BIMILLENNIAL JUBILEE YEAR OF ST. PAUL (including the Pope's current catecheses on the Apostle)

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TERESA BENEDETTA
00Saturday, June 28, 2008 1:17 AM




THE JUBILEE YEAR OF ST. PAUL
MARKING 2000 YEARS SINCE HIS BIRTH



After the Great Jubilee of 2000 when the Christian world celebrated the first two millennia since the birth of Jesus Christ, a second bimillennial privilege is ours once again, this time to mark the birth of St. Paul, Apostle of the Gentiles.

One cannot over-estimate the significance of the bimillennial Jubilee Year for St. Paul, during which, it is hoped, all Christians, the one Church of Christ, and all who have branched off from it, may take the occasion to earn the graces of salvation that the Apostle of the Gentiles so powerfully preached, and just as important, the special grace of reunification.

The main website for the Pauline Year is:
www.annopaolino.org/interno.asp?id=2&lang=eng
maintained by the Papal basilica of St. Paul outside the Walls.

An interesting auxiliary site is one maintained by the Chamber of Commerce of Tarsus and the Turkish Ministry of Tourism
www.paulineyear.org/

On this thread, we hope to post all items of relevance to the Jubilee Year observance. As there is quite a bit of basic background information about St. Paul and his work, such information will be posted along with current news reports. I have chosen to start with the official announcement of the Pauline Year.


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On June 28, 2007, at the First Vespers held in the papal Basilica of St. Paul outside the Walls on the eve of the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, Pope Benedict XVI formally announced a special Jubilee Year in honor of St. Paul, from June 28, 2008 to June 29, 2009, to mark the bimillennium of his birth, which historians believe to have taken place between 7-10 A.D. Here is a translation of the Pope's homily during which he made the announcement:





PROCLAMATION OF THE PAULINE YEAR
BY HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
June 28, 2007



Your Eminences,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

At this First Vespers of the Solemnity of Sts Peter and Paul, let us commemorate with gratitude these two Apostles whose blood with that of so many other Gospel witnesses made the Church of Rome fruitful.

On their memorial, I am glad to greet you all, dear brothers and sisters, starting with the Cardinal Archpriest and the other Cardinals and Bishops present, Father Abbot and the Benedictine Community to which this Basilica is entrusted, the clerics, the women and men religious and lay faithful gathered here.

I address a special greeting to the Delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, which is reciprocating the presence of the Holy See's Delegation in Istanbul for the Feast of St Andrew.

As I had an opportunity to say a few days ago, these meetings and initiatives are not merely an exchange of courtesies between Churches but are intended to express the common commitment to do everything possible to hasten the time of full communion between the Christian East and West.

I address with these sentiments Metropolitan Emmanuel and Metropolitan Gennadios, sent by my beloved Brother Bartholomew I, to whom I express a grateful and cordial thought.

This Basilica, which has hosted profoundly significant ecumenical events, reminds us how important it is to pray together to implore the gift of unity, that unity for which St Peter and St Paul spent their lives, to the point of making the supreme sacrifice of their blood.

A very ancient tradition which dates back to apostolic times claims that their last meeting before their martyrdom actually took place not far from here: the two are supposed to have embraced and blessed each other. And on the main portal of this Basilica they are depicted together, with scenes of both martyrdoms.

Thus, from the outset, Christian tradition has considered Peter and Paul to have been inseparable, even if each had a different mission to accomplish.

Peter professed his faith in Christ first; Paul obtained as a gift the ability to deepen its riches. Peter founded the first community of Christians who came from the Chosen People; Paul became the Apostle to the Gentiles. With different charisms they worked for one and the same cause: the building of Christ's Church.

In the Office of Readings, the liturgy offers us for meditation this well-known text of St Augustine: "One day is assigned for the celebration of the martyrdom of the two Apostles. But those two were one. Although their martyrdom occurred on different days, they were one. Peter went first, Paul followed. We celebrate this feast day which is made sacred for us by the blood of these Apostles" (Sermon 295, 7, 8).

And St Leo the Great comments: "About their merits and virtues, which surpass all power of speech, we must not make distinctions, because they were equal in their election, alike in their toils, undivided in their death" (In natali apostol., 69, 7).

In Rome, since the earliest centuries, the bond that unites Peter and Paul in their mission has acquired a very specific significance. Like Romulus and Remus, the two mythical brothers who are said to have given birth to the City, so Peter and Paul were held to be the founders of the Church of Rome.

