Today’s feast day on the Catholic liturgical calendar is important to me. It is the “Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul, Apostle.”
Paul, originally called “Saul,” was a badass Jewish Pharisee dude who viewed the Way of Christ a serious enough threat to the Judaism of the time that he personally led a vicious persecution of the Church. He was directly or indirectly involved with the arrests and deaths of scores of Christians.
Until one day.
Acts of the Apostles 22:4-8 “I persecuted this Way, even unto death, binding and delivering into custody both men and women, just as the high priest and all those greater by birth bear witness to me.
Having received letters from them to the brothers, I journeyed to Damascus, so that I might lead them bound from there to Jerusalem, so that they might be punished.
But it happened that, as I was traveling and was approaching Damascus at midday, suddenly from heaven a great light shone around me.
And falling to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’
And I responded, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus the Nazarene, whom you are persecuting.’
Popular tradition holds that he was knocked of his horse, there is however no scriptural evidence of that.
Why is this feast day of the Church important to me? I mean, apart from my being named after St. Paul?
The idea of conversion is central to my identity, especially after 2001. I am both an alcoholic in recovery and a revert to the Catholic Church.
I won’t discuss my alcoholism here, I have a blog devoted to that: Sober Catholic. My reversion to the faith is covered there, too, but not as much as my alcoholism recovery.
I was born and raised Catholic. Educated in a Catholic school from kindergarten through 8th grade. I was an altar boy (no girls allowed back then) at Mass and I had a fairly decent grasp of Catholic teachings.
Turned out my knowledge didn’t include the obvious need to apply it directly in daily living. Somehow I missed the lessons that we were to live out our Faith, not just pray, go to Mass on Sundays and whatnot. The actual, direct infusion into my life of Catholic living wasn’t really there. I mean, there were “daily living” things that I followed, such as no sex outside of marriage, but the Faith didn’t always form my decision-making.
Add that my knowledge of the Faith might have been broad, but it wasn’t deep.
And so I left the Church. It occurred during a rough period in my life when things weren’t going well and I prayed fervently for relief, but got none.
And so I decided that since “prayer didn’t work,” I’ll stop attending Mass. I wasn’t struck dead by lightening and this encouraged me to continue missing Mass.
I never became an atheist. The idea of “no God” is ludicrous. Created things need a creator. Made things need a maker. I instead just came to the conclusion that organized religion was a method of control over the masses.
Life continued, things got better in some ways. However these “better ways” lead to different problems which I won’t bother with here. Life happens, things occur and we adapt and cope or we do not.
I wandered about aimlessly spiritually for 15 years. I finally reverted to the Catholic Church at the same time I began my recovery from alcoholism. It just seemed to “make sense” now, and as AA introduced me to the notion of “applied spirituality,” I decided to explore what the Church actually said. Being confined to a couch for weeks on end because of early sobriety illness and watching the Daily Mass on EWTN also exposed me to a healthy dose of sound theology and doctrine.
Such things have a way of straightening out one’s mind. Truth does that.
I also learned that Catholicism isn’t just something that you do for an hour on Sundays, and off and on through the week when you pray (to get out of a jam? to get something?)
There isn’t much to this post apart from tying my reversion in to the feast day. Paul was hard-headed and stubborn and bent on destruction. So was I. I was hostile to the Church, as was he. (Although I wasn’t murderous with rage.)
After his conversion, he changed his life’s path and became a great Apostle, converting countless Gentiles. He did this by allowing Christ into his life.
And what an example of this!
Galatians 2: 20 “I live; yet now, it is not I, but truly Christ, who lives in me. And though I live now in the flesh, I live in the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and who delivered himself for me.”
And this “faith of the Son of God,” he received it:
Galatians 1:11-12 “For I would have you understand, brothers, that the Gospel which has been preached by me is not according to man.
And I did not receive it from man, nor did I learn it, except through the revelation of Jesus Christ.“
And so Jesus Himself taught St. Paul His Gospel. (Next time someone says that they looked throughout the entire New Testament and declare that “Jesus never said anything about….” to defend their unholy lives, remember this. He might not have said anything on “whatever” Himself, but He did through St. Paul.)
My conversion wasn’t as complete or intense as Paul’s. Jesus “lives in me” as He does in all of His brothers and sisters, but Paul’s conversion was deep andd critical to the future of humanity.
Mine: it’s good enough to write a blog for Catholic ex-drunks and to perhaps write Catholic-themed fiction.
All Scripture passages via Sacred Bible: Catholic Public Domain Version