In view of the fact that IHOP (International House of Prayer), a very contemplative promoting hyper-charismatic organization, was planning on having Scot Hahn, a Protestant-turned-Catholic, as one of the speakers at their upcoming Onething Christian Conference, speaks volumes about the move toward Catholicism that many in the evangelical church are making today. In charismatic circles, IHOP would be considered a prominent force so clearly what they do influences tens of thousands of people. And although it appears that the Catholics pulled out of the conference this past week), we would like to draw the attention of our readers to Scot Hahn’s “spiritual journey” into Catholicism.
On November 12th, we posted John Lanagan’s article IHOP-KC/Onething website mum about Catholic participation showing that IHOP was saying very little about the Catholic church’s participation in this conference, even though a Catholic website was being vocal about it. In Lanagan’s article, he listed a number of Catholic speakers who would be at the Onething event. One of those, Scot Hahn, is a major “evangelist” for the Catholic Church in winning converts from Protestantism, using his own conversion from Protestantism to Catholicism as a catalyst.
Because so many evangelicals are moving toward Catholicism (especially through contemplative mystics such as Thomas Merton, Thomas Keating, Brennan Manning, and Henri Nouwen), we feel Scot Hahn’s “conversion” story would be insightful. Roger Oakland discusses Hahn’s conversion in his book Another Jesus: the eucharistic christ and the new evangelization. Oakland also discusses Hahn’s wife’s conversion too as the couple wrote a book about it, Rome Sweet Rome. Incidentally, Scot Hahn also wrote a book titled Scripture and Metaphysics where he references and quotes many contemplative mystics.
We see a connection between the evangelical embracing of contemplative Catholic mystics and the emerging church’s promotion of the Catholic eucharist (Christ in a wafer). Thus, the following story:
Scott and Kimberly Hahn: Their Eucharistic Conversions
By Roger Oakland
Scott Hahn [is] a Professor of Theology and Scripture at Franciscan University of Steubenville, where he has taught since 1990. He is also the founder and director of the Saint Paul Center for Biblical Theology.
Hahn entered the Catholic Church on Easter 1986. He is a former ordained Presbyterian minister with ten years of ministry experience in Protestant congregations and a former Professor of Theology at Chesapeake Theological Seminary.
An exceptionally popular speaker and teacher, Hahn has delivered numerous talks nationally and internationally on a wide variety of topics related to the Catholic faith. His teaching has been effective in helping thousands of Protestants and fallen-away Catholics to (re)embrace the Catholic faith.1
Both Scott and his wife Kimberly have written about their spiritual journeys that brought them to the Catholic Church in a book called Rome Sweet Home: Our Journey to Catholicism.2 On the back cover of their book, a statement is made that provides further information about the Hahn family:
For the last decade, Scott and Kimberly Hahn have been speaking around the country—and making tapes that circulate the globe—sharing with thousands all about their conversion to the Catholic Church and the truth and splendor of the Catholic faith. Now this outstanding Catholic husband and wife have finally put their story into print as they recount their incredible spiritual journey “back home” into God’s worldwide family, the Catholic Church.3
In Rome Sweet Home, Hahn gives a step by step account of a Eucharistic encounter that was instrumental in his conversion to Catholicism. He describes in detail what happened to him one day while attending a Catholic Mass. He writes:
[O]ne day, I made a “fatal blunder”—I decided that it was time for me to go to Mass on my own. . . . Right before noon, I slipped quietly into the basement chapel for daily Mass. I wasn’t sure what to expect; maybe I’d be all alone with a priest and a couple of old nuns. I took a seat as an observer in the back pew.
All of a sudden lots of ordinary people began coming in off the streets—rank-and-file type folks. They came in, genuflected, knelt and prayed. Their simple but sincere devotion was impressive. Then a bell rang and a priest walked out toward the altar. I remained seated; I wasn’t sure if it was safe to kneel. As an evangelical Calvinist, I had been taught that the Catholic Mass was the greatest sacrilege that a man could commit—to resacrifice Christ—so I wasn’t sure what to do.4
Hahn then describes the thoughts and feelings that overcame him as the priest proceeded with the consecration of the Host:
After pronouncing the words of consecration, the priest held up the Host. I felt as if the last drop of doubt had drained from me. With all of my heart, I whispered, “My Lord and my God. That’s really you! And if that’s you, then I want full communion with you. I don’t want to hold anything back.”
