Thursday, July 03, 2008

Why a Year of St. Paul?

Why St. Paul? We hear his name in the Sunday Liturgy, followed frequently by a reading which makes only limited sense and which the homilist may not refer to at all. And so the great Saint, who is the main reason why we Gentiles belong to a worldwide movement called "Christianity," has still to be discovered by most of us. St. Paul turned the work of Jesus out to the whole world and for that every nation and every century has to thank him.

There are so many facets of St. Paul to focus on for this year: his conversion, his preaching, his journeys, his martyrdom. But the one thing I want to focus on this year is Paul as a person, Paul as a human being like myself. In this way, he becomes much more accessible and much closer to my own experience of the Christian life. Paul was a man utterly enamored of the Lord, incessantly active in word and deed to tell the world about his fascinating Friend, and reaching out in every possible way to bring the Good News to anybody who would listen. It is this human Paul, rejoicing when his message is accepted but grieving like a mother over her errant children when he hears bad news, who should be known and loved.

Too many, if they know anything about him at all, see St. Paul as an early Christian writer, doubtless of importance to the early Christians, but with little to link him to our times. Such a view could not be more wrong, not only because his profound teaching will be relevant in every age until the end of time, but because he conveyed that teaching in such a passionate, exuberant and dramatic way in his immortal letters. Little did he think, as he agonized over those relatively few converts he made personally, that all this heart-breaking work would eventually disappear - with the exception of the Church in Malta. Little did he think he was writing for the Christian ages to come and not just for those few unreliable Christians he made and often wept over.

It is this great human being, great Saint and our great Patron in the Pauline Family that we are now going to focus on this year. With him as our leader we will experience something of what he experienced, and we will learn to love the Divine Master he loved so much.

--Slightly adapted from "The Great Apostle," a limited publication of the Holy Family Institute

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