+JMJ+ With the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul we’ve come to the end of this series of posts focusing on the Octave of Christian Unity. That’s no accident, I think. There are notes and links below at the end of this post.
First of all let’s get something out of the way. Paul did not change his name when he “converted” because he always had a Jewish name and a Roman name: Saul among the Jews and Paul among the Romans. He was a Roman citizen, after all. But unlike Simon who was renamed Peter by Jesus (or Jesus added Peter to his name), Paul was not renamed by Jesus. Jesus called him Saul when He appeared to him on the road to Damascus. More accurately, Jesus called him Shaul, his Hebrew name.
When Saul and Baranabas are in Cyprus, as recorded by St. Luke, Saul begins to use his Roman name, which he already had, and is known as Paul from then on. His Roman name would open doors for him—and for the Gospel—where his Hebrew name would not.
And there is this matter of his conversion. Was St. Paul really a convert? Well, yes and no. Yes, he became a follower of Christ and had a deep conversion of heart and mind (as all Christians are called to have and to go on having). But, no, he would have seen this as following the Messiah and true King of Israel, the fulfillment of all that his Hebrew forebears had longed for. And he realized that this Messiah was more than a military leader come to restore the physical or worldly kingdom and bring about Jewish political ascendancy. He realized that Christ was the Lord, as in, The Lord God. (Not God the Father but God the Son.) God called Saul and Saul answered him, taking the zeal he already had for the Lord and putting it to work for the conversion of his fellow Jews and ultimately for the Gentiles.
I grew up in a Methodist family in the Bible Belt in the South and I’ve heard a lot of people claim that Paul was some kind of a proto-Protestant. Clearly they have been misled. Paul was thoroughly Catholic in his views, in his teachings and writings. In my years as a Catholic I’ve come across some really good sources for studying St. Paul. I’ll list a couple of good Catholic sources in the notes below. It’s important to understand what the Church teaches and not let our thinking be unduly influenced by those around us who do not think with the mind of the Church and are often hostile to it.
Well, now, lookee here. Signed on to YouTube just now and what did I see but a video by Scott Hahn wherein he talks about some of these very things and more.
O God, who taught the whole world through the preaching of the blessed Apostle Paul, draw us, we pray, nearer to you through the example of him whose conversion we celebrate today, and so make us witnesses to your truth in the world. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
Collect for the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul.
Thank you for visiting and reading. Until next time, whoever and wherever you are, please stay safe and well, virtuous and holy, and become who you were meant to be: a saint! May the Lord bless and keep you, and may His peace be always with you. +JMJ+
Notes and Links
- Video, Scott Hahn on the Conversion of St. Paul.
- To learn more about the Catholic Paul:
- The Apostle Paul: Unlocking the Mysteries of His Theology, by Dr. Brant Pitre, college-level course, offered in CD or MP3 formats. Highly recommended.
- The Catholic Paul, by Taylor Marshall. Highly recommended. Paperback, Kindle. (Amazon affiliate links. See Full Disclosure below.)
- The Collect for the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, from the Catholic Culture site.
Images: In the banner: The Last Supper, by Philippe de Champaigne. The Conversion of St. Paul, Caravaggio, Wikimedia Commons, public domain. The Preaching of St. Paul at Ephesus, by Eustache Le Sueur, Wikimedia Commons, public domain. Saul in Hebrew and transliterated into English with pronunciation, from Strong’s 7586, as found on BibleHub.com. The Apostle Paul, by Abraham Bloemaert, Centraal (not a typo) Museum via Wikimedia Commons, public domain.
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