Thursday, January 24, 2013

St. Paul's Conversion

Conversion of St. Paul, Sts. Peter & Paul Church, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada.

January 25th is a big day of celebration for us Daughters of St. Paul. The Church commemorates the day when Jesus stopped Saul of Tarsus in his tracks. He was on the way to Damascus, in fact, very close to the city when  a blinding light surrounded him, and a voice addressed him saying, "Saul, Saul why are you persecuting me?" Three times in the Acts of the Apostles St. Paul recounts the event at Damascus which changed him forever.The name of the feast is "The Conversion of St. Paul. Some writers prefer to call what happened to St. Paul at the gates of Damascus "the Damascus event." Paul did not have to "convert" to being a believer in God. He boosted of his strong attachment to the Jewish religion and to its monotheism (belief in one God alone). He did not to "convert" his attitude toward Jesus and his followers. With the question, "Why are you persecuting me?" Jesus the Lord penetrated Saul's iron will.
Christ made a direct intervention in Paul's life. Paul had set out to exterminate the Damascus Christians. Instead Paul abandoned his preconceived ideas about God and embraced Christ's divinity and humanity.
 After three days of blindness and of fasting, Saul of Tarsus was baptized. Ananias came to tell him the Lord's instructions. He who once fiercely persecuted Christians was privileged to "see the Righteous One and to hear his own voice"  and become his disciple. (See Acts of the Apostles 22:3-21; 9:1--22; 26:9--19). Saul eventually took on his Roman name, Paul, as he traveled the known world to establish communities of believers in Christ "The Righteous One."
Most of the book of the Acts of the Apostles tells of Paul's travels and tribulations as a missionary. At one point he recounts a litany of trials: being ship wrecked, beaten, imprisoned, ostracised from certain towns, lowered from the wall of Damascus in a basket, etc.
Paul may seem intellectual, cold and aloof to some who have read little of his letters. Paul had deep emotions, and great love for all his Christian converts.
I recommend that you read the three accounts of Paul's conversion story, and--a small dose of his Letters. Many are familiar with Paul's Hymn to Love, in 1 Corinthians 13:1--13. If you have never read St. Paul on your own, why not start with the Hymn to love.

Paul preaching, Sts. Peter & Paul Church, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada.

From St. Paul's Monastery Chapel, Canfield, Ohio.

Certain artistic renditions of Paul depict him as a saint leaning on a sword, perhaps holding a book to represent the gospel. During the Year of St. Paul, 2008--2009 the Archdiocese of Toronto, Ontario commissioned a Sister artist in the Holy Land to paint a new icon of St. Paul. Instead of a sword Paul, slighty bent from the waist, holds a book--the Bible. His gaze is contemplative and full of hope.

Toronto Icon of St. Paul (stained glass is reflected on the image from the chapel where the photo was taken.)

Let us pray today that St. Paul who saw the Risen One and heard his voice may on our behalf ask the Lord Jesus to let us see the face of Christ in all who surround us. May the Lord allow us to hear his voice in all those to whom we listen. May our voices speak for Christ as we seek today to tell all about him whom we too have seen with the eyes of faith, and heard with our ears tuned to hope. May we love each person we meet with the love and tenderness of the heart of the One who stopped Paul on the way to Damascus. We ask all this through Christ Our Lord in the unity of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
  St. Paul with St. Timothy depicted at Holy Martyrs Church, Oreland, PA., USA.


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