ST. PAUL: REMEMBERED AND REDISCOVERED
Today marks the beginning of the Year of St. Paul as proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI in honor of the 2000 year of the saint's birth. For the next year, Catholics are being asked to re-examine this crucial figure of the New Testament and the Christian faith. Couldn't come at a better time if you ask me.
I'm one of the those that never quite got St. Paul. Maybe it was the fact that Martin Luther co-opted him in the name of the Reformation and accentuated one teaching above all others; namely justification by faith. Maybe it was the distressing experience I had in the seminary of boring scripture profs droning on about a very boring Paul. Long talks about righteousness and justification seemed way out of touch with the modern world. Or maybe it was the belief that Paul was just a curmudgeon, an old man and a nagging wag who never had fun and had little joy. And so, like many people, I cut him out of my faith life and with that nearly half of the New Testament. How unfortunate.
Then, some ten years ago, I discovered Caravaggio's famous painting "The Conversion of St. Paul" in Rome and began to see that I had it all wrong about Paul. In this painting, as you can see above, there is no old man, nor frightened man, nor ordinary man. This man on the ground, knocked off his horse by Christ himself, stretches out his arms to the Divine, not out of fear, but out of wonder. The enemy that he has fought, is the one he has always sought--the Divine Himself. Here is a saint full of dynamism and fearlessness in the midst of his own weakness and sinfulness. Here is a man who will go out into the world and demand from the other apostles info about Jesus and then credentials to preach as an apostle. Here is a man who will be seen as charismatic, a great leader, one who can show people the way to Christ. I really like this Paul.
And so, I began to see another side to the saint. And with this year, I hope others will as well. This site will highlight significant events and info about St. Paul that show him as crucial to Christianity. He is so important to the foundations of our faith. My thanks to Caravaggio, that wild and crazy painter, who did what my own profs could not--show me the real St. Paul, and recover much of the New Testament for me.