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SpiritualDirection.com / Catholic Spiritual Direction

Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul

January 25, 2014 by  
Filed under Feast Days, Liturgy, Liz Estler, Prayer & Art

Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul

ConversionStPaulNicolar-BernardLepicie

On that journey as I drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from the sky suddenly shone around me. 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.’*

“Merciful and gracious is the Lord, slow to anger, abounding in kindness.”**

“Sooner would heaven and earth turn into nothingness than would My mercy not embrace a trusting soul.”***

Christ instituted the sacrament of penance as a vehicle to effect our reconciliation with Him and His Body, the Church. Let us not fail to approach His unfathomable mercy. He knows our human weakness and what we are made of…and nothing is impossible for God.

“Paul addressed the people in these words: ‘I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city. At the feet of Gamaliel I was educated strictly in our ancestral law and was zealous for God, just as all of you are today. I persecuted this Way to death, binding both men and women and delivering them to prison. Even the high priest and the whole council of elders can testify on my behalf. For from them I even received letters to the brothers and set out for Damascus to bring back to Jerusalem in chains for punishment those there as well.

“On that journey as I drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from the sky suddenly shone around me. 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.’ My companions saw the light but did not hear the voice of the one who spoke to me. I asked, ‘What shall I do, sir?’ The Lord answered me, ‘Get up and go into Damascus, and there you will be told about everything appointed for you to do.’ Since I could see nothing because of the brightness of that light, I was led by hand by my companions and entered Damascus.”(From the first reading for the Mass for the feast of the conversion of Saint Paul the Apostle).

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* Acts 22:6-8

**Psalm 103:8

***Diary of Saint Faustina #1777

Art: Conversion of St. Paul, Nicolas-Bernard Lepicie, 1767, PD-US copyright expired, Wikimedia Commons.

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About Liz Estler

Editor, SpiritualDirection.com. Liz holds a Master of Arts in Ministry Degree (St. John's Seminary, Brighton, Massachusetts), Liturgy Certificate (Boston Archdiocese), and a BS degree in Biology and Spanish (Nebraska Wesleyan University - Lincoln). She has served as hospital chaplain associate, sacristan, translator and in other parish ministries. She was a regular columnist for a military newspaper in Europe and has been published in a professional journal. She once waded in the Trevi Fountain!

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  • patricia

    Thank you for such a beautiful post. The phrase from St Faustina is one of my favorites. Thanks for being an instrument of Gods mercy. Prayers and Gods blessings.

    • LizEst

      You’re welcome Patricia. All glory to the Lord. Yes, I love the Divine Mercy message entrusted to St. Faustina. God bless you…and happy feast.

  • Jeanette

    Liz, thanks for this. Love the art!

    • LizEst

      You’re welcome Jeanette. All the glory to the Lord. God bless you…and happy feast!

      • patricia

        You too.

  • Camila

    St.Paul was made blind in order to see, interesting, no?

    • Anna Dragicevic

      Wow I never thought of that, good thinking.

    • LizEst

      Thanks Camila. That’s one way of looking at it! Ha! No pun intended!

      Still, biblical commentary in the NAB (New American Bible-Catholic Bible) says, “Paul’s experience was not visionary but was precipitated by the appearance of Jesus [even his companions saw the light]…The words of Jesus, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ related by Luke with no variation in all three accounts [Acts 9:1-19, 22:3-16, 26:2-18], exerted a profound and lasting influence on the thought of Paul” (NAB commentary on Acts 9:1-19), who later says in his letter to the Romans, “faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17).

      God bless you…Happy Feast!

      • Camila

        I think you are limiting ‘sight’ only to the physical ability to physically see with the human organ. My point had nothing to do with natural light into the human eye. There are many meaning to the word of sight, Liz.

        Yes, St.Paul was made physically blind, but the sight opened to him was the light of faith. St. Thomas Aquinas talks about the ‘natural LIGHT of human reason’ — he certainly wasn’t talking about the physical light from the sun into the human mind, right? The LIGHT of faith is infused into the human soul so that she (the soul) can ‘see’ or if you will, can ‘understand’.

        St. Thomas Aquinas explains that the light of faith elevates the natural light of human reason. You see, to have faith is to see! A sight superior than any physical or visionary sight.

