Paul, or Saul as he was known until he became a Christian, was a Roman citizen, born at Tarsus, in present-day Turkey. He was brought up an an orthodox Jew, studying in Jerusalem for a time under Gamaliel, the most famous rabbi of the day. Describing himself, he said, “I am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin” (Romans 11:1).
A few years after the death of Jesus, Saul came in contact with the new Christian movement, and became one of the most fanatical of those who were determined to stamp out this “dangerous heresy”. Saul witnessed the stoning of Stephen. He was on the way to Damascus to lead in further persecution of the Christians when his dramatic conversion took place.
From that day, Paul devoted his life totally to Jesus Christ, and especially to the conversion of Gentiles. The Acts of the Apostles describes the courage and determination with which he planted Christian congregations over a large aread of the land bordering the eastern Mediterranean Sea.
His letters, the earliest of Christian writings, reveal him as the greatest of the interpreters of Christ’s death and resurrection, and as the founder of Christian theology. He writes, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
Paul describes himself as small and insignificant in appearance: “His letters are weighty and strong,” it was said of him, “but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech is of no account” (2 Corinthians 10:10). He writes of having a disability which he had prayed God to remove from him, and quotes the Lord’s reply, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore Paul went on to say, “I will al the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Paul is believed to have been martyred at Rome in the year 64, during the persecution under the emperor Nero.
- Adapted from Lesser Feasts and Fasts
O God, by the preaching of your apostle Paul you have caused the light of the Gospel to shine throughout the world: Grant, we pray, that we, having his wonderful conversion in remembrance, may show ourselves thankful to you by following his holy teaching; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
The propers for the commemoration of the Conversion of Saint Paul the Apostle are published on the Lectionary Page website.
Prayers to conclude the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
Gracious Father, we pray for your holy Catholic Church. Fill it with all truth, in all truth with all peace. Where it is corrupt, purify it; where it is in error, direct it; where in any thing it is amiss, reform it. Where it is right, strengthen it; where it is in want, provide for it; where it is divided, reunite it; for the sake of Jesus Christ your Son our Savior. Amen.
Almighty Father, whose blessed Son before his passion prayed for his disciples that they might be one, as you and he are one: Grant that your Church, being bound together in love and obedience to you, may be united in one body by the one Spirit, that the world may believe in him whom you have sent, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Everliving God, whose will it is that all should come to you through your Son Jesus Christ: Inspire our witness to him, that all may know the power of his forgiveness and the hope of his resurrection; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
O God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, our only Savior, the Prince of Peace: Give us grace seriously to lay to heart the great dangers we are in by our unhappy divisions; take away all hatred and prejudice, and whatever else may hinder us from godly union and concord; that, as there is but one Body and one Spirit, one hope of our calling, one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of us all, so we may be all of one heart and of one soul, united in one holy bond of truth and peace, of faith and charity, and may with one mind and one mouth glorify you; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.