Saint Brigid Religious Education
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Paul

Paul was born about the same time as our Lord. His name was Saul, and probably the name Paul was also given to him in infancy "for use in the Gentile world," as “Saul” would be his Hebrew home-name. He was a native of Tarsus, the capital of Cilicia, a Roman province in the southeast of Asia Minor. That city stood on the banks of the river Cydnus and became a center of extensive commercial traffic and became a city distinguished for the wealth of its inhabitants.

His father was a Jew, a Pharisee, of the tribe of Benjamin, of pure and unmixed Jewish blood. His mother was a pious woman. We read of his sister and his sister's son and of other relatives, but there is no indication that Paul was ever married. Though a Jew, his father was a Roman citizen. How he obtained this privilege we are not informed. It was a valuable privilege, and one that was to prove of great use to Paul. Perhaps the most natural career for the youth to follow was that of a merchant. But it was decided that he should go to college and become a rabbi, that is, a minister, a teacher, and a lawyer all in one.

According to Jewish custom, however, he learned a trade before entering on the more direct preparation for the sacred profession. The trade he acquired was the making of tents from goats' hair cloth, a trade which was one of the commonest in Tarsus. Saul was sent, when about thirteen years of age probably, to the great Jewish school of sacred learning at Jerusalem as a student of the law. Here he became a pupil of the celebrated rabbi Gamaliel, and here he spent many years in an elaborate study of the Scriptures.

After the period of his student-life expired, he probably left Jerusalem for Tarsus, where he may have been engaged in connection with some synagogue for some years. But we find him back again at Jerusalem very soon after the death of our Lord. Here he now learned the particulars regarding the crucifixion, and the rise of the new sect of the "Nazarenes." For some two years after Pentecost, Christianity was quietly spreading its influence in Jerusalem.

Paul became the active leader in the furious persecution by which the rulers then sought to exterminate Christianity. The Christians went on preaching the word. Hearing that they had taken refuge in Damascus, he obtained from the chief priest letters authorizing him to proceed on his persecuting career. This was a long journey of about 130 miles, which would take perhaps six days. As he went onward he was breathing out threatening of slaughter. But the crisis of his life was at hand. He had reached the last stage of his journey, and was within sight of Damascus. As he and his companions rode on, suddenly at mid-day a brilliant light shone round them, and Saul was laid prostrate in terror on the ground, a voice sounding in his ears, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" The risen Savior was there. In answer to the anxious inquiry of the stricken persecutor, “Who are you, Lord?” he said, “I am Jesus who you persecute” This was the moment of his conversion

Ananias, a disciple living in Damascus, was informed by a vision of the change that had happened to Saul, and was sent to him to open his eyes and admit him by baptism into the Christian church. The whole purpose of his life was now permanently changed. He began to preach the gospel “boldly in the name of Jesus” (Acts 9:27). He then went to Antioch. After remaining “a long time”, probably till A.D. 50 or 51, Paul and Barnabas were sent as deputies to consult the church at Jerusalem. The council or synod which was there held (Acts 15).

While at Corinth, he wrote his two epistles to the church of Thessalonica, his earliest apostolic letters. Very shortly before his departure from Ephesus, the apostle wrote his First Epistle to the Corinthians.

While at Jerusalem, at the feast of Pentecost, he was almost murdered by a Jewish mob in the temple. He was detained a prisoner for two years in Herod's Prison. This first imprisonment came at length to a close, Paul having been acquitted, probably because no witnesses appeared against him. During this period of freedom he wrote his first epistle to Timothy and his epistle to Titus. The year of his release was signalized by the burning of Rome, which Nero saw fit to attribute to the Christians. A fierce persecution now broke out against the Christians. Paul was seized, and once more conveyed to Rome a prisoner.

During this imprisonment he probably wrote the Second Epistle to Timothy, the last he ever wrote. The trial ended, Paul was condemned, and delivered over to the executioner. He was led out of the city, with a crowd of the lowest rabble at his heels. The fatal spot was reached, he knelt beside the block; the headsman's axe gleamed in the sun and fell; and the head of the apostle of the world rolled down in the dust" (probably A.D. 66), four years before the fall of Jerusalem

 

St. Paul’s feast day is June 29.

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