conversion st paul

The Conversion of St. Paul

The Conversion of St. Paul

This Thursday 25th January is the Feastday of the Conversion of St. Paul and the end of the Week of Prayer for the Unity of Christians. St. Paul, after Jesus, is probably the most influential figure in the history of Christian thought, doctrine and mission. Saul of Tarsus began life as a fervent follower of the Jewish law. At the age of 14, he studied in Jerusalem as a Pharisee under the famous rabbi Gamaliel and following the rabbinic tradition of studying a trade as well as the Law, he learnt tent-making. Although Aramaic was his mother tongue, he had a strong Hebrew education. His birth in Tarsus automatically gave him the status of a Roman citizen and he spoke Greek fluently, which made him eminently qualified for his later role as Apostle to the Gentiles. The changing of his name from Saul to the Hellenic form Paul, traditionally associated with his conversion, may have been a Romanisation present from his childhood. As a Pharisee, he persecuted the early Christian Church relentlessly, strictly applying the Jewish Law, which the new sect appeared to be flouting. The story of his conversion is in Acts 9: 1-22 and Acts 22: 3-16. While he was on the way to Damascus to persecute Christians, he was blinded by a bright light and thrown to the ground from his horse. He heard the words ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ As Pope Benedict XVI once wrote, ‘The Risen One spoke to Paul, called him to the apostolate and made him a true Apostle, a witness of the Resurrection, with the specific task of proclaiming the Gospel to the Gentiles, to the Graeco-Roman world.’

Thursday’s feast reminds us that the best and most effective way to hasten the unity of all Christians is to foster our own daily personal conversion to Christ.

Image: Daily Compass