The Commemoration of Saint Paul
Saint Paul was originally Saul of Tarsus, born in that city of Cilicia of Jewish parents, two or three years after the Saviour was born in Bethlehem of Judea. He studied in Jerusalem at the feet of the famous teacher Gamaliel, who later would be converted and listed among the Saints.
While still a young man, Saul was present to oversee, as commanding officer, the stoning of the proto-martyr Stephen. In his restless zeal he pressed on to Damascus, breathing threats and slaughter against the disciples of Christ, intending to drag them from their houses and imprison them. But on the road a light from heaven struck him to the earth. He heard a voice which said, Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goad. He asked who was speaking, and astonished on hearing His Name, inquired what Jesus wanted of him. And then, struck blind, for three days he saw nothing more. But he had been told what to do. He was led by the hand to Damascus, where he remained in the house of a Christian until, three days later, he rose for his baptism by a Christian leader of that city. Then he saw the light of day again, and the brilliance of the full truth for the first time, as another man, a new creature in Jesus Christ.
He left Damascus for a long retreat in Arabia, before he set out at the call of God, and carried the Gospel to the uttermost limits of the known western world, for years living and laboring with no thought but that of Christ crucified, no desire but to dispense himself for Him. He became the Apostle to the Gentiles, whom he had been taught to hate. But he would gladly have been anathema if he could thereby have saved his own countrymen from condemnation, though they sought his life. Perils by land and sea could not dampen his courage, nor sufferings and age dull the tenderness of his heart.
When finally he knew that his hour had come to be dissolved and to be with Christ, as he had long desired, he wrote during his second imprisonment to his spiritual son Timothy, that he had fought the good fight, finished his course, kept the faith”, and that there remained for him to receive the crown of justice which His Lord was preparing for him on the final day. With Saint Peter in his final year he consecrated Rome, the new holy city, by his martyrdom.
Saint Paul has left to the Church fourteen Epistles, which have been a fountainhead of doctrine, elucidating the most basic truths taught by Christ, and constituting the consolation and delight of her greatest Saints. His interior life, insofar as words can express it, lies open before us in these divine writings; it is the life of one who has died forever to himself, and risen again in Christ Jesus. Saint John Chrysostom, his imitator, wrote: The heart of Paul is the Heart of Christ! Nor will his labor cease while the race of man continues. Even now, like a chivalrous knight, he stands alive in our midst, and captivates each of his readers to the obedience of Christ.
Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints, a compilation based on Butler’s Lives of the Saints, and other sources by John Gilmary Shea (Benziger Brothers: New York, 1894).