Acta Sanctorum: Conversion of St. Paul (Jan 25)
January 25, 2024
Fr. John Colacino C.PP.S.

January 25

Conversion of St. Paul

Liturgical Note

It is not easy to determine the origin and development of the festival. The translatio sancti Pauli in the martyrologies may possibly refer to one of the hypotheses given below: The translation of the sacred body of the apostle from its secret place of burial ad catacumbas on the Via Appia to its primitive tomb on the Via Ostiensis after Gallienus had restored their cemeteries to the Christians...The rebuilding of his sepulchral basilica on the Via Ostiensis, begun by Theodosius, continued by Valentinian  and Honorius, and completed by St Leo I.


Little by little, however, the historical facts were forgotten, and for the idea of a material translation of the relics of St Paul there was substituted that of a psychological and spiritual translation or change which befell the apostle on the way to Damascus; so from his physical translatio there was evolved his mystical conversio.

This feast of the Conversion of St Paul was formerly kept with great solemnity in the medieval Liturgy. The Pope himself often went to celebrate the stational Mass at the tomb of the apostle, a custom of which some traces have remained in the Liturgy.  The reason why so much importance is given in the Liturgy  to the conversion of St Paul on the road to Damascus is due to the apologetic value of such a sudden change, so that, after the miracle of Christ's resurrection, no other prodigy in the history of the early Church, all the circumstances being taken into account, is a stronger proof of the divine origin of Christianity than this marvellous conversion of Saul. -- Bl. Idelfonso Schuster; The Sacramentary

Scripture (Acts 22:3-16)

Paul said to the people, ‘I am a Jew and was born at Tarsus in Cilicia. I was brought up here in this city. I studied under Gamaliel and was taught the exact observance of the Law of our ancestors. In fact, I was as full of duty towards God as you are today. I even persecuted this Way to the death, and sent women as well as men to prison in chains as the high priest and the whole council of elders can testify, since they even sent me with letters to their brothers in Damascus. When I set off it was with the intention of bringing prisoners back from there to Jerusalem for punishment.
  ‘I was on that journey and nearly at Damascus when about midday a bright light from heaven suddenly shone round me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” I answered: Who are you, Lord? and he said to me, “I am Jesus the Nazarene, and you are persecuting me.” The people with me saw the light but did not hear his voice as he spoke to me. I said: What am I to do, Lord? The Lord answered, “Stand up and go into Damascus, and there you will be told what you have been appointed to do.” The light had been so dazzling that I was blind and my companions had to take me by the hand; and so I came to Damascus.
  ‘Someone called Ananias, a devout follower of the Law and highly thought of by all the Jews living there, came to see me; he stood beside me and said, “Brother Saul, receive your sight.” Instantly my sight came back and I was able to see him. Then he said, “The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will, to see the Just One and hear his own voice speaking, because you are to be his witness before all mankind, testifying to what you have seen and heard. And now why delay? It is time you were baptised and had your sins washed away while invoking his name.”’
(Year B)  In the First Letter to the Corinthian Christian community Paul had some very pointed things to say. He begins by warning us of the danger of clinging so strongly to people or opinions which we respect and reverence that we end up being disciples of some human person more than of Christ. He points out that some in the Corinthian community were claiming religious superiority because of their relationship to (say) Peter or a famous  preacher named Apollos or to Paul. But aren’t all of us disciples of Christ, and isn’t Christ alone everyone’s savior? So all of us are disciples of Jesus Christ and any other relationship is very secondary relative to our relationship to and with Christ. All are “members of Christ”? Can membership in a party founded on what somebody other than Jesus has said or done be more important than that membership? The problem was one of jealousy and the attempt to feel oneself more important than others. Hasn’t Jesus said that those who want to be important should do so by making themselves servants of others, acting indeed like the slaves of all the other members of their community? We are no different. We sometimes boast of a relationship with a certain theologian or bishop or spiritual leader or claim that advocating certain interpretations of Jesus’ teachings makes us in some way superior to those who don’t? Some take pride in maintaining traditional ways of worship or of acting out their faith while others want to boast of being led by the Spirit into new ways. Paul challenges us all to remember that we have not been called to 
partisanship but simply to Jesus Christ and to his Heavenly Father. “Is Christ divided?” he asks. Should we ask ourselves the same question? Despite all sorts of differences we must remember that it is Christ himself who calls us and to whom we owe allegiance. It is up to each of us to discover how to use the gifts our One God has given us individually so that we might proclaim the coming of the Reign of God. If we let ourselves become preoccupied by merely human differences we put ourselves in danger of becoming deaf to Christ’s own call to us. Those who use cell phones almost exclusively sometimes have to look for a “sweet spot”, a place which allows the phone to pick up signals to it without interference. Many years ago an advertisement for a certain phone service was built around the question, “Can you hear me now?” If you are consumed by partisan concerns you may find there is no longer a spot from which you can clearly hear Christ calling you. All that we need, all that God has promised, is given us in Jesus Christ. But we have to keep ourselves in an inner posture that allows us to hear Christ’s voice clearly. The crucial thing is that nothing at all should be allowed to become more important to us than what Christ has to teach and show us. He intends this to bring us all together in Him. (Sr. Dianne Bergant). 
Musical Selection
Almighty God, 
who caused the light of the gospel 
to shine throughout the world 
through the preaching of your servant Saint Paul: 
grant that we who celebrate his wonderful conversion 
may follow him in bearing witness to your truth; 
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, 
who lives and and reigns with you, 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and for ever. Amen. (English Missal)