Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul

 
Happy Feast day of the Conversion of St. Paul! The conversion of Saul, persecutor of the early church, was of pivotal importance for the worldwide development of Christianity. Paul means much for our faith and for the New Testament. Today we celebrate that significant event on the road to Damascus when Saul, fallen to amazement at a great light from heaven, spoke with the risen Savior and arose as Paul, to become the Apostle to the Gentiles.

Paul was born at Tarsus, the capital of Cilia around 4 A.D. A Jew, he spoke Greek and he held Roman citizenship. He belonged to the tribe of Benjamin and was given the name Saul at the time of his circumcision. As a Roman citizen from birth, he also had the Latin name Paul. He learned to be a tent maker from his father, or rather to make the material of which the tents were made (goat's wool or linen fibers).  At the age of 12 or 13, he left home and was sent to Jerusalem to be educated by Rabbi Gamaliel the Elder, where he acquired a great love for the Mosaic Torah. As a devout Jew, he viewed Christianity as a threat to Jewish identity and orthodoxy. Thus, he fiercely persecuted the "Church of God". He took an active part in the stoning of Stephen, the Church's first martyr.

Around 35 or 36 AD, Paul met Jesus on his way to Damascus, who asked why he was persecuting Him through His followers. Jesus then told him to go into the city where he would be told what to do. Paul was blinded for three days, and was taken into Damascus where the Lord told Ananius, a disciple, to go to Paul and heal him. At that point, “something like scales fell from Paul's eyes,” he was healed and he became baptized, and started preaching about Jesus in the synagogues. (His conversion is described in Acts in three different versions.)

Following his conversion, Paul went to Arabia to pray for three years, then went to visit Peter, after which he began to travel to preach the good news that Jesus was the "Messiah and the Son of God." He became a tireless "Apostle for the Gospel." He was martyred as an Apostle in Rome around 65 AD.

Patron: Against snakes; authors; Cursillo movement; evangelists; hailstorms; hospital public relations; journalists; lay people; missionary bishops; musicians; poisonous snakes; public relations personnel; public relations work; publishers; reporters; rope braiders; rope makers; saddlemakers; saddlers; snake bites; tent makers; writers; Malta; Rome; Poznan, Poland; newspaper editorial staff Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Diocese of Covington, Kentucky; Diocese of Birmingham, Alabama; Diocese of Las Vegas, Nevada; Diocese of Providence, Rhode Island; Diocese of Worcester, Massachusetts.

Symbols: Book and sword; three fountains; two swords; scourge; serpent and a fire; armour of God; twelve scrolls with names of his Epistles; phoenix; palm tree; shield of faith; sword; book.

Prayer to Saint Paul the Apostle

O Glorious Saint Paul, after persecuting the Church you became by God's grace its most zealous Apostle. To carry the knowledge of Jesus, our divine Savior, to the uttermost parts of the earth you joyfully endured prison, scourgings, stonings, and shipwreck, as well as all manner of persecutions culminating in the shedding of the last drop of your blood for our Lord Jesus Christ.

Obtain for us the grace to labor strenuously to being the faith to others and to accept any trials and tribulations that may come our way. Help us to be inspired by your Epistles and to partake of your indomitable love for Jesus, so that after we have finished our course we may join you in praising him in heaven for all eternity. Amen.

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