CONVERSION of SAINT PAUL, APOSTLE (c.3-c.65) – Patron saint of evangelists, missionaries, authors, journalists and tent makers
Today, the universal Church honors the conversion of Saint Paul, a man whose entire life can be explained in terms of one experience – his dramatic encounter with Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus, an extraordinary incident which changed his life forever, becoming the great Apostle to the Gentiles and whose writings help us to reflect upon our own life of faith even today.
Paul was born a Jew at Tarsus, Cilicia (territory that is now modern Turkey) around the year 3 A.D. and was given the name Saul, as he was from the tribe of Benjamin; and he was also the son of a Roman citizen. Saul was a Talmudic student, educated by Gamaliel as a Pharisee. And by trade, he earned a living as a tent-maker.
Surpassing all his equals in zeal for the Jewish Law and their traditions, Saul became the leading persecutor of the early Christians, in which he believed he was following the mind and will of God. He was also one of those present when Saint Stephen, one of the first deacons, was murdered, by holding onto the garments of all who stoned the holy martyr to death.
Afterwards, the priests and magistrates of the Jews began a severe persecution against the Way (a term for the early Christians) in Jerusalem, in which Saul established himself above the others in his zealotry to fulfill what he felt was pleasing to God in preserving the purity of the Jewish faith, for he was “…entering house after house and dragging out men and women, [and] handed them over for imprisonment” (Acts 8:3b).
In his excessive zeal, he applied to the high priest and the Sanhedrin for a commission to arrest all those who professed their faith in Jesus the Nazarene at Damascus, and bring them bound to Jerusalem to face trial, so that they might serve as public examples for the purpose of inflicting terror on others who were embracing what he considered to be a blasphemous religion.
As Saul was nearing Damascus about noontime, a light from Heaven “…suddenly flashed around him, and he fell to the ground.” Jesus, with His glorified Body, appeared to Saul and spoke to him. As a result of this supernatural encounter with the Risen Christ, Sault turned away from his mission of persecution.
An immediate transformation was wrought in the heart, mind and soul of Saul. And while staying in Damascus, he converted to not only accepting, but thoroughly embracing the Christian faith. He was baptized, eventually changing his name from Saul to Paul, and began travelling and preaching the Good News, the message of Jesus Christ, in four missionary journeys, becoming known as the Apostle to the Gentiles.
His Letters to the Christian communities, some of which he helped to establish, form a large percentage of the inspired writings of the New Testament. Paul was chosen by God to become one of the principal instruments whom God would use for the conversion of the world!
Saint Paul, on his fourth and final missionary journey, was beheaded in Rome, martyred as an Apostle about the year 65 A.D.
We celebrate this special Feastday of Saint Paul’s conversion on January 25.
(From catholicnewsagency.com, saints.sqpn.com, americancatholic.org, catholicculture.org and newadvent.org)
(The following prayer is from the Roman Breviary from the Proper for the Conversion of Saint Paul, Apostle)
“God our Father, You taught the Gospel to all the world through the preaching of Paul, Your Apostle. May we, who celebrate his conversion to the faith, follow him in bearing witness to Your Truth.
“We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”