Why a Year of St. Paul?
St. Paul, the writer of many books in the New Testament – 14 in all – and known as a thirteenth apostle of Jesus, is a saint whose life all Christians should all try to emulate, but who seems to be somewhat unknown to many. It is partially for this reason that Pope Benedict XVI wanted to dedicate a year to him, the Jubilee Pauline Year beginning June 28, 2008, saying “This is the goal of the Pauline Year: to learn from Saint Paul, to learn the faith, to learn about Christ, finally to learn the way of upright life.” St. Paul is known for his evangelization, working tirelessly to unify all Christians at any cost to himself, relying entirely on Christ for his strength and success rather than great rhetorical skills or refined apologetics.
Born a Jew in what is now Turkey, Paul (called Saul before his conversion) had studied the ancestral law in Jerusalem and was self-described as being "zealous for God" (Acts 22:3). Prior to meeting the Risen Lord on his way to Damascus, he had been a persecutor of Christians, attempting to subdue them for going against the Jewish Temple. His powerful encounter with Christ caused him to go blind for three days, and lead to his conversion. After converting, he eventually met St. Peter and worked as an ardent missionary, trying to spread the word of Christ to as many people as he could. To this end, he went on three missionary journeys between his conversion and death. He was willing to go all over the world just to spread the Gospel, regardless of danger or impracticality. He risked his life numerous times, finally being martyred in Rome between 66-68 AD.
Paul is such an inspirational saint because he was willing to go to these extraordinary lengths to proclaim the Gospel knowing that, with Christ behind him, he was able to do anything. “Paul, therefore, no longer lives for himself, for his own justice. He lives for Christ and with Christ: in giving of himself, he is no longer seeking and building himself up” (Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience 11/8/2006). His example to the rest of the world is that of a man who knew everything he did was for the glory of God and not at all for himself. St. Paul's influence on the thinking of the Church cannot be understated. His life demonstrates the fact that it does not matter what we have done before, what sins we have committed – God forgives even those who have persecuted him for years, and with God we can become the most ardent and faithful Christians. St. Paul helps us to understand our role as Christians, and how we should live with Christ and the Holy Spirit in our lives. As Pope Benedict XVI said in his general audience about St. Paul, "May the Lord help us to put into practice the exhortation left to us by the Apostle in his Letters: 'Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ' (1 Cor 11:1)".
To learn more about St. Paul or the Pauline Year, visit our Pauline Year page.