St. Paul, apostle

Also Jan 25, The Conversion of St. Paul. Author of Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemon.

From Butler's Lives of the Saints 1894:
ST. PAUL was born at Tarsus, of Jewish parents, and studied at Jerusalem, at the feet of Gamaliel. While still a young man, he held the clothes of those who stoned the proto-martyr Stephen; and in his restless zeal he pressed on to Damascus, "breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of Christ." But near Damascus a light from heaven struck him to the earth. He heard a voice which said, "Why persecutest thou Me? " He saw the form of Him Who had been crucified for his sins, and then for three days he saw nothing more. He awoke from his trance another man—a new creature in Jesus Christ. He left Damascus for a long retreat in Arabia, and then, at the call of God, he carried the Gospel to the uttermost limits of the world, and for years he lived and labored with no thought but the thought of Christ crucified, no desire but to spend and be spent for Him. He became the apostle of the Gentiles, whom he had been taught to hate, and wished himself anathema for his own countrymen, who sought his life. Perils by land and sea could not damp his courage, nor toil and suffering and age dull the tenderness of his heart. At last he gave blood for blood. In his youth he had imbibed the false zeal of the Pharisees at Jerusalem, the holy city of the former dispensation. With St. Peter he consecrated Rome, our holy city, by his martyrdom, and poured into its Church all his doctrine with all his blood. He left fourteen Epistles, which have been a fountain-head of the Church's doctrine, the consolation and delight of her greatest Saints. His interior life, so far as words can tell it, lies open before us in these divine writings, the life of one who has died forever to himself and risen again in Jesus Christ. "In what," says St. Chrysostom, "in what did this blessed one gain an advantage over the other apostles? How comes it that he lives in all men's mouths throughout the world? Is it not through the virtue of his Epistles?" Nor will his work cease while the race of man continues. Even now, like a most chivalrous knight, he stands in our midst, and takes captive every thought to the obedience of Christ.

From Butler's Lives of the Saints 1895:

See Tillemont, t. 1, p. 192.

THIS great apostle was a Jew, of the tribe of Benjamin. At his
circumcision, on the eighth day after his birth, he received the name of
Saul. His father was by sect a Pharisee, and a denizen of Tarsus, the
capital of Cilicia: which city had shown a particular regard for the
cause of the Caesars; on which account Cassius deprived it of its
privileges and lands; but Augustus, when conqueror, made it ample amends
by honoring it with many new privileges, and with the freedom of Rome,
as we read in the two Dions and Appian. Hence St. Paul, being born at
Tarsus, was by privilege a Roman citizen, to which quality a great
distinction and several exemptions were granted by the laws of the
empire.[1] His parents sent him young to Jerusalem, where he was
educated and instructed in the strictest observance of the law of Moses,
by Gamaliel,[2] a learned and noble Jew, and probably a member of the
Sanhedrim; and was a most scrupulous observer of it in every point. He
appeals even to his enemies to bear evidence how conformable to it his
life had been in every respect.[3] He embraced the sect of the
Pharisees, which was of all others the most severe, though by its pride
the most opposite to the humility of the gospel.[4] It was a rule among
the Jews that all their children were to learn some trade with their
studies, were it but to avoid idleness, and to exercise the body, as
well as the mind, in something serious.[5] It is therefore probable that
Saul learned in his youth the trade which he exercised even after his
apostleship, of making tents.[6]

Saul, surpassing all his equals in zeal for the Jewish law and their
traditions, which he thought the cause of God, became thereby a,
blasphemer, a persecutor, and the most outrageous enemy of Christ.[7] He
was one of those who combined to murder St. Stephen, and by keeping the
garments of all who stoned that holy martyr, he is said by St. Austin to
have stoned him by the hands of all the rest;[8] to whose prayers for
his enemies he ascribes {217} the conversion of St. Paul:[9] "If
Stephen," said he, "had not prayed, the church would never have had St.

