Skip to comments.The Conversion of St. Paul
Posted on 01/24/2007 10:36:36 PM PST by Salvation
|THE CONVERSION OF ST. PAUL.|
|Feast: January 25
|See Tillemont, t. 1, p. 192.
This great apostle was a Jew, of the tribe of Benjamin. At his circumcision, on the eighth day after his birth, he received the name of Saul. His father was by sect a Pharisee, and a denizen of Tarsus, the capital of Cilicia: which city had shown a particular regard for the cause of the Caesars; on which account Cassius deprived it of its privileges and lands; but Augustus when conqueror, made it ample amends by honoring it with many new privileges, and with the freedom of Rome, as we read in the two Dions and Appian. Hence St. Paul, being born at Tarsus, was by privilege a Roman citizen, to which quality a great distinction and several exemptions were granted by the laws of the empire. His parents sent him young to Jerusalem, where he was educated and instructed in the strictest observance of the law of Moses, by Gamaliel, a learned and noble Jew, and probably a member of the Sanhedrin; and was a most scrupulous observer of it in every point. He appeals even to his enemies to bear evidence how conformable to it his life had been in every respect. He embraced the sect of the Pharisees, which was of all others the most severe, though by its pride the most opposite to the humility of the gospel. It was a rule among the Jews that all their children were to learn some trade with their studies, were it but to avoid idleness, and to exercise the body, as well as the mind, in something serious. It is therefore probable that Saul learned in his youth the trade which he exercised even after his apostleship, of making tents.
Saul, surpassing all his equals in zeal for the Jewish law and their traditions, which he thought the cause of God, became thereby a blasphemer, a persecutor, and the most outrageous enemy of Christ. He was one of those who combined to murder St. Stephen, and by keeping the garments of all who stoned that holy martyr, he is said by St. Austin to have stoned him by the hands of all the rest6 to whose prayers for his enemies he ascribes the conversion of St. Paul: "If Stephen," said he, "had not prayed, the church would never have had St. Paul."
After the martyrdom of the holy deacon, the priests and magistrates of the Jews raised a violent persecution against the church at Jerusalem, in which Saul signalized himself above others. 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. He procured them to be scourged in the synagogues, and endeavored by torments to compel them to blaspheme the name of Christ. And as our Saviour had always been represented by the leading men of the Jews as a n enemy to their law, it was no wonder that this rigorous Pharisee fully persuaded himself that <he ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.> By the violences he committed, his name became everywhere a terror to the faithful. The persecutors not only raged against their persons, but also seized their estates and what they possessed in common, and left them in such extreme necessity, that the remotest churches afterwards thought it incumbent on them to join in charitable contributions to their relief. All this could not satisfy the fury of Saul; he breathed nothing but threats and the slaughter of the other disciples." Wherefore, in the fury of his zeal, he applied to the high priest and Sanhedrin for a commission to take up all Jews at Damascus who confessed Jesus Christ, and bring them bound to Jerusalem, that they might serve as public examples for the terror of others. But God was pleased to show forth in him his patience and mercy: and, moved by the prayers of St. Stephen and his other persecuted servants. for their enemies, changed him,, in the very heat of his fury, into a vessel of election, and made him a greater mall in his church by the grace of the apostleship, than St. Stephen had ever been, and a more illustrious instrument of his glory. He was almost at the end of his journey to Damascus, when, about noon, he and his company were ml a sudden surrounded by a great light from heaven, brighter than the sun. They all saw the light, and being struck with amazement, fell to the ground.. Then Saul heard a voice, which to him was articulate and distinct; but not understood, though heard by the rest : <Saul, Saul, why cost thou persecute me>? Christ said not: Why cost thou persecute my disciples? but me: for it is he, their head, who is chiefly persecuted in his servants. Saul answered: <Who art thou, Lord>? Christ said: <Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutes. It is hard for thee to kick against the goad>:" to contend with one so much mightier than thyself. By persecuting my church you make it flourish, and only prick and hurt yourself." This mild expostulation of our Redeemer, accompanied with a powerful interior grace, strongly affecting his soul, cured his pride, assuaged his rage, and wrought at once a total change in him. Wherefore, trembling and astonished, he