Dr. Scott Hahn, the noted theologian and evangelist, kept it all in the family—the Holy Family, that is—in his public lecture at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Dunwoodie, Oct. 1.
Acknowledging that he felt like he had arrived at his “second home,” Hahn was welcomed like a family member by the 200 guests gathered in the seminary’s Prayer Hall for his public lecture on “St. Joseph and the Eucharist.” Father William Cleary, the vice rector of St. Joseph’s, told me the talk would be Hahn’s sixth at the Dunwoodie campus.
Brooklyn Auxiliary Bishop James Massa, rector of St. Joseph’s, noted that Hahn would be speaking “in the Year of St. Joseph, at St. Joseph’s Seminary, on the theme of Joseph and the Eucharist.”
Hahn’s talk was also one of the first events marking St. Joseph’s Seminary’s 125th anniversary year. “Happy anniversary, 125 years, what a cause of celebration, joy and thanksgiving,” Hahn said.
I was fortunate to hear Hahn give one of his previous Dunwoodie talks in 2018, so I was prepared for a theologically insightful discourse, and he certainly did not disappoint. (The lecture was also livestreamed and was available on the seminary’s website at dunwoodie.edu.)
For readers not familiar with Hahn, he is a former Presbyterian minister who entered the Catholic Church in 1986. He holds the Father Michael Scanlan, T.O.R., Chair of Biblical Theology and the New Evangelization at the Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio.
Twenty years ago, Hahn founded St. Paul’s Center for Biblical Theology, which he serves as president. The center promotes biblical literacy for clergy and laity so Catholics can read the Bible “from the heart of the Church.” That last phrase leapt out when Hahn said it, and his remarks came with a succinct and understandable explanation of Scripture that backed up those words.
The talk was anchored by frequent references to Hahn’s own family, which includes his wife of 42 years, Kimberly, and their six adult children and 21 grandchildren.
Hahn is comfortable speaking personally about his family, with touches of gentle humor, as well as touching moments. He mentioned a chat he and his daughter, Hannah, had near the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, when she told him how hard life had become without being able to attend Mass and receive Holy Communion. She said she would never again take the sacrifice of the Mass for granted and that she found herself hungering for Holy Communion. Hahn told Hannah that she was blessing her father more than she could ever realize and hoped that she was echoing the hearts of millions of Catholics in that unprecedented time.
Hahn’s talk about St. Joseph served as a beautiful meditation on fatherhood. He cited the words of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who said that “there is but one fatherhood, that of God the Father, as Paul makes clear in Ephesians…yet man created in the image of God has been granted a share in this one paternity of God in a finite and imperfect way.”
St. Joseph presents a striking case of this, since he was a father but without fatherhood according to the flesh, Benedict said. It is fatherhood according to the Spirit.
To be a father, Benedict said, means, above all, to be “at the service of life and growth and love.” St. Joseph made many sacrifices for the sake of Christ, and his only reward “was to be with Christ.”
Hahn called St. Joseph “the paradigm for priestly paternity,” which came home to him in a profoundly personal way in May as his son Jeremiah was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Steubenville. (Another son, Joseph, is also studying for the priesthood.)
“You can all imagine how special it was for us to approach that day,” said Hahn to an audience that included many priests and seminarians.
The bishop who led the Rite of Ordination in turn knelt down to receive a blessing from their son, Jeremiah, who was now a spiritual and sacramental father.
“My son became my father in the order of grace,” Hahn said.