shall give you for the life of the world is my flesh,’” he said, noting that Jesus did not add, “I’m only speaking figuratively.” Listeners at Immaculate Conception laughed and applauded.

“I turned to the fathers for help,” Mr. Hahn said of wrestling with this passage as a Protestant. “Big mistake.” Expecting to find a spectrum of ideas, he found they all agreed.

At the Passover, “you had to eat the lamb; it wasn’t enough for the lamb to die and shed its blood,” he said, adding that in John 6 Jesus was describing what would happen to him a year later.

Mr. Hahn said a seminary student told him some things he’d learned from the Baltimore Catechism about Jesus’ sacrifice and suggested, “You ought to look into it.”

Eight years ago, he said, that student informed him, “I decided to come home.” For Mr. Hahn, “Rome Sweet Home,” as he and his wife, Kimberly, titled a book, became a reality at the Easter Vigil in 1986. In 1990 she felt the call, he said.

In his Protestant days, unsure what to teach, he resigned from his church, read Catholic writings, upset his wife by saying maybe they should become Catholic, and attended his first Mass, he said.

He made connections between Revelation and Mass and said the Church fathers saw the marriage supper of the Lamb not just as futuristic but Eucharistic.

“We all want to go to Heaven, we just don’t want to die first,” he said, adding that Catholics don’t have to. “No wonder Jesus suddenly vanished from sight,” he said; once faith recognized him in the Eucharist, his physical presence wasn’t necessary.

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