Today we celebrate the conversion of Saint Paul, an event filled with so much drama, and a conversion so complete that it’s long been a favorite subject of artists and storytellers alike! If you want to read the long version, start with Acts 6:5 where Stephen is chosen as the first deacon of the new Church. His unwavering witness led to his persecution and eventual martyrdom, where Saul (who will be later renamed Paul) enters the story in the background as the young witness who held people’s coats as they were stoning Stephen to death. The chilling statements in Acts 8:1-3 sums up the direction of Saul’s zeal:
“And Saul approved of their killing him. On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.”
From there, skip ahead to chapter 9 for the heart of today’s feast, and for what may be the best conversion story ever!
Parents of strong willed children, take heart and ask Saint Paul to be your patron! His example of boundless energy and zeal is a fabulous example of what can happen when a strong will is focused toward service to the Lord.
And finally, if you go to Mass today you will likely hear this Collect:
O God, who taught the whole world through the preaching of the blessed Apostle Paul, draw us, we pray, nearer to you through the example of him whose conversion we celebrate today, and so make us witnesses to your truth in the world. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Art Credit: The always wonderful Web Gallery of Art