        Regardless whether St.Paul actually physically saw Christ with his physical eye – has nothing to do with seeing Christ and His Body and seeing that He is found in His Church – thus the understanding or sight, that Paul now has is much more profound and real than any physical sight.

        Jesus said He came into the world “so that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind” — He’s going back and forth from the physical to spiritual word in both instances.

        • Well said Camila – of course both reflections are Valid ways of exploring this text

          • Camila

            St. Catherine of Siena agrees with you Dan.

            She said “if the works of the Lord are studied attentively, they will be found to be so full of meat that everyone will find the part of the meat that suits him and fits in with his salvation…..it is better, therefore, for it to be interpreted in several ways so that everyone can have his share in it. If it was interpreted in one way only, it would only suit one kind of person.”

            (Quote taken from the book The Life of St. Catherine of Siena by Blessed Raymond of Capua, page 166.)

          • Camila

            Further…. the idea that St. Paul was blind and then given sight is absolutely stunning if you understand it in the context of sin and virtue!

            Sin is blindness and misery
            Virtue is sight and joy

            ….. oh it is so rich!

          • LizEst

            “The people who walked in darkness
            have seen a great light;
            upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom
            a light has shone” (Isaiah 9:1 and Matthew 4:16).

            “The Lord is my light and my salvation” (Psalm 27:1a)

            ; )

        • LizEst

          As Dan said, both are valid. I was not limiting sight to the physical ability to see but expanding your thought to include the power of the Word spoken by the Father and enfleshed for us. Please go back and read my comment again. What I wrote was, “that’s one way of looking at it.”
          The follow-up comments came from the Bible commentators and from Paul himself.

          My apologies for writing it that way. I see how it led you to misunderstand. What I should have said was something along the lines of “In addition to that, the biblical commentary says…” Thank you for pointing out my error of presentation.

          God bless you, Camila. In all things, give thanks to the Lord, for His love endures forever.

          ps. The “ha” was me laughing at my unintentional pun…not scoffing at you or your thoughts.

  • Estefania

    Hi everyone, I regularly read the posts and the comments and they are wonderful and enrich my spiritual life very much, thank you to all of you! I have a question which perhaps someone would dare yo assist me with. It’s been four years since my conversion and praise be to God my husband has also converted and seems to be growing closer to the Lord every day more. However, since the beginning I have prayed to be able to assist in the conversion of other and I don’t feel I’ve been able to do this besides offering support to those who are Christians and setting a good example to some degree. Today during prayer I felt Jesus was telling me these were not his intentions for me, that maybe I am just supposed to be a mom and a wife. But aren’t we all called to evangelize, to spread the Word? I always seem to get rejected, am I doing something wrong? Thanks and God bless. Besides this I feel very blessed to know and walk with God in my life…

    • Renee Costello

      Estefania I wish I had great words of wisdom to impart but all I can say is me too! I feel as though I should be evangelizing but I don’t bring up the subject of religion unless someone else does and then I can find it difficult to stand my ground. I don’t like to debate and I’m not good at it and most people are looking for you to prove something that really can’t be proved. I do think that people are called to evangelize in different ways. I know that I’m not cut out to go door to door but I did offer to pray with someone at work once (and was rejected.) My biggest fear is that people will see I’m Christian and decide that they don’t want to be Christian because they don’t like me (I’m not one of those popular, well liked kind of folks) so I’m hesitant to let it be known that I’m a practicing Catholic. Also labeling yourself Christian makes some people look at you under a microscope, waiting for you to screw up so they can call you a hypocrite. I’ve also had people say that they feel unease around a religious person because they are afraid of being judged or treated differently because of their atheism or agnosticism or just being a different religion. Because of all the nuances that go with evangelizing I don’t think it’s wise to have a bull-in-a-china-shop approach. I personally wait for what opportunities God sends my way and I try to decipher if people are actually looking for Christ or looking for an argument. I have to say God in his wisdom has sent almost no opportunities to me and I’m grateful for that and I think he does that because he knows what a lousy communicator I am. I think it is good that you pray a lot and try to discern what God wants you to do. If you are trying to tease out what is from God and what is not you should probably look for a spiritual director if you don’t already have one. That’s all I’ve got to tell you, maybe someone a little more learned has something more inspiring to say.

