I first visited the Daughters of Saint Paul despite the fact that Saint Paul was their patron. When I realized that I was thinking about entering the community, I strongly wished they had any other name! My "conversion" in my attitude towards Saint Paul was much less dramatic than Saint Paul's "conversion" to Christ on the road to Damascus, which we celebrate tomorrow, January 25th. (Have you ever noticed that Saint Paul is the only saint for whom we celebrate his conversion in the Church calendar --that is how important he is to the Church.) I became so devoted to Saint Paul that I asked for his name for my profession of vows.
Our Founder, Blessed James Alberione told us that we are to be "Saint Paul living today." He gave us many great reasons why he chose Saint Paul as our patron. Here is one of my favorites:
St. Paul entered so deeply into the spirit, the love, and the doctrine of the Divine Master that…he is recognized as his most faithful disciple and most authoritative interpreter.
Saint Paul was such a great apostle that he is often called "the Apostle." As Daughters of Saint Paul who seek to live and communicate Christ in all aspects of our lives, he is a wonderful patron because of his great passion for the Gospel, but also for humanness, his encouragement, and his heart, which St. John Chrysostom called, "the heart of Christ."
The Saint for Everyone
The Church thinks that Saint Paul is the saint for everyone. If you doubt this, think about this: almost every Sunday of the year, the entire Church listens to a reading from one of the Letters of St. Paul. Perhaps we don’t always think about this, since all of the letters in the New Testament are identified by their authors’ names except for those written by St. Paul. Saint Paul wrote so many letters in the New Testament that they are, instead, identified by his audience’s name. St. Paul was also the first disciple to try to put into words what it means to follow Christ in every day life, writing his first letters even before the Gospels were written.
As followers of Christ, we have a lot in common with the Christians of the first century and of every century since. St. Paul's spirituality is present in some way in every spirituality in the Church that has developed through the centuries: To live Christ (cf. Gal. 2:20). This sentiment has been expressed in many different ways through the centuries, but the core remains the same: that we live in Christ, through Christ, with Christ.
A Very Human Saint
Saint Paul is very honest about his life-changing encounter on the road to Damascus. As followers of Christ, we are called to live in continual conversion, and celebrating January 25th each year is a great pre-Lenten reminder of that need to examine our lives, to reject what separates us from God, and to turn our lives around.
Another reason Saint Paul is such a good patron to have is that we know a lot about his interior state. He is remarkably passionate and honest in his letters: about his feelings--especially his love for Christ and the people to whom he is sent--but also about his concerns, his hurt at betrayals, and his loneliness. He frequently talks about his weaknesses, and he attributes all the good that is done to God in Christ.
You Know Saint Paul Better Than You Think You Do
Saint Paul is not popular in the way that saints like Anthony, Rita, or Padre Pio are. Sometimes the theology in his letters--especially his long sentences--can feel intimidating. But if you've been listening to the readings at Sunday Mass, you probably know St. Paul better than you think. Some of your favorite quotations from the Bible might even be from St. Paul, such as:
- Rejoice in the Lord always! (Phil. 4:4)
- [God] chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love (Eph. 1:4).
- I can do all things through him who strengthens me (Phil. 4:13).
- We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose (Rom 8:28).
- Christ Jesus has made me his own (Phil. 3:12).
- If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? (Rom. 8:31-32)
- I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I live now in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Gal. 2:19-20).
- Love is patient; love is kind…. Love never ends (1 Cor. 13: 4-8).
One reason why St. Paul might be taken for granted is that his spirituality is so foundational to our lives as followers of Christ. Would you agree? Do you have a favorite quotation from St. Paul, or a favorite letter?
To find out more about Saint Paul and the Pauline spirituality we seek to live, visit here.
by Sr. Marie Paul Curley, FSP.