Wednesday, January 25, 2006


Since he's one of my favorite saints, and since the accounts of his conversion are among my favorite Scripture passages, it follows that today's solemnity -- the Conversion of Saint Paul -- has to be one of my favorite days.

Because his conversion was so stupendous!

Think about it. Here was a guy who had everything. He was a Pharisee, well respected among his people, and among his superiors. He had only the best of teachers, including, according to his own account, Gamaliel. Now Gamaliel was no slouch! Even today, Jews rightfully consider him one of the finest minds of his time.

And Saul was a good and pious Jew.

Yes, he deviled the early Christians, but to his mind, he had good reason...he sincerely believed that Christianity was the single most dangerous threat to the Chosen People of the Lord.

Remember, he'd never met Jesus before Damascus. He didn't sense, as perhaps the first disciples did, the divinity of this supposedly ordinary carpenter. He never saw the paralized man cured. He certainly never, as did James and Peter and John, see the glory of Jesus transfigured!

No, all he knew -- or thought he knew -- was this: some upstart was, even after death, messing around with his fellow Jews...carrying them away from the one true God.

Imagine what he had to give up in order to follow Jesus!

Essentially, Saul -- now Paul -- had to give up not only his status in the community. (Which was considerable.)

No. He had to give up what he'd been weened on since childhood...that blasphemy was intolerable and the eradication of it was the only way to preserve the relationship between God and His Chosen ones.

But he did it. He understood, through the grace of this same God, the Divinity of the One he had been persecuting. ("Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?") Understood that, in persecuting the followers of Christ, he was persecuting Christ himself.

And without a backwards glance he willing turned in the position, respect, and beliefs he had known all of his life for -- what? -- hard word, imprisonment, torture, and the ultimate crown of martyrdom.

Each of us has his own conversion story.

At Mass today, the priest reminded each of us that we all -- whether cradle Catholics, Protestants, converts to Catholicism -- have experienced once, or perhaps (one hopes!) many times, moments of conversion. You or I might not have been, literally, knocked off our horses.

But no doubt you and I have been knocked off our high horses and have been brought -- either for the first time or in a marvelous reunion -- into the arms of Jesus.

As we celebrate the conversion of Paul the Apostle, this might be a good time to reflect on our own blessed moments of conversion.

And as we conclude this week of Prayer for Christian Unity, to ask Saint Paul to intercede for us as we work toward becoming one in Christ Jesus.