      • Estefania

        Thanks so much for sharing Renee. I think your message also confirms how anti- religious our society is, unfortunately. If only they knew what they were missing! I will accept God’s will if I am not necessarily called to preach as you say but I will continue to pray to be used as an instrument for Him. I will share with you one thing, sometimes I post Christian messages on social networks and unlikely people will approve of it. Also I was talking to one girl at work about my beliefs and she suddenly expressed to me wanting to go to confession, I was supposed to take her but we lost contact. So let’s not give up! God bless, I will pray for you too.

        • LizEst

          Estefania and Renee- no doubt you know an expression attributed to St. Francis “preach the Gospel and sometimes use words.” Not all of us are preachers or teachers or doctors or whatever. God has given different gifts to different people, each one of which is to be used to build up the body of Christ. We are called to use the gifts He has given us, in order to serve Him and draw others to Him.

          For those who have not been given the “eloquence of angels”, it would be foolish to try preach. We cannot give what we have not been given. The first thing in Christian life is to be converted and believe in the Gospel. And, oftentimes, it takes a lifetime to get there. But, it’s that joyful life lived according to the Gospel that draws people to Christ. It’s one of the greatest witnesses we can give and one of the greatest ways of evangelizing. When we joyfully live according to the pattern of Christ, others want what we have. And, when they approach to find out how to get that, God will give us what we are to say. And, if that doesn’t happen, that’s OK, too, because it is the Lord that gives the increase, not us. A bull in a china shop approach is definitely not the way to do it. My way or the highway is definitely not the way to do it. Jesus invited but never forced himself on people. We are to go and do the same. God bless you both. My prayers for God’s continued grace and blessings in your lives.

          • Estefania

            Thank you Liz, that is very helpful. I will definitely keep this in mind especially the fact that Jesus always invited but never forced. I was told that a lot on my first retreat, that if we don’t allow Him to come into our hearts He cannot enter and I guess the same applies here. I hope to be a joyful witness to the Gospel! Thanks for your prayers, count on mine as well.

          • CLudwick

            So much God-given wisdom here! I too struggle with whether I’m “doing enough”! My spiritual director has admonished me, though, to be aware of the motive of my doing. Be sure it is only to serve God and not to be noticed. Though that should not keep one from doing I take his words very seriously.
            I have many situations that arise in a day where someone is needing my help so I try to be available for others. My husband can be slightly jealous of my time spent in prayer, volunteering, or helping these others. I must use prayer to be present to him also. As Fr. continually reminds me – I am not a nun! 🙂 He also reminds me to try to discern the cries for help and not enable those asking. It is a balance that we should try to strive for – with God always leading us to His will. It can sometimes be VERY had. I have trouble with this discernment process. So much is an “emergency” or immediate situation.
            Liz, when I offer my day – every part of it – to God in a morning offering, I guess these situations that come up are what He is asking me do in His name? Sometimes I have trouble balancing all of this. I want to talk to my spiritual director more about that. Any further words of wisdom?

          • LizEst

            Here are some thoughts. Any “wisdom” comes from the Lord, to Him be glory and honor forever!

            Yes, all comes to us either as part of God’s direct will for us or as God’s permissive will (that which he permits, though often unwanted and unwelcome, in order to draw good out of the situation).

            When folks interrupt our prayer, when we are called away from it for various reasons, this can also be God calling us or interrupting our prayer! How shocking that he would interrupt our prayer! He’s not really doing that, rather He wants us to pray always and, in this manner, he teaches us another way, he expands our prayer repertoire, as it were.

            When we are with others, we are certainly with Christ present within them. God has put his spirit in all of us. He supports us and sustains us. If He didn’t, we would cease to exist. So, if someone interrupts our prayer, we simply go from our communication with God in prayer to our communication with God present in someone else. Think of it kind of as an opportunity to put your prayer into action.

            This doesn’t mean that we don’t have dedicated periods of prayer. When we establish those, and when we’re faithful to those times, others around us will respect them. But, we must tend to the responsibilities that are ours to do. That is prayer as well, when uniting it to the prayer of Christ because Jesus’ prayer has infinite value. Naturally, we are to do all for the love and glory of God.

            Hope that helps. God bless you CLudwick. Please say a prayer for me. Thanks.

          • CLudwick

            Thank you for the affirmation! I do feel like this is the way God does call me.
            Yes, to the Lord be glory and honor forever – ever in His name!

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