COLUMBIA — St. John Neumann Church was progressing in its evangelization efforts with Go and Make Disciples. The evangelization team, Help Our Parish Evangelize, brought in a dynamic speaker to help move the parish along to the next level.
Author, professor and speaker Scott Hahn, Ph.D., with his contagious enthusiasm and vast knowledge of Scripture, was a good fit. He supplied the parish with tools to tackle the third goal in evangelizing, which is to “foster gospel values in our society, promoting the dignity of the human person, the importance of the family and common good of our society so that our nation can continue to be transformed by the saving power of Jesus Christ.”
The reputation of the Steubenville professor as a speaker and scholar attracted nearly 500 people, and many traveled across the state and even across the state line for the opportunity to hear the renowned convert to Catholicism.
“Dr. Hahn was invited for his exciting presentation and filial love for the time-honored teachings of the church,” said Cherie Smith, pastoral associate and director of religious education.
She viewed the day as a tremendous learning opportunity, especially for catechists and church leaders who can share what they learned with those who could not come.
By starting with a talk on the Trinity, illustrating the loving relationship between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Hahn addressed human dignity at its most fundamental level, the family. He specifically challenged fathers to try to follow God’s example.
“Fathering is not about lording it over your child but lavishing them with your life and your values and whatever you have and whoever you are,” said Hahn.
He described God’s perfect parenting style. He showed how a human family should mirror a bigger reality — the Holy Trinity. As God’s adopted sons and daughters, we have a call to love in the same way as the Trinity. In fact, Hahn said that the love between a husband and wife can be so real that “in nine months you have to give it a name.”
“When we sin and flagrantly reject God’s commandments, we replace the father/son, parent/ child model with boss/ worker, the master/ slave,” he said adding that “suddenly we begin living our lives relating to God mostly out of fear of getting caught and punished, not out of love.”
He explained how Pope John Paul II has tried to show sin as more than broken laws, but as broken lives, broken homes and broken hearts, because sin shatters the image of the divine family.
God’s mercy was the logical next topic for discussion, and Hahn’s account of his first confession struck a definite chord with Ron Evans, parishioner at St. Joseph Church in Columbia.
“I knew what he was talking about. He confirmed my own recent experience when I did a general confession. I felt as though I was floating and a heavy burden was lifted from me,” recalled Evans, who said that after the confession the priest gave him a hug, and it was as if Christ himself was hugging him.
Hahn addressed the feeling of frustration that many Catholics feel when confessing the same sin over and over.
When Hahn shared these feelings with his spiritual advisor, the priest replied with wit and wisdom, “What do you want, new sins?”
His confessor also reminded him that each time he confesses his sins, he humbles himself before God, and humility is the virtue that combats the sin of pride, the root of all sin, according to the priest.
The final talk was on the source and summit of Christian life, the Eucharist, and Hahn brought the lit-urgy to life with Scripture and church tradition.
Young teen Ashley Colquhoun, from Prince of Peace in Taylors, had heard some of Hahn’s tapes at home and went with her family to see him in Columbia.
“I really like the way he explained the Mass, putting it all together, connecting it with Scripture,”she said.
Once again Hahn shared the experience of attending his first Mass. While sitting there listening, he saw how the liturgy in all its beauty perfectly bridged the Old and New Testament, and his doubts about Catholicism slipped away.
When the Eucharist was lifted up, he remembered saying silently, “My Lord, my God, that is you.”
Michael Barber, a 15-year-old parishioner at Immaculate Conception in Goose Creek, said that the talks gave him different things to reflect on when he is praying.
Like many other people, Barber was impressed with Hahn’s ability to recite large portions of Scripture from memory.
When asked how he is able to remember Scripture, his reply was simple and sincere, “You remember what you love.”
He makes everyone want to read and reread God’s word and to apply it to their lives, which is what evangelization is all about.