Speaking to the City on this topic, St Leo the Great said: "These are your holy Fathers and true shepherds, who gave you claims to be numbered among the heavenly kingdoms, and built you under much better and happier auspices than they, by whose zeal the first foundations of your walls were laid" (Sermon 82, 7).

However humanly different they may have been from each other and despite the tensions that existed in their relationship, Peter and Paul appear as the founders of a new City, the expression of a new and authentic way of being brothers which was made possible by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

For this reason, it can be said that the Church of Rome is celebrating her birthday today, since it was these two Apostles who laid her foundations.

Furthermore, Rome in our day perceives with greater awareness both her mission and her greatness. St John Chrysostom wrote: "Not so bright is the heaven, when the sun sends forth his rays, as is the City of Rome, sending out these two lights (Peter and Paul) into all parts of the world... Therefore, I admire the City... for these pillars of the Church" (Homily on St Paul's Epistle to the Romans, 32, 24).

We will commemorate St Peter specifically tomorrow, celebrating the Divine Sacrifice in the Vatican Basilica, built on the site of his martyrdom. This evening we turn our gaze to St Paul, whose relics are preserved with deep veneration in this Basilica.

At the beginning of the Letter to the Romans, as we have just heard, St Paul greeted the community of Rome, introducing himself as "a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle". He uses the term "servant", in Greek, doulos, to indicate a relationship of total and unconditional belonging to the Lord Jesus; moreover, it is a translation of the Hebrew, 'ebed, thus alluding to the great servants whom God chose and called for an important and specific mission.

Paul knew he was "called to be an apostle", that is, that he had not presented himself as a candidate, nor was his a human appointment, but solely by a divine call and election.

The Apostle to the Gentiles repeats several times in his Letters that his whole life is a fruit of God's freely given and merciful grace (cf. I Cor 15: 9-10; II Cor 4: 1; Gal 1: 15). He was chosen to proclaim "the Gospel of God" (Rom 1: 1), to disseminate the announcement of divine Grace which in Christ reconciles man with God, himself and others.

From his Letters, we know that Paul was far from being a good speaker; on the contrary, he shared with Moses and Jeremiah a lack of oratory skill. "His bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account" (II Cor 10: 10), his adversaries said of him.

The extraordinary apostolic results that he was able to achieve cannot, therefore, be attributed to brilliant rhetoric or refined apologetic and missionary strategies.

The success of his apostolate depended above all on his personal involvement in proclaiming the Gospel with total dedication to Christ; a dedication that feared neither risk, difficulty nor persecution.

"Neither death, nor life", he wrote to the Romans, "nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (8: 38-39).

From this we can draw a particularly important lesson for every Christian. The Church's action is credible and effective only to the extent to which those who belong to her are prepared to pay in person for their fidelity to Christ in every circumstance. When this readiness is lacking, the crucial argument of truth on which the Church herself depends is also absent.

Dear brothers and sisters, as in early times, today too, Christ needs apostles ready to sacrifice themselves. He needs witnesses and martyrs like St Paul.

Paul, a former violent persecutor of Christians, when he fell to the ground dazzled by the divine light on the road to Damascus, did not hesitate to change sides to the Crucified One and followed him without second thoughts. He lived and worked for Christ, for him he suffered and died. How timely his example is today!

And for this very reason I am pleased to announce officially that we shall be dedicating a special Jubilee Year to the Apostle Paul from 28 June 2008 to 29 June 2009, on the occasion of the bimillennium of his birth, which historians have placed between the years 7 and 10 A.D.

It will be possible to celebrate this "Pauline Year" in a privileged way in Rome where the sarcophagus which, by the unanimous opinion of experts and an undisputed tradition, preserves the remains of the Apostle Paul, has been preserved beneath the Papal Altar of this Basilica for 20 centuries.

It will thus be possible to have a series of liturgical, cultural and ecumenical events taking place at the Papal Basilica and at the adjacent Benedictine Abbey, as well as various pastoral and social initiatives, all inspired by Pauline spirituality.

In addition, special attention will be given to penitential pilgrimages that will be organized to the Apostle's tomb to find in it spiritual benefit. Study conventions and special publications on Pauline texts will also be promoted in order to make ever more widely known the immense wealth of the teaching they contain, a true patrimony of humanity redeemed by Christ.

