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Awake, not woke

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Scott Hahn, a Catholic apologist and theology professor at the Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio, speaks at the Midwest Catholic Family Conference Aug. 4, 2017 in Wichita, Kansas. Photo: CNS/Christopher M. Riggs, Catholic Advance
Scott Hahn, a Catholic apologist and theology professor at the Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio, speaks at the Midwest Catholic Family Conference Aug. 4, 2017 in Wichita, Kansas. Photo: CNS/Christopher M. Riggs, Catholic Advance

We can be hopeful of a great spiritual awakening but need to act now, says scholar

Catholics should not be dismayed at a “tsunami of secularisation” bearing down on their families and society and instead can take heart at signs of a reclaiming and reawakening of faith, said US biblical theologian Dr Scott Hahn ahead of next week’s Parish Renewal Conference for the Archdiocese of Sydney.

Dr Hahn will give a live online keynote speech exclusively for participants of the conference on 19-20 August at St Mary’s Cathedral.

The author and editor of more than 40 popular and academic books including bestsellers Rome Sweet Home, The Lamb’s Supper, will discuss the topic Evangelising Catholics: A culture in need of the Gospel.

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Speaking to The Catholic Weekly via zoom last week, Dr Hahn agreed that the growing divisions over issues such as race and gender, and the rise of so-called ‘wokeism’ and culture wars are aspects of an “increasingly anti-Christian and toxic” culture in the US with spill-over effects throughout the world including Down Under.

“The forces that are against us are pretty considerable, here as well as there, the forces of secularisation, the forces of de-evangelisation,” he said.

“We’re not just talking about a post-Christian culture, we’re really talking about one that is becoming increasingly anti-Christian and toxic. And [this kind of secularism] seems to be speeding up. But likewise more and more Catholics are catching fire, they are waking up to the fact that the Good News is far better than we assumed it was way back when we were getting catechised in Catholic schools or wherever it was.”

Dr Hahn is the Fr Michael Scanlan Professor of Biblical Theology and the New Evangelization at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, the largest Catholic university in the US, and founder and president of the St Paul Center, an apostolate dedicated to teaching Catholics to read Scripture.

He said today’s Catholics have much to learn from the Christians of the first century, who took on and transformed the Roman Empire which was itself a “culture of death”.

“I think the drama is increasing today and I do think that God prefers to do more with less, and so even though we can feel great weakness in the face of this tsunami of secularisation, ‘His strength is made perfect in our weakness’,” he said.

“Who’s to say that the grace of renewal and social transformation won’t take our great grandchildren by surprise when they look back and see everything we have been going through and recognising that yes, in fact in spite of it all there was a great awakening, a great spiritual transformation not only of individuals but of families, communities and cultures? That’s my hope.”

Dr Hahn said that not only was the New Evangelisation needed in countries such as the US and Australia, but that it is already underway and he will provide some simple and effective steps at the conference that parishes can follow.

“We’ve discovered now in the 21st century that if we aren’t evangelising cultures then the culture is going to de-evangelise us and our families as well,” he said.

“We find ourselves still in the midst of what St Pope John Paul II called the new evangelisation.

“But it’s really hard to keep the faith if we don’t know how to share it. What I have found is that when people learn how to share the faith they also discover not only how to keep it better but they discover that they own it and appreciate it more.

“Once you get to the point where you can share it with other people you see in their eyes, in their faces and in their lives the transforming power of the Gospel that we can sometimes take for granted. It’s that feedback loop that I want to capture, because what I want to do is to identify the basic steps of how to go about evangelising as Catholics.”

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