During today's general audience in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall, Pope Benedict XVI spoke about the life of St. Paul. Recounting that the Church honors the great missionary in a special way this year, the Holy Father said that Catholics should emulate Paul by sparing no energy and enduring trials for the sake of the Gospel.
After making clear the significance of this year as the 2,000th anniversary of St. Paul's birth, Pope Benedict noted Paul's Jewish birth in Tarsus, his Hebrew name "Saul" and his training as a "tent" maker. The Holy Father explained that from around the age of 12, Paul was instructed in Jerusalem in the strict Pharisaic tradition, on the basis of which, the future saint "viewed the Christian movement as a threat to orthodox Judaism".
The great missionary, Pope Benedict noted, persecuted the Church "until a dramatic encounter on the road to Damascus radically changed his life."
The Holy Father recalled Paul's historical fame as a Christian and apostle, not as a Pharisee, and the saint's three missionary journeys, which are told by St. Luke in the Acts of the Apostles. The three missionary journeys spurred the so-called Council of the Apostles, which decided that pagan converts to Christianity were not required to observe the Mosiac Law, the spread of the Gospel to Europe via Macedonia, the "birth" of the term "Christian in Antioch, and the writing of Paul's Epistles.
Pope Benedict also highlighted Paul’s arrest and imprisonment in Jerusalem, and later in Rome. St. Luke closes his account of St. Paul's life noting that that the great missionary spent two years of house arrest in Rome.
The Holy Father concluded by reminding his audience of St. Paul's words: "I do everything for the sake of the Gospel." With this summary of Paul's journeys in mind, Pope Benedict continued, "Let us pray that the Lord, who made Paul see the light and know his Word and who touched the interior of Paul's heart, … will also make us see the light so that our hearts may also be touched by his Word and so that we may also give the world the light of the Gospel and the truth of Christ, for which it thirsts."
Pope Benedict indicated that next week's audience address will focus on the conversion of St. Paul.