The Conversion of Saint Paul
Apostle to the Gentiles
The great Apostle Paul, named Saul at his circumcision, was born in Tarsus, the capital of Cilicia, and was by that privilege a Roman citizen, to which quality a great distinction and several exemptions were granted by the laws of the Empire. He was early instructed in the strict observance of the Mosaic law, and lived up to it in the most scrupulous manner. In his zeal for the Jewish law, which he believed to be the divine Cause of God, he became a violent persecutor of the Christians. He was one of those who combined to murder Saint Stephen, and then he presided in the violent persecution of the faithful which followed the holy deacon’s martyrdom. By virtue of the power he had received from the high priest, he dragged the Christians out of their houses, loaded them with chains, and thrust them into prison. In the fury of his zeal he applied for a commission to seize in Damascus all Jews who confessed Jesus Christ, and to bring them in bonds to Jerusalem, that they might serve as examples for the others.
But God was pleased to manifest in him His patience and mercy. While Saul was journeying to Damascus, he and his party were surrounded by a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, and suddenly the chief was struck to the ground. And then a voice was heard saying, Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me? And Saul answered, Who art Thou, Lord? and the voice replied, I am Jesus, whom you persecute. This mild admonition of Our Redeemer, accompanied with a powerful interior grace, cured Saul’s pride, assuaged his rage, and wrought at once a total change in him. Therefore, trembling and astonished, he cried out, Lord, what wilt Thou have me do? Our Lord ordered him to proceed on his way to the city of Damascus, where he would be informed of what was expected of him. Saul, arising from the ground, found that although his eyes were open, he saw nothing.
He was led into the city, where he was lodged in the house of a Christian named Judas. To this house came by divine appointment a holy man named Ananias, who, laying his hands on Saul, said, Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your journey, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Ghost. Immediately something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he recovered his sight; then he arose and was baptized. He stayed a few days with the disciples at Damascus, and began immediately to preach in the synagogues that Jesus was the Son of God. Thus a blasphemer and a persecutor was made an Apostle, and chosen as one of God’s principal instruments in the conversion of the world.
Reflection. Listen to the words of The Imitation of Christ, and let them sink into your heart: He who would keep the grace of God, let him be grateful for grace when it is given, and patient when it is taken away. Let him pray that it may be given back to him, and be careful and humble, lest he lose it.
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); The Holy Bible: Old and New Testaments