Scott Hahn says the new evangelization bears fruit first in the family, especially through the faith of fathers.


Scott Hahn says the new evangelization bears fruit first in the family, especially through the faith of fathers.

July 13, 2015

The new evangelization begins in the home, and it is most likely to take root if fathers practise their faith, says theologian Scott Hahn.

Citing a recent Southern Baptist study in the U.S., Hahn said if a child is the first in the family to experience a religious conversion, in 3.7 per cent of families, the other members will also become Christians.

If the mother is the first to have a conversion, in 17 per cent of families, the others will follow her. But if the father is the first to be converted, in 93 per cent of families, the other family members will also become active in the Church, he said.

The new evangelization has to re-evangelize families, especially fathers, Hahn said at the Catholic Family Life Conference July 1 at Lac St. Anne.

"We have got to open up our hearts as well as our minds to allow the grace of Christ to actualize the sacrament we call Matrimony."

Hahn, a 57-year-old former Presbyterian minister who became Catholic in the 1980s, teaches at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, and is the author of numerous books, including the conversion story he co-authored with his wife Kimberley, Rome Sweet Home. The couple have six children.

Many people receive the sacraments today without understanding "the glorious teachings of the Catholic faith," Hahn said.

He recalled a comment by a Jesuit professor when he was in graduate school that if Catholic couples simply live out the grace of Matrimony, the culture would be transformed within a generation into a Christian society.

"I really don't think he was exaggerating," Hahn said. "As men in this post-Christian culture, we have a great need for grace."

We all have fathers, fathers who have faults and who have failed us, he said. An awareness of those failures should help us to forgive our fathers.

But those earthly fathers can provide a glimpse of God. "God has given us all fathers who can help us to know him as he truly is."

But fatherhood, Hahn said, cannot be reduced to procreation. Animals copulate and perpetuate their species, but they are not fathers or mothers who are persons bearing the image and likeness of God.

"God is not less of a father than me; he's more.

"God is a father in a unique way, and he shows us that fatherhood is not something primarily physical or sexual; it's spiritual."

Similarly, priests are spiritual fathers when we are regenerated through Baptism, he said. "These people are not less fathers than me, but more."

Hahn also spoke of his own marriage, describing how all marriages go through seasons.

When he and Kimberley were first married, it was like the heat of summer, he said.

But when he began exploring the Catholic faith, their marriage cooled into autumn and then into winter when he joined the Church. It then was transformed into springtime when Kimberley became Catholic.

The family is the domestic Church, he continued. Just as the liturgy has familiar lines repeated at every Mass so too should there be certain lines in each marriage which form a liturgy and are repeated often.

Some of the lines, Hahn repeats often to Kimberley are "I love you"; "You're beautiful"; "Tell me about your day"; "I'm sorry. . . . Will you forgive me?"

Repeating those lines frequently helped to renew "the wellsprings" of their marriage, he said.