Eminent theologian and professor Dr. Scott Hahn returned to the Christ Cathedral campus on June 5 as a presenter in the latest Bishop’s Lecture Series event. Hosted by Dr. Pia de Solenni, Diocese of Orange chancellor, the evening also featured a panel discussion. Episcopal Vicar Deacon Michael Stock and his wife, Rosy, joined Dr. Solenni to discuss Dr. Hahn’s chief topic for the lecture: marriage.
“Almost every crisis we are facing [today] has its roots in the crisis of the family,” Dr. de Solenni noted. Dr. Hahn focused on themes from his latest book, “The First Society: The Sacrament of Matrimony and the Restoration of the Social Order,” to offer his thoughts on the crisis facing both the family structure and society at large.
“Dr. Scott Hahn has been and is one of the leading influences in evangelization in the Catholic Church over three decades,” Fr. Robert Spitzer, SJ of the MagisCenter said. “It is no exaggeration to say that Dr. Hahn has been on a personal crusade to inform and actualize his vision of a lived scriptural Catholic Church,” Spitzer added.
A former Protestant, Dr. Hahn converted to Catholicism in 1986. His wife, Kimberly, followed in 1990. The story of their conversions is chronicled in their well-known book, “Rome Sweet Home.” Together, the Hahns oversee the Saint Paul Center for Biblical Theology. Dr. Hahn is a professor at Franciscan University of Steubenville and has published over 20 books, including “The Supper of the Lamb” and “The Fourth Cup.”
“Perhaps [Dr. Hahn’s] greatest strength is to make scripture come alive in the hearts and spirits of his listeners and readers,” Fr. Spitzer said. “It is not uncommon to see many in his audiences emotionally and spiritually affected by his inspiring words that help make Jesus sublime and accessible to us all.”
Though teaching and writing on the sacred vocation of marriage for decades, the inspiration for “The First Society” came specifically from Dr. Hahn’s experience as a grandfather of 15. Observing modern-day statistics about the presence of divorce and other views of marriage separate from its biblical roots, Dr. Hahn set out to formulate a cohesive study of marriage as the bedrock of society.
As Dr. Hahn discussed in the Bishop’s Lecture Series event, a pivotal theme to understanding marriage in relation to church and society is its sacramental nature. In “The First Society,” Dr. Hahn reminds readers that the Church thinks and acts primarily from a sacramental perspective. From Baptism to Anointing of the Sick, the significant moments of life involve the Sacraments. All of it is rooted in the Sacrament of the Eucharist. Vocations, such as Matrimony and Holy Orders, are also expressed sacramentally. Therefore, in the end, Dr. Hahn summons a “sacramental society.”
Dr. Hahn’s thesis is also a touching nod to his mentor from Marquette University, Fr. Donald J. Keefe, SJ. During a lecture in Fr. Keefe’s Religion and Society graduate class, Dr. Hahn recalled, the Jesuit professor absently gazed out the window and remarked, “If Catholics simply live the Sacrament of Matrimony for one generation, we would witness a transformation of society and have a Christian culture.” The offhand remark struck the young Hahn and left a deep impact.
Dr. Hahn makes it a point to not long for the past as a kind of Catholic nostalgia in his program to revitalize marriage as a renewal of Christian culture. He believes reforming society must acknowledge the reality of the world today, not the past. “How can we apply the sacramental logic of the faith to the peculiar circumstances of the twenty-first century, while learning from the pitfalls of the past?” Dr. Hahn asked.
This has long been of importance to the Church. In Australia in 1986, Pope John Paul II recognized economic and social hardships that impact having a solid marriage and family life. Nevertheless, he urged couples to welcome the sacredness of the marriage covenant. In a homily during that voyage, the pope famously remarked, “As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live.”
In this way, recognizing marriage and the family as truly the building blocks of a first society is a first step in reshaping how we look at its function in everyday life.
Dr. Hahn uses the example of the Holy Family to make his point: the union of Mary and Joseph was not a mere legalistic contract, but a covenant in the most intimate sense.
“The First Society” attempts to reconnect a largely secularized culture to its Judeo-Christian biblical roots. “Dr. Hahn’s most recent book speaks to the most critical issue of our time: marriage and family,” Dr. de Solenni said. “Pope Francis, Pope Benedict, and Pope John Paul II have all identified this crisis. Now we need to act on it, with tools like ‘The First Society’.”