“I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ I replied, ‘Who are you, sir?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus the Nazorean whom you are persecuting.’” ―Acts 22:7–8
Paul (also known as Saul) was a devout Jew with a fierce commitment to the Old Testament Scriptures. As the early Christians began to take root and grow, he felt threatened and sought ways to squash this new Faith. Paul witnessed the deadly stoning of St. Stephen and with great determination hunted down and persecuted countless other Christians. He was actually in the process of searching out more believers of Christ to terrorize when his destructive zeal came to a screeching halt.
Paul was traveling to Damascus when a blinding flash of light suddenly burst about him, causing him to fall off his horse. Lying on the ground completely stunned, he heard a voice. It was Jesus, from heaven, questioning Paul’s persecutions. An astounded Paul pulled himself up and realized he could not see. His traveling companions had to guide him the rest of the way to Damascus. After three days, a man named Ananias (Jan. 25), directed by a vision, sought out Paul and healed him of his blindness through the power of the Holy Spirit, and Paul immediately requested baptism.
This 180-degree turn was a perfect boost for the new Faith. Paul’s vehement loathing turned into an ardent love and support. Paul began to preach wherever he could; when he couldn’t preach, he wrote letters. His words, both verbal and written, struck a responsive chord in innumerable people’s hearts and influenced multitudes, who joyously came to believe in and love Jesus. However, Paul’s embracing of the Faith brought him persecutions in turn―beatings, riots and imprisonments. Nevertheless, his preachings and letters have had a wondrous and powerful ripple effect on Christianity even to this day.
Tradition tells us that Emperor Nero had Paul beheaded. It is believed that the site of his burial is where the beautiful church of Saint Paul Outside the Walls in Rome now stands, a perfect testimony to Paul’s tremendous gifts to Christianity.
Nine Days with St. Paul
St. Paul’s Feast Day is June 29 (the same as St. Peter’s!), and he is the patron saint for many things—including writers, musicians and laypeople. Consider spending a novena of days in prayer with this great biblical saint. Get to know him a little bit better by contemplating the passages below. Ask St. Paul to pray for any special intentions you might have during the nine days and see if you can connect with this holy man in a renewed way!
- Day 1 - Acts 8:1–3
- Day 2 - Acts 9:1–30
- Day 3 - Acts 13:1–3, 9
- Day 4 - Acts 14:8–20
- Day 5 - Acts 16:1–40
- Day 6 - Acts 20:7–12
- Day 7 - Acts 21:10–14
- Day 8 - Acts 28:11–16, 30–31
- Day 9 - 2 Timothy 4:7