January 24, 2018

Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul, Apostle

The conversion of Saint Paul

Feast Day - January 25th 

St. Paul, named Saul at his circumcision, was born in Tarsus the capitol of Cilicia, of Jewish parents descended from the tribe of Benjamin. He was a Roman citizen from birth and a devout Jew trained in the Law. As he was "a young man" at the stoning of Stephen and "an old man" when writing to Philemon, about the year 63 AD, St. Paul was most likely 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 taught in the practice of disputation. As a convinced and zealous Pharisee, he returned to Tarsus before the public ministry of Christ commenced in Palestine.

Some time after the Resurrection of Our Lord, St. Paul returned to Palestine. His profound conviction made his zeal develop into 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 Christians that would follow aiming to crush Christianty.

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 appeared to him saying, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?" Instantly, the man, who would become the Apostle to the Gentiles, realized that Jesus was identifying Himself with the very people whom he, Saul, had been persecuting.

A miraculous 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 preaching the Good News of Christ. He was martyred in Rome around 65 AD. O God, who taught the world through your Apostle Paul, draw us, we pray, nearer to you by the example of him whose conversion we celebrate today, and so, make us witnesses of your love to all. Through our Lord. Amen.

Source: Adapted excerpt from Father Alban Butler's Lives of the Saints.

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