cried out: <Lord, what wilt thou have me to do>? What to repair the past? What to promote your glory? I make a joyful oblation of myself to execute your will in every thing, and to suffer for your sake afflictions, disgraces, persecutions, torments, and every sort of death. The true convert expressed this, not in a bare form of words, nor with faint languid desires, nor with any exception lurking in the secret recesses of his heart; but with an entire sacrifice of himself, and au heroic victory over the world with its frowns and charms, over the devils with their snares and threats, and over himself and all inclinations of self-love; devoting himself totally to God. A perfect model of a true conversion, the greatest work of almighty grace! Christ ordered him to arise and proceed on his journey to the city, where he should be informed of what he expected from him. Christ would not instruct him immediately by himself, but St. Austin observes, sent him to the ministry which he had established in the church, to be directed in the way of salvation by those whom he had appointed for that purpose. He would not finish the conversion and instruction of this great apostle, whom he was pleased to call in so wonderful a manner, but by remitting him to the guidance of his ministers; showing us thereby that his holy providence has so ordered it, that all who desire to serve him, should seek his will by listening to those whom he has commanded us to hear, and whom he has sent in his own name and appointed to be our guides. So perfectly would he abolish in his servants all self-confidence and presumption, the source of error and illusion. The convert, rising from the ground, found that, though his eyes were open, he saw nothing. Providence sent this corporal blindness to be an emblem of the spiritual blindness in which he had lived, and to signify to him that he was henceforward to die to the world, and learn to apply his mind totally to the contemplation of heavenly things.. He was led by the hand into Damascus, whither Christ seemed to conduct him in triumph. He was lodged in the house of a Jew named Judas, where he remained three days blind, and without eating or drinking. He doubtless spent his time in great bitterness of soul, not yet knowing what God required of him. With what anguish he bewailed his past blindness and false zeal against the church, we may conjecture both from his taking no nourishment during those three days, and from the manner in which he ever after remembered and spoke of his having been a blasphemer and a persecutor. Though the entire reformation of his heart was not gradual, as in ordinary conversions, but miraculous in the order of grace, and perfect in a moment; yet a time of probation and a severe interior trial (for such we cannot doubt but he went through on this occasion) was necessary to crucify the old man and all other earthly sentiments in his heart, and to prepare it to receive the extraordinary graces which God designed him. There was a Christian of distinction in Damascus, much respected by the Jews for his irreproachable life and great virtue; his name was Ananias. Christ appeared to this holy disciple, and commanded him to go to Saul, who was then in the house of Judas at prayer: Ananias trembled at the name of Saul, being no stranger to the mischief he had done in Jerusalem, or to the errand on which he was set out to Damascus. But our Redeemer overruled his fears, and charged him a second time to go to him, saying: <Go, for he is a vessel of election to carry my name before Gentiles and kings, and the children of Israel: and I will show him how much he has to suffer for my name.> For tribulation is the test and portion of all the true servants of Christ. Saul in the mean time saw in a vision a man entering, and laying his hands upon him, to restore his sight. Ananias, obeying the divine order, arose, went to Saul, and laying his hands upon him, said: <Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to thee on thy journey, hath sent me that thou mayest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.> Immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he recovered his eyesight. Ananias added: <The God of our fathers hath chosen thee that thou shouldst know his will and see the just one, and shouldst hear the voice from his mouth: and thou shalt be his witness unto all men to publish what thou hast seen and heard. Arise, therefore, be baptized and washed from thy sins, invoking the name of the Lord.> Saul then arose, was baptized, and took some refreshment. He stayed some few days with the disci. pies at Damascus, and began immediately to preach in the synagogues, that Jesus was the Son of God, to the great astonishment of all that heard him, who said: <Is not this he who persecuted at Jerusalem those who invoked the name of Jesus, and who is come hither to carry them away prisoners>? Thus a blasphemer and a persecutor was made an apostle, and chosen to be one of the principal instruments of God in the conversion of the world.
