As many Catholics are, I am a sucker for conversion stories. I was baptized Catholic but not really raised that way, so mine is more of a reversion story, but I even enjoy telling that! There’s something about getting the inside scoop on someone’s journey to God and to the Catholic Church that is so intriguing. Choosing to be Catholic takes much courage and faith—especially when you’re leaving something significant behind. Scott and Kimberly Hahn had a lot to give up when they became Catholic, but following their story in Rome Sweet Home: Our Journey to Catholicism shows how much they brought with them as well.
Scott Hahn was baptized as a baby but not really raised Christian. The evangelical parachurch ministry Young Life saw his potential, though, and he became a committed Presbyterian. He learned to love the Bible, to reason his way to the truth, to seek wise counsel, and to firmly believe what he preached: all important elements in his conversion. In his sections of Rome Sweet Home, he explains how study and scrutiny and Scriptural prowess were and remain a strong foundation for his faith. Ultimately, Scripture led him to find the truth of Catholicism, and despite his previous anti-Catholic sentiments and teaching, he came into the Church. Now he is well-known for his books and his teaching position at the Franciscan University of Steubenville.
Kimberly’s story, told in parallel, is most fascinating when compared to Scott’s. Coming from a long line of Presbyterian ministers, she was furious and heartbroken when Scott revealed his desire to become a Catholic. She was never quite as anti-Catholic as Scott, but she wondered why she couldn’t just be Episcopalian (read: everything but Catholic). For years, she refused to listen to Scott’s testimony or even consider becoming Catholic. Her story is one of a gradually softening heart and the grace of letting God work on his time.
What I most enjoyed about this book was not its abundant Scriptural citations, or even sharing Kimberly’s heart as she explained her devastation when Scott became Catholic and she did not. I loved how much the Hahns relied on the wisdom of others. In multiple instances, Scott’s attempts to find great Protestant minds who could prove to him that Catholicism wasn’t true led him to be even more convinced that it was. Many of those Protestants became Catholic, too! The search for truth was successful in a way he’d never imagined. And even with Scott’s skill as a preacher, it was his prayers and the prayers of others that compelled his wife to give God a chance to show her a different path. The importance of letting God speak through other people is often diminished in favor of feelings, but God gave us brains as well as hearts. Even when we don’t feel him, we know he’s there. He told us so.
As far as style, I found it confusing that the chapters were divided into Scott’s perspective on a chunk of several years, then Kimberly’s on that same time period. It felt like the story was moving right along and then zipped back to the past. I was impatient to catch up. As a married couple then and now, the Hahns’ individual conversion stories are intrinsically linked even if they covered different timeframes, but I wanted them to either be fully connected or fully separated.
This is the first of Scott Hahn’s books that I’ve read. Next time, I’ll try reading it with a Bible in my other hand. The Hahns’ story is a fantastic example of reading and struggling your way into the Church. Sometimes God can seem like the least likely thing, but in the end, he’s the only thing. The truth is out there, and it will set you free.
Up next: Messenger, the second companion to The Giver (I just can’t get enough of ’em!)