Then I remembered my promise … Oh yes. I’ve got to regain control—I’m a Presbyterian, right? right! And with that, I left the chapel, not telling a soul where I had been or what I had done. But the next day I was back, and the next, and the next. Within a week or two I was hooked. I don’t know how to say it, but I had fallen head over heels in love with our Lord in the Eucharist! His presence to me in the Blessed Sacrament was powerful and personal. As I sat in the back I began to kneel and pray with the others whom I now knew to be my brothers and sisters. I wasn’t an orphan! I had found my family—it was God’s family.5
Soon the conversion process was complete. Hahn was overcome by his experience and was convinced he truly had discovered the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. In his own words:
Day after day, witnessing the entire drama of the Mass, I saw the covenant renewed right before my eyes. I knew Christ wanted me to receive him in faith, not just spiritually in my heart, but physically as well: onto my tongue, down my throat and into my whole body and soul. This was what the Incarnation was all about. This was the gospel in its fullness.
Each day after Mass, I spent a half hour to an hour praying the Rosary. I felt the Lord unleash his power through his Mother before the Blessed Sacrament. I begged him to open up my heart to show me his will.6
While Scott was converted in 1986, Kimberly’s conversion did not happen until four years later. In one section of Rome Sweet Home, Kimberly Hahn describes the struggle she experienced living in a mixed marriage with her newly converted Catholic husband. She writes:
I tried to fit into Scott’s life as a Catholic. The week after Easter, Scott led a Bible study in our home and I sat in. When a young man was asked to open in prayer, he promptly led in a Hail Mary. I left the room in agony, fell on my knees in my bedroom and wept bitterly—how dare he say those words in my home, rubbing salt into my open wound from Scott’s conversion! Later, I tried to rejoin them, but their comments and expressions of Catholic piety were overwhelming. Soon Scott moved the Bible study out of our home, for which I was most grateful.7
Eventually, Kimberly softened her position and agreed to attend Mass with her husband. She describes the thoughts that went through her mind:
One evening, we had an opportunity to be at a Mass where there was a [E]ucharistic procession at the end. I had never seen this before. As I watched row after row of grown men and women kneel and bow when the monstrance passed by, I thought, these people believe that that is the Lord, and not just bread and wine. If this is Jesus, that is the only appropriate response. If one should kneel before a king today, how much more before the King of Kings? The Lord of Lords? Is it safe not to kneel?
But I continued to ruminate, what if it’s not? If that is not Jesus in the monstrance, then what they are doing is gross idolatry. So, is it safe to kneel? The situation highlighted what Scott had said all along: the Catholic Church is not just another denomination—it is either true or diabolical.8
As more time passed, Kimberly’s perspective of the Eucharist and Mary gradually changed. Eventually she found herself, like her husband Scott, in the position where she had a Eucharistic encounter that changed her life. She writes:
I was amazed how much the monstrance seemed to symbolize the Catholic Church. Like many Protestants, I had been concerned that Mary, the saints, and the sacraments were roadblocks between believers and God so that to get to God, one would have to go around them. They seemed to complicate life with God unnecessarily—like accretions on the sides of sunken treasures, they had to be discarded to get to what was important.
But now I could see that the opposite was true, Catholicism was not a distant religion, but a presence oriented one—Catholics were the ones who had Jesus physically present in churches and saw themselves as living tabernacles after receiving the Eucharist. And because Jesus is the Eucharist, keeping Him in the center allows all of the rich doctrines of the Church to emanate from him, just as the beautiful gold rays stream forth from the Host in the monstrance.9
Kimberly joined her husband in the Catholic Church and in Eucharistic adoration.
(from chapter 9, Eucharistic Conversions, of Another Jesus by Roger Oakland)
1. See http://www.scotthahn.com for more information about Scott Hahn.
2. Scott and Kimberly Hahn, Rome Sweet Home: Our Journey to Catholicism (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press), 1993.
3. Ibid., back cover.
4. Ibid., p. 87.
6. Ibid., pp. 88, 89.
7. Ibid., pp. 105, 106.
8. Ibid., p. 142.
9. Ibid., p. 162.
November 21 Update: Catholic Ralph Martin’s endorsement of IHOP-KC vanishes from IHOP-KC “Endorsements” page