Furthermore, in every part of the world, similar initiatives will be implemented in the dioceses, shrines and places of worship, by Religious and by the educational institutions and social-assistance centres which are named after St Paul or inspired by him and his teaching.

Lastly, there is one particular aspect to which special attention must be paid during the celebration of the various moments of the 2,000th Pauline anniversary: I am referring to the ecumenical dimension.

The Apostle to the Gentiles, who was especially committed to taking the Good News to all peoples, left no stones unturned for unity and harmony among all Christians.

May he deign to guide and protect us in this bimillenial celebration, helping us to progress in the humble and sincere search for the full unity of all the members of Christ's Mystical Body. Amen.






This was the news account:

6/29/2007
TERESA BENEDETTA
Post 8091


The Pope presided at Vespers tonight at the Basilica of St. Paul outside the Walls. Here is the story from korazym.org, translated:








Pope announces Pauline Year
from June 2008-June 2009

By Mattia Bianchi
korazym.org


Pope Benedict XVI tonight declared a jubilee year dedicated to St. Paul, commemorating 200 years since his birth, thought to have taken place between 5-10 A.D. The jubilee will last from June 28, 2008 to June 29, 2009.

In a homily delivered at the traditional June 28 Vespers at the Basilica of St. Paul outside the Walls, on the eve of the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, the Pope said the Pauline Jubilee will be marked with cultural and liturgical events, along with' various pastoral and social initiatives inspired by the Pauline spirituality.'

He urged participation by all dioceses, parishes and churches around the world, with particular attention to ecumenism, "that we may progress in our humble and sincere quest for the full unity of all the members of the Mystical Body of Christ."

Special participants in tonight's Vespers was a delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, led by Metropolitans Emmanuel and Gennadios.

The Pope spoke of the charisms of Peter and Paul, of their relationship which was 'not free from tensions' and their commitment to a single cause: "building the church of Christ."

"Therefore we can say that on this day, the Church of Rome marks its birth, because the two apostles laid down its foundations" just as Romulus and Remus had founded Rome.

The Pope called Paul 'an apostle by vocation', saying the extraordinary success of his missions was not due to 'brilliant rhetoric or refined missionary and apologetic strategies.' Rather, he said, it was his "personal involvement in proclaiming the Gospel, with total dedication to Christ, a dedication that did not fear risks, difficulties and persecution."

Paul's example, he said, was valid for Christians even today, since "the action of the Church is effective and credible to the degree that those who are part or it are ready to prove their loyalty to Christ by staking themselves in every circumstance."

Where such willingness is lacking, he said, "then it diminishes the strength of the argument for truth on which the Church depends."

"Concretely," he said, "even today Christ needs apostles ready to sacrifice themselves. It needs witnesses and martyrs like St. Paul - once a violent persecutor of Christians, when, on the road to Damascus, he was struck down, blinded by divine light, and without hesitation, chose to follow the Crucified Lord, never turning back. He lived and worked for Christ; for him, he suffered and died. How relevant his example is today!"

Words that anticipated the Pope's homily tomorrow, at St. Peter's Basilica, when he confers the pallium on 46 new metropolitan archbishops named in the past year [5 have been unable to come to Rome] and is expected to preach about Peter, the first Pope.

Among the notable new metropolitans are Angelo Bagnasco of Genova, Calogero La Piana of Messina, and Paolo Romeo of Palermo; Kasimierz Nycz of Waraw, Odilo Pedro Scherer of Sao Paulo and Csaba Ternyak of Eger (Hungary).





TERESA BENEDETTA
00Saturday, June 28, 2008 3:20 AM



THE LIFE OF ST. PAUL
www.annopaolino.org/interno.asp?id=2&lang=eng




He, who is called “the Apostle to the Gentiles”, that is, to the Nations, never actually met Jesus during his life in Jerusalem or along the roads of Galilee, like the Twelve Apostles. He is the first apostle to have the experience of only the Risen Christ, as all Christians will continue to have through the centuries.

This man, who was both a Jew and a Roman citizen, was born in Tarsus (currently Eastern Turkey). After having received a rigorous teaching in the Law from Rabbi Gamaliel the Elder, he was given a specific mission to go and preach the Word of God to all human beings: first to Antioch and Asia Minor, later to Greece and Rome.

