Marriage: A ‘Particular Call to Holiness’

Kimberly Hahn on the importance of witnessing to the truth of faith and family in today’s culture.

Kimberly and Scott Hahn walk together in St. Peter's Square in Rome on April 4, 2012.
Kimberly and Scott Hahn walk together in St. Peter's Square in Rome on April 4, 2012. (photo: David Kerr/CNA)

LITTLETON, Colo. — Catholic author and speaker Kimberly Hahn addressed a crowd of more than 200 in Colorado during a series of four talks she and her husband, noted theologian and author Scott Hahn, gave during “The Family Fully Alive” event on Nov. 1 at St. Mary’s Catholic Church near Denver.

In an interview afterward, she shared her pointers for Catholics seeking the meaning of being a living sacrifice to Christ through the marriage and family vocation.


What was your last book titled, and what was it seeking to address?

It was called Legacy of Love and was part of my series “Life-Nurturing Love.” [The series] seeks to impart a vision. Culturally outside the Church, but even inside the Church, I think there are a lot of people who assume getting married is really a change of name, but they don’t get how significant this calling is.

And it’s a vocation. That means it is a particular call to love, and it is a particular call to holiness, especially in conjunction with your spouse, so that the path to holiness really is not about doing it around your spouse — saying, “I want to be holy in spite of my husband” — but it should be very much alongside, with and through your spouse.


What would you say are some of the biggest issues married couples bring to you, and what ideas or counsel do you give them?

One of the most common questions is: “I’m married to a non-Catholic. How do I teach the children the faith well without my husband’s support?” That’s very difficult. There are statistical studies that my husband quoted on Saturday, that when the husband and father is actively engaged in the faith, over 90% of the family will fall in line behind him and follow his leadership. When the husband is not involved in his faith, the mother can hardly make up for it. It’s under 20% [of the family following the faith].

There are very misled young women who think all they have to do is “get this guy to let me raise the kids Catholic, and it will all be good.” In our family, we have a rule that you do not date non-Catholics. I love non-Catholics. I was not a Catholic at one point in time. I have many evangelical Protestants who love Christ fervently in our family. But I don’t believe dating is where you should do evangelization. I think friendship is, but I don’t think dating is. Anyone can fall in love with someone who’s not also a Catholic. You can fall in love with any person, but you have to ask yourself the question, “As challenging as marriage and family life is, who do I want to be alongside me in this entire endeavor of living a rich marriage life and family life and drawing these little ones close to the heart of Christ? If that’s my desire, that’s my vision, who do I need to date, who do I need to marry?”

There aren’t enough parents willing to call their children on to a bigger vision. That’s a big part of why I wrote this series. I wanted to give a resource to parents to pass on to their own children and say, “This vocation of marriage and family life is much bigger, deeper and richer than you ever imagined; take a look at how it’s examined by this one woman, put these things in your heart, and pray that God leads you to a man who shares those with you.”


What does it look like when a couple is committed to being a living sacrifice for the Lord?

They get the idea that our culture is constantly emphasizing the need to be self-centered. They understand they’re called to give self. I think younger couples who are taught well, their parents have been taught well, have that openness to life.

My life verse is Romans 12: 1-2. It really brings into sharp focus the hours I took to develop the Bible study, to write the lectures, to do a film and write a book. St. Paul is speaking to the Christians in Rome: He calls them to lay down their lives. He doesn’t say, “Well, for those of you who are single, you need to lay down your lives, but those of you who are married, you just go and do whatever you want.” He’s speaking to all of them to be a living sacrifice. It is a fantastic image for me of pregnancy, because even though it begins with a “Lord, I would love to have another baby,” it involves so many involuntary sacrifices. But if I can remember that I’m choosing to be a living sacrifice, I know that I am in conformity to the will of God, according to this verse. I can grow in faith; I can grow in grace in this vocation. We are so inundated by messages from our culture, it is essential we read this [scriptural truth] and that we’re  discipled by the older women who have lived this.


Tell me about your family and how you guide them in their vocational callings.

 We’re having our 11th grandchild in December. My oldest grandchild is only 6. We have six children. Our first three are married, our fourth is in seminary for our diocese, and the fifth one is pretty sure he is called to the priesthood as well, and then we have a 15-year-old who isn’t sure what God’s call in his life is. What we have always emphasized to each one of our children is: “You need to give Christ everything — total self-donation. And then he will lead you into the specific vocation where you can live that out fruitfully.”


How can we further disciple ourselves with the information from the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family?

 Whatever will come out from this [synodal process], when it’s promulgated by the Holy Father in a year or two, we need to sit down and really prayerfully go through it and say, “Holy Spirit, how do you want it to lead me into a closer, more intimate bond with you through this vocation of wife or mother?”

I believe, as Catholics, the vision has been put forth from the beginning by Jesus himself. If we lived a beautiful marriage [witness], growing in grace, growing in faith, growing in love, our culture would not wonder what marriage is. Instead of berating all the politicians or commentators because we feel so challenged, for what they’re saying is right that we know in our hearts is wrong — if we focused on living marriage well, I think we would draw our non-Catholic brothers and sisters in Christ to a deeper vision, and I think we would speak for families in our culture.

Anna Maria Basquez writes from Denver.