Fidelity to the Word
Our Lord and His Holy Apostles at the Last Supper


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Graciously grant to us, we beseech Thee, O Lord, the spirit to think and do always such things as be rightful: that we, who cannot exist without Thee, may be enabled to live according to Thy will.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Holy Apostle Paul

I wonder what Rabbi Gamaliel thought of his student Saul (better known to us as St. Paul). Gamaliel was a moderating force in the Sanhedrin; he argued for lenient treatment of Christians.

Many believe that Saul was also a member of the Sanhedrin. He was certainly not a moderating force there: when the first Christian martyr died, Saul held the coats of the men doing the stoning and approved what they did.

Saul continued to persecute the Church, arresting some and scattering others. (St. Philip the Deacon is one who evaded Saul. He traveled first north to Samaria and then west to Gaza, making converts, notably Simon Magus and the Ethiopian eunuch).

Saul was on the road to Damascus to persecute the Church there, when our Lord intervened, blinding him, rebuking him, then sending Ananias, the bishop of Damascus, to heal and baptize him. In Damascus, Saul began speaking out on behalf of the Church instead of against it.

He soon withdrew to Arabia, perhaps to meditate on the Scriptures and on the revelation he had personally received, and to understand and prepare for the new life to which the Lord was calling him.

After three years he returned to Damascus, began preaching the gospel again, and was soon forced to flee by the offended Jews of that city. He went to Jerusalem to visit Saint Peter, and there was met with distrust, because of his history, until Saint Barnabas vouched for him. In Jerusalem he again preached the gospel, and again antagonized the local Jewish population (specifically the Hellenized Jews). They plotted his murder, so leaving Jerusalem he returned to his native Tarsus and is lost to history for the next few years.

While Paul was in Tarsus, the followers of Christ that had been dispersed by persecutions spoke to Jew and gentile, converting many. Saint Barnabas was sent to support the new Church in Antioch; he sought out Paul, and together the two of them built up the Church there. It was in Antioch that the followers of Christ were first named Christians.

Antioch became the base from which Saint Paul set out on the great journeys of evangelization recorded in Holy Scripture. The Catholic Encyclopedia divides his travels into "three great Apostolic expeditions of which Antioch was in each instance the starting-point and which invariably ended in a visit to Jerusalem."

When the Book of Acts ends, St. Paul is still in the midst of his labors. He is believed to have travelled as far west as Spain to preach the Good News.

He ended his days in Rome, around the mid-60s AD, during the persecution by Emperor Nero. The Cistercian Abbey of Tre Fontane is located on the site of his beheading.

Saint Paul is invoked and honored with St. Peter in the Confiteor, in the prayer to the Most Holy Trinity, in the Communicantes, in the Libera nos, and in the Leonine prayers recited after Low Mass. He is remembered every June 29th together with the first Pope, Saint Peter, who was also martyred in Rome.

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