Monday, January 25, 2010

The Conversion of Saint Paul

Today's feast is one that always inspires me. Paul, a great persecutor of the followers of Christ, becomes, in a moment of blindness, the greatest evangelist for Christ. The conversion of Paul is so dramatic and life-changing. It is a story that gives hope to those of us who need conversion in various areas of our lives. How fitting that the Church celebrates this feast in January -- the month for making (and often quickly breaking) resolutions.

I'm no theologian and have no profound thoughts to offer. I just love that the method Christ uses to permeate Paul's life is to strike him blind. To fully see, in other words, has little to do with our physical eyesight. And when Paul asks the Lord what he should do, the answer is a simple step: "Get up and go into Damascus." Paul, being blinded, can't find his way alone and so, Scripture tells us, he is led by hand by his companions. (Acts 22:10-11) How gentle the Lord works with Paul and uses his friends and even his former enemies to bring him to the understanding of how he would become a great instrument for the Lord.

Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati did not have a conversion experience like Paul. From his childhood, he was disposed to love God and that love grew until the moment of his death. And yet, Saint Paul was his favorite saint and model for charity. Despite their different paths, these holy men had a common denominator underlying their spirituality; that is, the understanding that God is love and the love of God compels us to love one another.

On January 15, 1925, Pier Giorgio wrote to his best friend Marco Beltramo, "In the world which has distanced itself from God, there is a lack of Peace, but there is also a lack of Charity that is true and perfect Love. Maybe if all of listened more to St. Paul, human miseries would be slightly diminished."

Today, as we mark the feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul, it would be an excellent day to listen more to him, to sharpen our resolve to perform acts of charity, to remind ourselves that we can break free from our sinful ways and live for Christ, to seek the blindness that enlightens us.

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