On this day we celebrate the conversion of Saint Paul, formerly Saul of Tarsus. He had been a persecutor of Christians (present at martyrdom of the Deacon Stephen) and was confronted by Christ Himself on the road to Damascus. This feast has been celebrated since the sixth century. For the feast, the epistle lesson is Acts 9:1-22 and the Gospel is St. Matthew 19:27-30. Here is the collect:
“O God, who, through the preaching of the blessed Apostle Saint Paul, hast caused the light of the Gospel to shine throughout the world; Grant, we beseech thee, that we, having his wonderful conversion in remembrance, may show forth our thankfulness unto thee for the same, by following the holy doctrine which he taught; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
John Chrysostom reflected on Saint Paul:
“Paul, more than anyone else, shows us what humanity really is, in what our nobility consists, and of what virtue this particular animal is capable. . . The most important thing of all to Paul, however, was that he knew himself to be loved by Christ. Enjoying this love, he considered himself happier than anyone else; were he without it, it would be no satisfaction to be the friend of principalities and powers. He preferred to be loved and be the least of all, or even to be among the damned, than be without that love and be great and honored.”
- Michelle Abernathy made a coloring page for the Conversion of Saint Paul. You can find that here.
- In 2016, I wrote a reflection about the Conversion of Saint Paul, in the form of a letter to my little daughter:
“Today, we celebrate the Conversion of St. Paul. I grew up believing that his dramatic Damascus Road experience was normative for Christians. I remember how many times I heard other young people share their testimony ‘I grew up in a Christian family’ as though it were an apology. I hope that you never feel apologetic for not having a dramatic testimony and that you never feel like you need to create one either. But at the same time, I hope that your father and I do not overreact to our background, full of so much good. Instead of only emphasizing our corporate experience within the church, I pray that we can foster in you that story-telling spirit that glories in telling about God’s grace to individual sinners, ‘of whom I am the worst.’ “
For this year, we’ll be reading the lessons for the day during our morning prayer time, while we eat a special breakfast (i.e. I bought bacon). One of my goals for this year is to print out great art for each of our red-letter feast days. So, with Caravaggio’s Conversion of Saint Paul, I sent it in to Walgreens to print as a 8×10 (We’ll see how that goes. I still need to pick it up). I’ll display this work during our prayers and then we’ll do a Charlotte Mason style picture study (i.e. “Display a picture and have the children look at it until they can see it clearly in their minds’ eye. Turn the picture over and ask them to describe it. When their narration is finished, display the picture again and discuss as desired. Display the picture in a prominent place for the rest of the week.” – Simply Charlotte Mason)
We’ll also sing the Conversion of Saint Paul verse from the hymn “From All Thy Saints in Warfare” by Horatio Nelson (in the Book of Common Praise 2017) . It uses the King’s Lynn tune which is the same tune we sing with “O God of Earth of Altar.”
Here are the verses we will sing:
From all Thy saints in warfare, for all Thy saints at rest,
To Thee, O blessèd Jesus, all praises be addressed;
Thou, Lord, didst win the battle, that they might conquerors be;
Their crowns of living glory are lit with rays from Thee.
Praise for the light from Heaven, praise for the voice of awe,
Praise for the glorious vision the persecutor saw.
Thee, Lord, for his conversion, we glorify today;
So lighten all our darkness with Thy true Spirit’s ray.
Then praise we God the Father, and praise we God the Son,
And God the Holy Spirit, eternal Three in One;
Till all the ransomed number fall down before the throne,
And honor, power, and glory, ascribe to God alone.
I appreciate Malcolm Guite’s Sonnet for Saint Paul. Can you share any other poems that would be appropriate for the day? Any other resources?
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