|Conversion of St. Paul, Fra Angelico|
Today, January 25th, marks the Conversion of St. Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles. Many of us present readers would not be in the Church were it not for the activities of St. Paul. Toronto Catholic Witness offers the following meditation by Bishop Challoner for your reflection. May God bless you all.
Consider first, and admire the wonders of the grace of God in the conversion of St. Paul, suddenly changed from a fiery zealot for the Jewish religion, and bloody persecutor of the Church of Christ, to be a fervent Christian, a zealous preacher of the gospel, a vessel of election, to carry the name of Christ to nations and kings; a doctor of the Gentiles, an Apostle of Jesus Christ, and a most eminent Saint. Learn from hence the greatness of God's mercy, and the power of his grace; learn never to despair of the conversion of any one, how remote soever he may seem from the faith or grace of God. Who could be more remote than the convert of this day? Assure thyself that the hand of God is not shortened, and that his power, mercy, and goodness, is as great now as ever; and therefore never cease to pray to God for the conversion of infidels and sinners. 'Tis likely the conversion of St. Paul is in a great measure owing to the prayers of St. Stephen. Join with the church on this day, in glorifying God and returning him thanks, through Jesus Christ, for the wonders of his mercy and grace in St. Paul, and the many thousands that were brought, through his preaching, to the ways of truth and life.
Consider 2ndly, that the conversion of St. Paul is, by the Church, set before our eyes this day as a model of a perfect conversion, from which sinners may learn, 1. How readily they ought to correspond with the calls and grace of God, inviting them home; 2. How they ought to yield themselves up entirely to him; and 3. What their lives ought afterwards to be, in consequence of that distinguishing mercy which God has shown them in their conversion. Paul was no sooner called by the voice of Jesus Christ, but he presently obeyed the call and yielded himself up to be his for ever. The prayer he then made was short in words, but very expressive of the perfect disposition of the soul in this regard, and of the sacrifice he desired to make of himself without the least reserve, to the holy will of him who called him. 'Lord,' said he, 'what wilt thou have me to do?' As much as to say 'My heart is ready, O God, my heart is ready; here I am prostrate at thy feet, desirous only to know, and to do thy will; send me where thou pleasest, ordain concerning me what thou pleasest: I desire to be thine in life and death; I desire to have no exceptions at all to thy blessed will.' See also how, being sent into the city, where he was to learn of Ananias the will of God, and to receive from him the sacrament of regeneration, for the washing away his sins, he there continues for three whole days, neither eating nor drinking, but wholly employed in prayer. O this was showing himself to be a convert indeed; this was being quite in earnest in preparing himself for his baptism; this was laying a solid foundation for a new life. O that all penitents would set this great example before their eyes, when they pretend to make their peace with God; and would, like Paul, prepare themselves by fervent and long continued prayers joined with the exercises of mortification and penance! Thus we should see other sort of conversions than we commonly meet with now-a-days.
Consider 3rdly, the sentiments of St. Paul, with regard to the life he looked upon himself as obliged to lead, in consequence of the mercy God had showed to him in his conversion. He had ever before his eyes the greatness of his mercy; he considered himself as having been, to his thinking, the greatest of all sinners, and how God had spared him all the while he went on in his sins, and without any merit on his part, had by an evident miracle, wrought, in an instant, the total change in him; and therefore he was convinced, as he both declared in his words, and showed forth in his practice, that he could do no less than devote his whole life to the love and service of his Saviour, to testify his gratitude for the love he had showed to him. This consideration carried him through all his labours and afflictions, and animated him to meet death in all its shapes; (for he was dying daily as he tells us,) because Christ had loved him, and died for him, and therefore the love of Christ pressed him that he might live no longer to himself, but to him who had showed him mercy. O that all converts would have the like sentiments.
Conclude to learn to practice the lessons which St. Paul teaches you in his conversion, and in particular to have a great esteem of the grace of reconciliation, and of that unspeakable mercy and love which God has shown you in receiving you again, after you had fallen from him by sin. Learn also from him to testify your gratitude, by dedicating yourself henceforward in good earnest, to the love and service of him who has done such great things for you.