With Paul, the words of the Prophet Micah, “…from Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Micah 4:2), were fulfilled in just a few years and in an ardent manner. The words “go forth” have a double meaning here. Paul will go forth to witness to the teaching received from his Fathers and his personal experience: Christ is Risen!

Paul is the most well-known figure of the first Christian generation, both for his Letters (seven were undoubtedly recognized to be authentic in the strict sense of the term) and for the story of his life described by Luke in the Acts of the Apostles. His Letters represent an extraordinary source of information for us.

Nonetheless the figure of Paul remains mysterious. On the one hand, the Letters cover only fifteen years of his life, while on the other hand, the Acts, which chronicle his journeys, were written twenty years after his death in the apologetic tone of the day.

Therefore, we will give preference to the data contained in Paul’s Letters and their chronology, which greatly coincide with the duration of his travels (for example, the date of the “Council of Jerusalem”).

It is very likely that Paul was about ten years younger than Jesus.




SAUL STUDIED IN JERUSALEM

Paul was born before the year 10 A.D. to a Jewish family from Tarsus, in Cilicia (now Eastern Turkey). He received the biblical name Saul and the Roman name Paul (his father, most likely having been granted Roman citizenship, wished to show his gratitude to the Pauli family). He was educated in Jerusalem.

Paul himself recounted that, “At the feet of Gamaliel I was educated strictly in our ancestral law and was zealous for God” (Acts 22:3) and again, “I am a Pharisee, the son of Pharisees” (Acts 23:6), “circumcised on the eighth day” (Phil. 3:5-6).

THE PERSECUTOR

During the martyrdom of Stephen, “The witnesses laid down their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul” (Acts 7:58) “… Saul was consenting to his execution. On that day, there broke out a severe persecution of the Church” (Acts 8:1).

Saul, who defended with zeal his “ancestral traditions” (Gal. 1:14), could have even been a Zealot (cf. Acts 22:3). His defense of the tradition of his ancestors would explain his expedition to Damascus to persecute Hellenist missionaries like Stephen who challenged the Temple, in order to subdue them at all costs, even torture.

This would also clarify two strange episodes: Paul was not at peace with the Church of Jerusalem and he had to escape under the threat of death (Acts 9:26-30); later, forty Jews would form a conspiracy to kill Paul, who was at that time a prisoner of the Romans (cf. Acts 23:12-22) and it is very well known that the Zealot party punished all those who betrayed their solemn oath.

CONVERSION & VOCATION

The Acts of the Apostles quote the famous phrase heard on the way to Damascus: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4).

The story that Paul himself recounts about the apparition of the Risen Lord betrays a great interior turmoil, according to the prophetic vocations/conversions of the Old Testament, which always announced a mission: “But when (God), who from my mother's womb had set me apart and called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, so that I might proclaim him to the Gentiles…” (Gal 1:15-17).

The radical “conversion” of Saul did not represent for him a change of religion: he felt more than ever before to be a Jew, because the “God of our Fathers” was sending him to spread the Gospel. The evangelizer of the pagans continued to preach to the Jews as much as he could, up to his final appeal to Rome.

Paul’s conversion and baptism meant that he had discovered his true and proper place in the life of Israel.

The date of this most important event is not known; the Letter to the Galatians may seem to indicate the years 33-35, a short time after the establishment of the first Church in Jerusalem, created around “Peter with the Eleven” (Acts 2:14).





THE MISSIONARY JOURNEYS

After his “conversion”, on the way to Damascus, Paul traveled throughout parts of Asia Minor (currently Turkey), Syria and Arabia (now Jordan), all the way to Jerusalem, before reaching Europe, Greece and ultimately Rome. One can reasonably date his journeys back to around the 50s A.D. or so.

First Journey

From Antioch to Cyprus and to the south of Anatoly (Perge, Antioch of Psidia, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe), Paul and Barnabas preached with ardor in the synagogues the Good News of the Resurrection and salvation in Jesus, establishing some communities there. When the Jews distanced themselves from him, Paul then turned his preaching towards the Gentiles.

Second Journey

Paul’s first objective was to go with Silas to meet the communities he created in Southern Anatoly (in Lystra he met Timothy, who accompanied them during their journey). They continued their travels towards the northwest, up to the Dardanelles, to Troas, from where they departed for Greece; Paul established the Churches in Philippi, Thessalonica, Beroea, Athens and Corinth.

Afterwards he went back to Antioch, his main base, passing through Ephesus and Caesarea. In Antioch, for the very first time the believers were called “Christians”.