St. Paul never recalled to mind this his wonderful conversion, without raptures of gratitude and praise to the divine mercy. The church, in thanksgiving to God for such a miracle of his grace, from which it has de rived such great blessings, and to commemorate so miraculous an instance of his almighty power, and to propose to penitents a perfect model of a true conversion has instituted this festival, which we find mentioned in several calendars and missals of the eighth and ninth centuries, and which pope Innocent III. commanded to be observed with great solemnity. It was for some time kept a holy day of obligation in most churches in the West; and we read it mentioned as such in England in the council of Oxford in 1222 in the reign of king Henry III.
1 Acts, xxi. 29, xxii. 3.
2 Ibid, xxvi 3.
3 Ibid, xxvi 4.
4 Ibid, xxvi 5.
5 Rabbi Juda says, "That a parent who neglects his duty, is as criminal as if he taught his son to steal." See Grotius and Sanctius on Acts xviii. 3.
6 These tents were for the use of soldiers and mariners, and were made of skins sewn together. Some think that his business was that of making tapestry and hangings for theatres.
7 Ga. i. 14.
8 Serm. 301.
9 Ibid. 116, c. 4. Acts, vi.
10 Acts, viii. 3, xxii. 4, xxvi. 10.
11 Acts, xxvi. 9.
12 Heb. x. 32.
13 Acts, x. 1.
14 Acts, ix. xxii. xxvi.
15 Qn. Evang. 1, 2, c. 40, et praef. 1, de doctr. Christ. p. 32.
16 St. Austin doubts not but Ananias was a bishop, or at least a priest. The Greeks give him a place on their calendar on the 1st of October, and style him bishop of Damascus and martyr.
17 Conc. Labbe, t. xi. p. 274.
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Which shows that this theologian knows less than my 7th grader.
First of all, Paul preached primarily to Gentiles and opposed the "Judaizers" who wanted all the new converts to be considered Jews: this is only the MAJOR church controversy dealt with in the Acts of the Apostles.
Second, "And it came about that for an entire year they met with the church, and taught considerable numbers; and the disciples were first called Christians at Antioch." (Acts 11:23-26). After having gone to Tarsus to get the new convert Saul, Barnabas returns with Saul and they work with the church at Antioch for a year. Later, Barnabas and Saul (soon to be known as Paul) will travel through Asia Minor together establishing many churches in many different cities. Antioch would become their "headquarters" from where they would launch their missions and return after completing them.
It was during this year in which Barnabas and Saul are at Antioch that the disciples were first called "Christians".
Increasaingly, when I hear someone described as a "theologian" (especially a "creative theologian") it causes warning bells and flashing red lights in my head, like the terms "bio-ethicist" and "medical ethicist." It puts my caution on high alert.
I regularly ref Saul/Paul when speaking with protestants. Jesus asked Saul why was he persecuting HIM...most folks think Saul was just attacking the Church. I make the point that when THEY attack the Church, THEY are attacking Jesus (same goes for the sspx too). I also bring to their attention that Saul/Paul was sent to the nascent Catholic Church for catechesis and curing of his blindness.
If all one needs is Jesus and the Bible,then this true acccount doesn't belong in Scripture. Still, they argue a church is not necessary..
C'est la vie
Many people, though --- and I don't mean just Protestants --- have a very, very weak grasp of the significance of the Mystical Body of Christ and the Communion of Saints: the fact that we are much, much more like united cells, tissues, organs in one mighty embodied Being, than like a swarm of gnats or a swirl of plankton, each individual one sufficient unto itself with respect to the Holy Spirit and Scripture --- which seems to be the notion that many have.
I debated myself about posting that.
Am I too fair-minded?
Excellent point. I'll plan to use it in the future too!
I took it off the Daily Readings links. Thanks for your input.
January 25, 2007
Conversion of St. Paul
Pauls entire life can be explained in terms of one experiencehis meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus. In an instant, he saw that all the zeal of his dynamic personality was being wasted, like the strength of a boxer swinging wildly. Perhaps he had never seen Jesus, who was only a few years older. But he had acquired a zealots hatred of all Jesus stood for, as he began to harass the Church: ...entering house after house and dragging out men and women, he handed them over for imprisonment (Acts 8:3b). Now he himself was entered, possessed, all his energy harnessed to one goalbeing a slave of Christ in the ministry of reconciliation, an instrument to help others experience the one Savior.
