Sunday, April 26, 2009

Scott Hahn

Yesterday, Frodo and I went to see Scott Hahn, scholar and theologian from Franciscan University in Steubenville, OH. Dr. Hahn shared some extraordinary stories about his conversion to Catholicism, his family and his mission. I'd like to convey one of Dr. Hahn's stories to you, because its one of finest stories I've heard in many months.

Dr. Hahn, when he was first thinking about converting, had been meeting with a Monseigneur Bruskewitz (Now Bishop Bruskewitz of Lincoln Nebraska). Monseignor told Dr. Hahn about a priest friend of his who was visiting Rome the previous week.

The priest was visiting Rome to have an audience with Pope John Paul the second some years back. The priest was preparing for one of many meetings with the Pope over the week to discuss various things. Well, the priest had an hour before he had to meet with the Pope so he decided to go to the Church across the street from his hotel to pray before his meeting.

On the steps of the Church were several beggars. As the priest passed to go in to pray, he thought he recognized one of the beggars sitting on the steps. But, he passed him by and went in to pray. As he knelt down on the kneelers, he realized where he knew the beggar from. He rushed back out of the church and asked the beggar, "Do I know you?" To which the beggar replied, "Heh, yeah, we went to seminary together."

The priest replied, "So, you're a priest then?" And the beggar replied, "I used to be, but look at me know, I'm doing really well, what do you think."

So the priest told the beggar that he would pray for him to which the beggar replied, "Lot of good that will do." The priest left and went to meet the Pope. When one meets the Pope, the meeting is very formal. Usually one proceeds in greets the Pope, bows or shows a gesture of respect and reverence, and proceeds out. But when the priest went to meet the Pope, he bowed and blurted out the story of the beggar he met earlier in the day. John Paul looked concerned and told the priest that he would pray for the beggar.

The following day, the priest went to the same church and saw the beggar once again. He told the beggar, "Guess what, not only am I praying for you but now Pope John Paul the second is too!" The beggar replied, "Yeah, so what, it won't do anything anyway."

Later that day, the priest got a call from the Pope's office. John Paul II wanted to have dinner with the priest and he wanted him to bring the beggar along too. So, very excited at the prospect at having dinner with the Pope, the priest went to the steps of the church and tracked down the beggar and told him, "The Pope invited me to dinner and he said that I had to bring you with as well." "Me?" said the beggar, "Look at me, I haven't showered or shaved in who knows how long and look at my clothes."
"I rented you a room in the hotel across the street and got you some clothes as well, but we have to hurry." said the priest.

Not long after, the priest and the beggar were meeting with the Pope to have dinner. They met in the Pope's private residence and enjoyed wondrous hospitality. The first course came and the second and third. Before dessert, the Pope motioned to the priest and asked him to leave the room for a bit. So, the priest went outside and left the Pope and beggar in the room by themselves. About twenty minutes later, the priest was allowed back in, dessert was served, and the two men said goodbye to the Pope and left.

When they were outside, the priest asked the beggar, "What did John Paul say to you in there, what happened, did he want to hear your confession?"

The beggar said a little timidly and quietly, "...No, he wanted me to hear his." He told the priest that when he stepped out of the room, the Pope asked him if he would hear his confession. The beggar said, "Me! How could I? I'm just a beggar now."

The Pope replied, as he clasped the man's hands in his, "So am I."

The priest said, you were in there for 20 minutes, the Pope's confession took that long?!" "No," laughed the beggar, "He had to hear mine first and that took a very long time. His confession was over very quickly."

The Pope reinstated the beggar as a priest. He commissioned the beggar to minister to the beggars in the parish where he had been sitting outside. So the beggar became a priest again, through the mercy of God, and he continues to minister to the homeless and forgotten at the parish where he was once a beggar.

This incredible story conveys a valuable lesson about humility. All sin is inherently prideful. And thus, humility can be a great medicine. Pope John Paul was a great man, a holy shepherd and taught us many lessons. This lesson can be a truly powerful one, about the power of the Sacrament of Confession. For Confession takes humility and repentance, and both are necessary weapons against sin.



Anonymous said...

Thank you for this beautiful posting.

Christopher J said...

One important thing to note about professor Hahn, left unaddressed by this otherwise wonderful post, is that he is a master of the art of punning. My favorite is a chapter heading from I don't remember which book: "Should Old Aquinas Be Forgot."

Glad you enjoyed the lecture!

J.P.2's pastoral sensibilities were truly inspired. It had become a practice of his post-Vatican II papal predecessors to dismiss priests from their priestly function at their mere request. He wrote an unbelievably beautiful letter to the priests of the world:

"Those of you who are doubtful of the meaning of your vocation or of the value of your service, think of the places where people anxiously await a priest, and where for many years, feeling the lack of such a priest, they do not cease to hope for his presence. And sometimes it happens that they meet in an abandoned shrine, and place on the altar a stole which they still keep, and recite all the prayers of the Eucharistic Liturgy; and then, at the moment that corresponds to the transubstantiation, a deep silence comes upon them, a silence sometimes broken by a sob... so ardently do they desire to hear the words that only the lips of a priest can efficaciously utter. So much do they desire Eucharistic Communion, in which they can share only through the ministry of a priest, just as they also so eagerly wait to hear the divine words of pardon: Ego te absolvo a peccatis tuis. So if one of you doubts the meaning of his priesthood, if he thinks it is 'socially' fruitless or useless, think on this!"

photogr said...

Certainly a heart warming story.