Third Journey

This journey can be considered one of strengthening. Paul revisited the Churches he created in Anatoly and Greece, together with Timothy and Titus. He sailed again to Tyre, Caesarea and Jerusalem, where he was arrested.

The Journey in Captivity

His voyage to Rome as a prisoner was not a missionary journey; nevertheless his activity as an evangelizer did not cease in Rome.




THE BEGINNING OF THE MINISTRY

JERUSALEM: THE MEETING WITH PETER

“Three years later” [after the conversion in Damascus], Saul went up to Jerusalem to get to know Kephas (from the word “Rock” in Greek), the name he always used for Peter – and “remained with him for fifteen days” (Gal. 1:18).

It is certain that the latter taught him the oral tradition relating to Jesus which Paul had not known (cf. 1 Cor. 11:23-35), as well as a Christological interpretation of the prophets, according to what the Master taught his disciples.

His visit was discreet: the only other Apostle of the Church whom Paul met was “James the brother of the Lord” (Gal. 1:19). Paul was spiritually enriched through Mother-Church, but he could not integrate himself into it, most likely due to his past involvement as a zealot. He even escaped from an assassination attempt by the Hellenist Jews (cf. Acts 9:29-30).

He was sent on his way to Tarsus, where again he took up his work as a tentmaker, and continued to proclaim his faith in the synagogue (cf. Acts 18:3). These were the years of his personal growth.

ANTIOCH: THE BEGINNING OF THE MISSIONARY ADVENTURE

At the beginning of the 40s A.D., Barnabas was sent from the Church of Jerusalem to Antioch of Syria in order to reclaim the Church established by the Hellenist missionaries who were expelled from Jerusalem. He went to Tarsus to seek Paul’s help and became one of the leaders of the community, evangelizing with great success.

This became the first separation from the synagogue environment, because Paul preached also to the Greeks. Thus, a mixed community was established. The “invention” of the title Christians used for the very first time in Antioch, represents one of the most beautiful fruits of Saul’s preaching in this town.

Henceforward, the Church of Antioch would become the center for spreading the Gospel and living independently from the Temple and the life of Judea.

The community of Antioch was arranged with a solid formation and organization. Thus, during a prayer assembly, the inspiration of the community confirmed the personal vocation. The voice of the Holy Spirit was heard saying: “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them” (Acts 13:2); then, the assembly prayed, fasted, laid hands on the two men and sent them on their mission.

Barnabas and Paul sailed towards Cyprus. Once again it is the Holy Spirit who sent them in this direction: announcing the Gospel in the synagogues in the Eastern part of the island, in Salamis, later in the West, in Paphos.

From this moment in time, Luke began to call Saul by his Roman name Paul, underscoring, in this way, his right of full title to go on mission to “the nations”.

ESTABLISHMENT OF THE CHURCHES IN ASIA MINOR

On the way to Sebastopolis, beyond Taurus, Paul found himself completely immersed in pagan territory, including cities that were strategic for Rome. Luke speaks of Paul’s first important missionary speech in the synagogue of Antioch of Psidia, a new Roman colony; after a discouraging welcome by a majority of the Jews, Paul addressed himself to the Gentiles.

Thus Paul and Barnabas went to Iconium, Lystra and Derbe. The two Apostles strengthened the young communities. On the one hand, they encouraged a common life among believers coming from Judaism and those newly converted from paganism, thus making enemies among the leaders of the synagogues where they preached.

On the other hand, they appointed some “elders”, according to the model of the Church of Jerusalem. When they accomplished this mission they returned to the great city of Antioch of Syria.




THE COUNCIL OF JERUSALEM

Around the year 48 an issue arose in Antioch concerning the circumcision of non-Jews, when some Christians coming from Judea claimed their freedom acquired in Christ Jesus (cf. Gal. 2:4), which even Paul and Barnabas invoked so as not to impose this rite of circumcision on pagan converts to Christianity.

The community decided to consult the Apostles and Elders of Jerusalem. Thus, it sent Paul and Barnabas together with Titus, their Greek companion, as well as a delegation to accompany them to Jerusalem.

The Apostles and Elders of Jerusalem accepted Titus “uncircumcised”, thus recognizing the validity of Paul’s proclamation concerning the freedom of grace. The Assembly confirmed the main leaders of the Church and recognized the missionary vocation of Peter for the circumcised and that of Paul for the uncircumcised.