After the martyrdom of the holy deacon, the priests and magistrates of
the Jews raised a violent persecution against the church at Jerusalem,
in which Saul signalized himself above others. By virtue of the power he
had received from the high priest, he dragged the Christians out of
their houses, loaded them with chains, and thrust them into prison.[10]
He procured them to be scourged in the synagogues, and endeavored by
torments to compel them to blaspheme the name of Christ. And as our
Saviour had always been represented by the leading men of the Jews as an
enemy to their law, it was no wonder that this rigorous Pharisee fully
persuaded himself that _he ought to do many things contrary to the name
of Jesus of Nazareth_.[11] By the violences he committed, his name
became everywhere a terror to the faithful. The persecutors not only
raged against their persons, but also seized their estates and what they
possessed in common,[12] and left them in such extreme necessity, that
the remotest churches afterwards thought it incumbent on them to join in
charitable contributions to their relief. All this could not satisfy the
fury of Saul; he breathed nothing but threats and the slaughter of the
other disciples.[13] Wherefore, in the fury of his zeal, he applied to
the high priest and Sanhedrim for a commission to take up all Jews at
Damascus who confessed Jesus Christ, and bring them bound to Jerusalem,
that they might serve as public examples for the terror of others. But
God was pleased to show forth in him his patience and mercy; and, moved
by the prayers of St. Stephen and his other persecuted servants, for
their enemies, changed him, in the very heat of his fury, into a vessel
of election, and made him a greater man in his church by the grace of
the apostleship, than St. Stephen had ever been, and a more illustrious
instrument of his glory. He was almost at the end of his journey to
Damascus, when about noon, he and his company were on a sudden
surrounded by a great light from heaven, brighter than the sun.[14] They
all saw the light, and being struck with amazement, fell to the ground.
Then Saul heard a voice, which to him was articulate and distinct; but
not understood, though heard by the rest:[15] _Saul, Saul, why dost thou
persecute me?_ Christ said not: Why dost thou persecute my disciples?
but me: for it is he, their head, who is chiefly persecuted in his
servants. Saul answered: _Who art thou, Lord?_ Christ said: _Jesus of
Nazareth, whom thou persecutest. It is hard for thee to kick against the
goad:_ "to contend with one so much mightier than thyself. By
persecuting my church you make it flourish, and only prick and hurt
yourself." This mild expostulation of our Redeemer, accompanied with a
powerful interior grace, strongly affecting his soul, cured his pride,
assuaged his rage, and wrought at once a total change in him. Wherefore,
trembling and astonished, he cried out: _Lord, what wilt thou have me to
do?_ What to repair the past? What to promote your glory? I make a
joyful oblation of myself to execute your will in every thing, and to
suffer for your sake afflictions, disgraces, persecutions, torments, and
every sort of death. The true convert expressed this, not in a bare form
of words, nor with faint languid desires, nor with any exception lurking
in the secret recesses of his heart; but with an entire sacrifice of
himself, and an heroic victory over the world with its frowns and
charms, over the devils with their snares and threats, and over himself
and all inclinations of self-love; devoting himself totally to God. A
{218} perfect model of a true conversion, the greatest work of almighty
grace! Christ ordered him to arise and proceed on his journey to the
city, where he should be informed of what he expected from him. Christ
would not instruct him immediately by himself, but, St. Austin
observes,[16] sent him to the ministry[17] which he had established in
the church, to be directed in the way of salvation by those whom he had
appointed for that purpose. He would not finish the conversion and
instruction of this great apostle, whom he was pleased to call in so
wonderful a manner, but by remitting him to the guidance of his
ministers; showing us thereby that his holy providence has so ordered
it, that all who desire to serve him, should seek his will by listening
to those whom he has commanded us to hear, and whom he has sent in his
own name and appointed to be our guides. So perfectly would he abolish
in his servants all self-confidence and presumption, the source of error
and illusion. The convert, rising from the ground, found that, though
his eyes were open, he saw nothing. Providence sent this corporal
blindness to be an emblem of the spiritual blindness in which he had
lived, and to signify to him that he was henceforward to die to the
world, and learn to apply his mind totally to the contemplation of
heavenly things. He was led by the hand into Damascus, whither Christ
seemed to conduct him in triumph. He was lodged in the house of a Jew
named Judas, where he remained three days blind, and without eating or
drinking. He doubtless spent his time in great bitterness of soul, not
yet knowing what God required of him. With what anguish he bewailed his
past blindness and false zeal against the church, we may conjecture both
from his taking no nourishment during those three days, and from the
manner in which he ever after remembered and spoke of his having been a
blasphemer and a persecutor. Though the entire reformation of his heart
was not gradual, as in ordinary conversions, but miraculous in the order
of grace, and perfect in a moment; yet a time of probation and a severe
interior trial (for such we cannot doubt but he went through on this
occasion) was necessary to crucify the old man and all other earthly
sentiments in his heart, and to prepare it to receive the extraordinary
graces which God designed him. There was a Christian of distinction in
Damascus, much respected by the Jews for his irreproachable life and
great virtue; his name was Ananias. Christ appeared to this holy
disciple; and commanded him to go to Saul, who was then in the house of
Judas at prayer: Ananias trembled at the name of Saul, being no stranger
to the mischief he had done in Jerusalem, or to the errand on which he
was set out to Damascus. But our Redeemer overruled his fears, and
charged him a second time to go to him, saying: _Go, for he is a vessel
of election to carry my name before Gentiles and kings, and the children
of Israel: and I will show him how much he has to suffer for my name_.
For tribulation is the test and portion of all the true servants of
Christ. Saul in the mean time saw in a vision a man entering, and laying
his hands upon him, to restore his sight. Ananias, obeying the divine
order, arose, went to Saul, and laying his hands upon him, said:
_Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to thee on thy journey, hath
sent me that thou mayest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy
Ghost._ Immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he
recovered his eyesight....

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