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The Road To Damscus

The stain glass window above recalls the event on the road to Damascus when St Paul encountered Jesus whose Church he was persecuting.

As a result of this theophany, Paul converted to faith in Jesus Christ and became a fervent preacher of the Gospel.

Reflections

Saint Paul (Feast Day - June 29th)

Background

Saint Paul, whose Hebrew name was Saul, was a native of Tarsus in Cilicia and a disciple of the famous doctor of the Law, Gamaliel. He was a zealous persecutor of the Christians until Christ appeared to him while on his way to Damascus. Paul became the great Apostle of the Nations, whose many missionary journeys are recorded in the Acts of the Apostles. Saint Paul was beheaded in Rome under Nero.

The Road To Damascus

Paul, the indefatigable Apostle of the Gentiles, was converted from Judaism on the road to Damascus. St. Paul’s entire life can be explained in terms of one experience—his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus. In an instant, he saw that all the zeal of his dynamic personality was being wasted.

Perhaps he had never seen Jesus, who was only a few years older. But he had acquired a zealot’s 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 goal—being 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 people—the 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.

The Days After His Conversion

He remained some days in Damascus after his Baptism, and then went to Arabia, possibly for a year or two to prepare himself for his future missionary activity. Having returned to Damascus, he stayed there for a time, preaching in the synagogues that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. For this he incurred the hatred of the Jews and had to flee from the city. He then went to Jerusalem to see Peter and pay his homage to the head of the Church.

Later he went back to his native Tarsus, where he began to evangelize his own province until called by Barnabus to Antioch. After one year, on the occasion of a famine, both Barnabus and Paul were sent with alms to the poor Christian community at Jerusalem. Having fulfilled their mission they returned to Antioch.

Soon after this, Paul and Barnabus made the first missionary journey, visiting the island of Cypress, then Pamphylia, Pisidia, and Lycaonia, all in Asia Minor, and establishing churches at Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe.

After the Apostolic Council of Jerusalem Paul, accompanied by Silas and later also by Timothy and Luke, made his second missionary journey, first revisiting the churches previously established by him in Asia Minor, and then passing through Galatia. At Troas a vision of a Macedonian was had by Paul, which impressed him as a call from God to evangelize in Macedonia. He accordingly sailed for Europe, and preached the Gospel in Philippi. Thessalonica, Beroea, Athens, and Corinth. Then he returned to Antioch by way of Ephesus and Jerusalem.

On his third missionary journey, Paul visited nearly the same regions as on the second trip, but made Ephesus where he remained nearly three years, the center of his missionary activity. He laid plans also for another missionary journey, intending to leave Jerusalem for Rome and Spain. Persecutions by the Jews hindered him from accomplishing his purpose. After two years of imprisonment at Caesarea he finally reached Rome, where he was kept another two years in chains.

The Acts of the Apostles gives us no further information on the life of the Apostle. We gather, however, from the Pastoral Epistles and from tradition that at the end of the two years St. Paul was released from his Roman imprisonment, and then traveled to Spain, later to the East again, and then back to Rome, where he was imprisoned a second time and in the year 67, was beheaded.

The Life Work Of St. Paul

Paul was the first great Christian theologian, establishing some of the building blocks of the faith. St. Paul shows himself to be a profound religious thinker and he has had an enduring formative influence in the development of Christianity.

The true sign of Paul's importance is that even nearly 2000 years after his death he still inspires passion. The centuries only make more apparent his greatness of mind and spirit. His feast day is June 29th.

Prayer In Honour Of St. Paul

O God of knowledge and giver of wisdom, who bringest to light the hidden things of darkness, and givest the word unto them that preach the gospel with great power, who of Thy goodness didst call Paul, who was sometime a persecutor, to be a chosen vessel, and wast pleased in him, that he should become a chosen apostle and preacher of the gospel of Thy kingdom, O Christ our God. Thee also do we now entreat, O Thou good and that lovest man.

Graciously grant unto us and unto all Thy people a mind without wandering and a clear understanding, that we may learn and understand how profitable are Thy holy teachings, which are now come unto us by him; and even as he was made like unto Thee, the leader unto life, so make us to be like unto him in deed and doctrine, the leader unto life, so make us to be like unto him in deed and doctrine, that we may glorify Thy holy Name and ever glory in Thy Cross. And Thou art He unto whom we ascribe praise and glory and worship, the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, now and ever and unto the ages of all ages. Amen.

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