As a matter of fact, a sort of partitioning of the missionary field occurred: James, Kephas and John were directed towards the Jews, while Paul and Barnabas were sent to preach to the pagans.

THE ANTIOCH INCIDENT

The incident occurred during Peter’s visit to Antioch and it bears witness to the integrity of Paul, who would not allow for any adaptations of the truth of the Gospel.

What happened? At that time, a circumcised Jewish Christian could not sit at the same table with a Gentile Christian without falling into impurity. Peter, had always testified to the supreme power of faith in Christ which gathers together within itself all human beings. He continued to do so in Antioch until the arrival of other Christians sent by James, who presided over the community of Jerusalem.

It was then that Peter, who had previously eaten with the Gentiles, withdrew and separated himself from them for fear of the circumcision party (thus concealing what he truly believed). Therefore Paul became angry: “I opposed him to his face because he clearly was wrong” (Gal. 2:11).

The compromise agreed upon in Jerusalem protected the existence of the mixed communities of the young Churches of Asia Minor, to whom Paul had preached. Nevertheless full communion between circumcised and uncircumcised was difficult.

Therefore, was the salvation in Jesus Christ considered secondary?Paul claimed new life in the faith, the gift of the Spirit and the primacy of the divine promise over the law…

The controversy had originally occurred between, on the one side, James and the Church of Jerusalem along with Peter and Barnabas who, although hesitant, allied themselves with James, and on the other side, the same Church of Antioch which in the end approved the compromise reached in Jerusalem (cf. Acts 15:31).

Eventually Paul left Antioch to visit the towns where he and Barnabas had previously taught, taking along with him Silas alone, who had been sent back to Antioch with Paul by the Apostles and elders in Jerusalem after the compromise had been reached. After this long novitiate, which endured 15 years, Paul entered into a new phase.





TOWARDS GREECE


LYDIA AND THE CHURCH OF PHILIPPI

In Troas, during a vision Paul heard a Macedonian imploring him: “Come over to Macedonia and help us” (Acts 16:9). Immediately, he sailed towards Greece and stopped in Philippi, a commercial city and Roman colony populated by veterans and Latin peasants, where Hellenism had a great influence upon Judaism.

The house of Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth, who asked to be baptized together with her whole household and used to invite missionaries over during their stay, became the centre of a community.

It quickly formed and became one of the communities most faithful to Paul, by offering him the affection and material supplies of its members (2 Cor. 11:8). Some years later, before his definitive departure from the region of the Aegean Sea, he desired to celebrate Easter with this particular community.

The local authorities soon accused Paul of proselytism. At that time, Christianity and Judaism were not yet so distinct, even if Judaism enjoyed a privileged status.

For the very first time, Paul, together with Silas, was imprisoned. At midnight, while they were praying and singing hymns to God, an earthquake irrupted freeing all the prisoners; the jailer, seeing the doors open, was about to kill himself, thinking that the prisoners had escaped (cf. Acts 16:25-27).

Paul shouted out to him “We are all here” (Acts 16:28). The jailer asked to be baptized along with his family. Paul claimed that he was a Roman citizen and thus had to be released not secretly but “in triumph”, before going back to Lydia’s house.

THESSALONICA: A PLACE OF FAMILY WORSHIP

At that time, when Paul went to the Synagogue as he was accustomed to doing, and explained for three consecutive days that according to the Scriptures “the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead” (Acts 17:2-3), the Jews opposed him.

The accusation that he was stirring up turmoil against the imperial law moved his brothers to plan his departure for Beroea. But when the Jews of Thessalonica discovered Paul’s whereabouts and the fact that he was preaching the word of God in Beroea also, they went and persecuted him there as well.

Therefore, Paul had to once again escape by sea all the way to Athens, where he would later be joined by Silas and Timothy. Shortly thereafter, the community of Thessalonica would receive the first two Letters of Paul which bear witness to the fervor and restlessness of a young Church.

In Thessalonica, the Christian community’s place of worship and religion was the home, that is, the family, with all that it entailed at the time: social relations and work. In particular it gathered in Jason’s home just as the Church of Philippi met at Lydia’s.

ATHENS, THE IDOLS

In the capital of Hellenism, where one would come to study from all over the Roman Empire, Paul encountered the Greek culture, “exasperated at the sight of the city full of idols” (Acts 17:16).

