January 25, 2016

January 25: Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul

Conversion of St. Paul

Saint Paul [named Saul prior to his conversion] was a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin, born in Tarsus, the capitol of Cilicia. Saul was a Roman citizen and devout Jew who strictly followed the precepts of his faith. He grew to became a violent persecutor of Christians. While traveling to Damascus Saul beheld a miraculous apparition of Our Lord. By virtue of his encounter with Christ, Saul, now Paul, went from persecutor to Apostle. Divine Providence ordained him Apostle of the Gentiles. Paul made three missionary journeys to Asia Minor and southern Europe where he won many converts for the faith. The New Testament contains fourteen of his Epistles. In the year 66, Paul was beheaded in Rome and received the crown of martyrdom. His remains are kept in the Basilica of St. Paul near the Ostian Way. The effect of his evangelization cannot be exaggerated.

The Life of St. Paul

St. Paul was born at Tarsus of Jewish parents who were descended from the tribe of Benjamin. He was a Roman citizen from birth. As he was "a young man" at the stoning of Stephen and "an old man" when writing to Philemon, about the year 63, he was probably born around the beginning of the Christian era.

To complete his schooling, St. Paul was sent to Jerusalem, where he sat at the feet of the learned Gamaliel and was educated in the strict observance of the ancestral Law. Here he also acquired a good knowledge of exegesis and was trained in the practice of disputation. As a convinced and zealous Pharisee, he returned to Tarsus before the public life of Christ opened in Palestine.

Some time after the death of Our Lord, St. Paul returned to Palestine. His profound conviction made his zeal develop to a religious fanaticism against the infant Church. He took part in the stoning of the first martyr, St. Stephen, and in the fierce persecution of the Christians that followed.

Entrusted with a formal mission from the high priest, he departed for Damascus to arrest the Christians there and bring them bound to Jerusalem. As he was nearing Damascus, about noon, a light from heaven suddenly blazed round him. Jesus with His glorified body appeared to him and addressed him, turning him away from his apparently successful career.

An immediate transformation was wrought in the soul of St. Paul. He was suddenly converted to the Christian Faith. He was baptized, changed his name from Saul to Paul, and began travelling and preaching the Faith. He was martyred as an Apostle in Rome around 65 AD.

Excerpted from Lives of the Saints.

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Collect Prayer

O God, who taught the whole world through the preaching of the blessed Apostle Paul, draw us, we pray, nearer to you through the example of him whose conversion we celebrate today, and so make us witnesses to your truth in the world. 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.

Prayer for the Intercession of St. Paul

In this prayer, we ask for the intercession of St. Paul, whom the Holy Spirit guided in his preaching, so that we too may be guided in the ways of the Lord.

Thou art the vessel of election, St. Paul the Apostle, the Preacher of truth in the whole world.

V. Pray for us, St. Paul the Apostle.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray.

Almighty and everlasting God, who, of Thy divine mercy, didst instruct Thy blessed Apostle Paul what he should do that he might be filled with the Holy Ghost; by his admonitions directing us and his merits interceding for us, grant that we may serve Thee in fear and trembling and so be filled with the comfort of Thy heavenly gift. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

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