Apostle to the Gentiles
Passionate and fervent, St Paul is famous for his dramatic conversion recounted several times in the scriptures. As the story goes… Saul (his Semitic name) was a devout Jew and a Pharisee. Believing the fledgling group of Christians to be a dangerous cult, he set out to arrest the followers of Jesus with the encouragement of the chief priests in Jerusalem. While travelling to Damascus, a brilliant light surrounded him and his companions. He was thrown to the ground and he heard a voice say: “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” When Saul asked who spoke, the voice replied: “I am Jesus who you persecute”. Blinded by his experience, his companions lead Saul to Damascus, where the Lord sent his disciple, Ananias, to minister to him. Praying over him, Saul’s sight was restored and he was baptised. He began to preach in the synagogues proclaiming Jesus as the Son of God.
From then on, Paul zealously proclaimed the gospel. Once the persecutor, he became the persecuted. Over the next two decades, he travelled extensively throughout Asia Minor and the Middle East establishing Christian communities in numerous cities and towns. He followed these visits with letters continuing the formation in the faith of the new believers. Many of these letters are recorded in the New Testament as the Epistles of St Paul. An educated man, Paul was literate in Greek and Hebrew. He wrote more books of the bible than any other author.
Throughout his travels, Paul suffered terribly. Shipwrecked three times, lashed and beaten several times, stoned once, he endured all for the sake of his mission. He was eventually arrested in Jerusalem and sent to Rome for trial. Shipwrecked again, he arrived in Rome where he was imprisoned for two years. As a Roman citizen, he was beheaded (rather than crucified) under the Emperor Nero in 64 AD. His remains are buried at the Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls in Rome.
From Darkness to Light
Inspired by the Spirit, the writings of Paul speak powerfully to contemporary men and women who seek to follow Christ. To mark the birthday of Saint Paul and his special contribution to the church, retell the story of his dramatic conversion with some drama of your own!
Commissioned by Christ to take the gospel message to the Gentiles (non-Jews), Paul is credited with the spread of Christianity beyond Palestine to the very heart of the Roman Empire. Often called the Thirteenth Apostle, this year calls us to deeper conversion.
“I send you , to open their eyes that they may turn from darkness to light.” Acts 26:17-18
Author: Francine Pirola
Over to you now! How has St Paul impacted your faith? Do you have a favourite quote from one of his letters? Have you never really thought much about him before? Tell us in the comments below!
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