One sentence determined his theology: I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting (Acts 9:5b). Jesus was mysteriously identified with peoplethe loving group of people Saul had been running down like criminals. Jesus, he saw, was the mysterious fulfillment of all he had been blindly pursuing.
From then on, his only work was to present everyone perfect in Christ. For this I labor and struggle, in accord with the exercise of his power working within me (Colossians 1:28b-29). For our gospel did not come to you in word alone, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and [with] much conviction (1 Thessalonians 1:5a).
Pauls life became a tireless proclaiming and living out of the message of the cross: Christians die baptismally to sin and are buried with Christ; they are dead to all that is sinful and unredeemed in the world. They are made into a new creation, already sharing Christs victory and someday to rise from the dead like him. Through this risen Christ the Father pours out the Spirit on them, making them completely new.
So Pauls great message to the world was: You are saved entirely by God, not by anything you can do. Saving faith is the gift of total, free, personal and loving commitment to Christ, a commitment that then bears fruit in more works than the Law could ever contemplate.
Paul's conversion is one of the most inspirational of stories. It gives us hope for the future of mankind.
I see in the bible that Ananias was sent by the Lord to cure his blindness. I don't see where he went to a Catholic church to cure his blindness.
Acts 10 And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord.
11 And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and enquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth,
12 And hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight.
13Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem:
14And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name.
15But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel:
16For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake.
17And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.
18And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.
Where in Scripture will one find the words Incarnation, Trinity or Bible?
The Conversion of Saint Paul, Apostle
The Conversion of Saul
Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni
Fresco, 625 x 661 cm
Cappella Paolina, Palazzi Pontifici, Vatican
The conversion of Saul of Tarsus while he was on his way to Damascus is one of the most touching miracles in the history of the early Church. It shows us how faith comes from grace and from one's free cooperation. The doctrine on the Mystical Body of Christ receives proof and a clear illustration when Christ says, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" We should realize that the best way to hasten the unity of all Christians is to foster our own daily personal conversion.
Source: Daily Roman Missal, Edited by Rev. James Socías, Midwest Theological Forum, Chicago, Illinois ©2003
God our Father,
You taught the Gospel to all the world
through the preaching of Paul Your apostle.
May we who celebrate his conversion to the faith
follow him in bearing witness to Your truth.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. +Amen.
First Reading: Acts of the Apostles 22:3-16
"I am a Jew, born at Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamali-el, educated according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as you all are this day. I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women, as the high priest and the whole council of elders bear me witness. From them I received letters to the brethren, and I journeyed to Damascus to take those also who were there and bring them in bonds to Jerusalem to be punished.
"As I made my journey and drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone about me. And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, 'Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?' And I answered, 'Who are you, Lord?' And He said to me, 'I am Jesus of Nazareth whom you are persecuting.' Now those who were with me saw the light but did not hear the voice of the One who was speaking to me. And I said, 'What shall I do, Lord?' And the Lord said to me, 'Rise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do.' And when I could not see because of the brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me, and came into Damascus.
"And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, came to me, and standing by me said to me, 'Brother Saul, receive your sight.' And in that very hour I received my sight and saw him. And he said, 'The God of our fathers appointed you to know His will, to see the Just One and to hear a voice from His mouth; for you will be a witness for Him to all men of what you have seen and heard. And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.'
Alternative First Reading: Acts of the Apostles 9:1-22
But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he journeyed he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed about him. And he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to Him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?" And he said, "Who are you, Lord?" And He said, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting; but rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do." The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul arose from the ground; and when his eyes were opened, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, "Ananias." And he said, "Here I am, Lord." And the Lord said to him, "Rise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for a man of Tarsus named Saul; for behold, he is praying, and he has seen a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight." But Ananias answered, "Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to thy saints at Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call upon thy name." But the Lord said to him, "Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine to carry My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of My name." So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came, has sent me that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit." And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized, and took food and was strengthened.
For several days he was with the disciples at Damascus. And in the synagogues immediately he proclaimed Jesus, saying, "He is the Son of God." And all who heard him were amazed, and said, "Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called on this name? And he has come here for this purpose, to bring them bound before the chief priests." But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ.
Gospel Reading: Mark 16:15-18
He[Jesus] said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: in My name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover."
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