Thursday, January 22, 2009

St. Paul the Apostle to the Gentiles

Jan. 25 is the feast of the conversion of St. Paul.

The liturgy is that of the feast day instead of the Sunday.

St. Paul is the most prominent personality of the New Testament, apart from Jesus. Thirteen of the 27 books of the New Testament bear his name as the author. He was born in Tarsus, in Asia Minor (now part of Turkey). He was known as Saul, was a Jew and well educated in the Jewish faith.

We first meet him in the Acts of the Apostles where we read in Chapter 7, Verse 58, that those who were stoning St. Stephen to death, “Left the cloaks in the care of a young man named Saul.” Saul later was given authority to arrest Christians. While on this mission, on the road to Damascus, Saul was launched from his horse and the voice of Jesus said, “Saul, Saul why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4). This led to his conversion, to his name being changed to Paul and to his call to be the apostle to the Gentiles.

He undertook three missionary journeys, bringing many into the Church, and wrote letters to various Church communities and individuals. The Acts of the Apostles tells us that he was brought to Rome as a prisoner. Tradition tells us that he was put to death, along with St. Peter in Rome around the year 65 during the reign of Nero.

Pope Benedict has proclaimed this to be the year of St. Paul in the Church and the celebration of the 2,000th anniversary of his birth.

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