The Conversion of St. Paul

A Phariseee educated by the best of the Jewish rabbis, Paul was a faithful Jew who strongly persecuted Christians who he considered to be a threat to the Jewish faith.

Paul was a Roman citizen by birth which gave him certain rights and freedom. More well known by his Roman name Paul, he was originally referred to by his Jewish name Saul of Tarsus in the Bible.

Paul consented to the killing of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr, and was on the road to persecute Christians in the city of Damascus when he was confronted by the risen Jesus and underwent a profound conversion.

Not one of the original twelve Apostles who accompanied Jesus during his public ministry, Paul is known as the Apostle to the Gentiles. In spite of danger, imprisonment, and persecution he travelled extensively and spread the message of the Gospel. A large part of the New Testament consists of letters that he wrote during his travels.

He was beheaded in Rome around the year 64 AD, dying as a martyr for the faith he had once tried to destroy.

On January 25 each year, the Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle, the only conversion commemorated by the Church.

A reminder of God’s merciful love:

An encounter with Jesus led to Paul’s radical conversion:

A fragile human being confronted by the power of God:

So Ananias went and entered the house; laying his hands on him, he said, “Saul, my brother, the Lord has sent me, Jesus who appeared to you on the way by which you came, that you may regain your sight and be filled with the holy Spirit.” Immediately things like scales fell from his eyes and he regained his sight. He got up and was baptized, and when he had eaten, he recovered his strength. He stayed some days with the disciples in Damascus, and he began at once to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God. All who heard him were astounded and said, “Is not this the man who in Jerusalem ravaged those who call upon this name, and came here expressly to take them back in chains to the chief priests?” But Saul grew all the stronger and confounded [the] Jews who lived in Damascus, proving that this is the Messiah.

Acts 9: 17-22

Paul became a great missionary after his conversion:

A great persecutor became a great Apostle:

Because of Paul we know about Jesus:

The central element of the whole experience is the fact of conversion. Destined to evangelize the Gentiles ‘to turn them from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God that they may obtain the forgiveness of their sins, Saul is called by Christ, above all, to work a radical conversion upon himself. Saul thus begins his laborious road of conversion that will last as long as he lives, beginning with unusual humility with that “What must I do, Lord?” and docilely letting himself be led by the hand to Ananias, through whose prophetic ministry it will be given to him to know God’s plan.

Pope John Paul II, Homily, 25 January 1983

Paul was an educated Jew and a Roman citizen:

The spiritual and intellectual foundation for Christian theology:

Such is not the case for Simon Peter when he confesses Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of the living God”, for Jesus responds solemnly: “Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in Heaven.” Similarly Paul will write, regarding his conversion on the road to Damascus, “When He who had set me apart before I was born, and had called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach Him among the Gentiles…” “and in the synagogues immediately [Paul] proclaimed Jesus, saying, ‘He is the Son of God.'” From the beginning this acknowledgment of Christ’s divine sonship will be the centre of the apostolic faith, first professed by Peter as the Church’s foundation.

Catechism of the Catholic Church 442

The site of Paul’s conversion is in present day Syria:

The Truth, Goodness, and Beauty of the Catholic Church

Authority to interpret Scripture and establish doctrine:

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