He preached both in the Synagogue and in the public square – even at the Aeropagus – thus provoking the curiosity of intellectuals, “Epicurean and Stoic philosophers”, but few of them adhered to the Christian faith.

“I even discovered an altar inscribed, ‘To an Unknown God’. What therefore you unknowingly worship, I proclaim to you” (Acts 17:23). (Paul never mentioned this episode. This kind of speech recalls rather the preaching of the first missionaries in the Hellenic churches at the end of the first century to some pagans influenced by Stoicism. The absence of any hints to the Cross and salvation causes one to doubt that Paul ever said these words).




THE BEGINNINGS OF THE CHURCH


CORINTH
In this cosmopolitan city, where the worship of Aphrodite was flourishing, Paul met Priscilla and Aquila, a Jewish married couple, who in the year 49 were expelled from Rome according to the edict of Emperor Claudius, “since the Jews constantly caused disturbances at the instigation of Chrestos” (Suetonius, Claudius 25:11).

The couple would later accompany Paul to Ephesus, where they would play an important role in the Church and in evangelization. In the year 54, after the death of Claudius, they would return to Rome and wait to welcome the Apostle, at that time a prisoner.

Paul, who wished “to work” in the same manner as the rabbis, in order to guarantee the gratuitousness of his apostolic service, associated with the couple and practiced their same trade of making tents.

Every Shabbat, at the synagogue, he attempted to demonstrate to the doctors of the law the Messianism of Jesus. Crispus, the leading official of the synagogue, came to believe and was baptized along with his entire family.

The Church of Corinth, which also received pagans, developed very rapidly. Corinth became Paul’s headquarters from the moment that Rome denied him entrance due to the decree of expulsion ordered by Claudius. He remained in Corinth 18 months.

At this time an issue arose ever more frequently: the synagogue authorities, who took advantage of the privileges they held, did not wish that Christians be confused with a dissenting Jewish sect, even though, effectively, they did not depend on them for any reason.

Thus, they ended up accusing Paul of illicit religious propaganda before the proconsul Gallio (brother of Seneca, the philosopher). After having heard the accusations against him, Gallio refused to listen to Paul’s argument. He declared himself incompetent to judge such matters since Paul was a Jew and, from his point of view, this dispute would have to be resolved within the synagogue (cf. Acts 18:12-16).

Thereafter, Paul sailed to Antioch and Ephesus with Priscilla and Aquila, who would play a central role in creating the future community in the latter city.

Many historians hold that at the conclusion of this second journey, in the year 52, the “Council of Jerusalem” and the “Incident of Antioch” took place.

EPHESUS: PRISCILLA AND AQUILA LED THE CHURCH

According to the Acts of the Apostles, this is the third place where the Word was spread. Paul remained in this important center of exchange between East and West in the areas of culture, religion and trade for more than two years, and here he established a Church.

His confrontation with Judaism gave way to an encounter with other religious currents, for example, at that time Artemis was considered to be the great Goddess of Ephesus.

Priscilla and Aquila led the community there and taught with zeal. When they heard Apollos, an Alexandrian Jew who arrived in Ephesus, teaching in the synagogue, they explained “the Way (of God) more accurately” (Acts 18:26) to him. He would later have great success as a catechist in Ephesus and Corinth.

MILETUS: THE STRUCTURES OF THE CHURCH
On the way back to Jerusalem, Paul “compelled by the Spirit” (Acts 20:22), summoned the Elders of the Church of Ephesus. He foretold of his upcoming and inevitable imprisonment, persecution and death, as well as, the specific direction of his mission: “Go, I shall send you far away to the Gentiles” (Acts 22:21).

He exhorted them to be vigilant, hard workers, and to assist the poor and the weak: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). And finally, he left them as his last will and testament “building up the Church” (1Cor. 14:12), or, rather, he commended it to the power of the Word saying: “I commend you to God and to that gracious word of his that can build you up” (Acts 20:32).

Thus, the activity of the Word is primary; it creates the Church.
This event concluded with deep emotion: the assembly knelt down and prayed and they threw their arms around Paul (cf. Acts 20:36-37). They all entrusted themselves to God and to His Word.

This episode is important for the institutional history of the Church. For the Elders or the presbyters, who were summoned by Paul and whom he named pastors and bishops, appointed to give spiritual nourishment and guidance and to keep vigil (this is the meaning of the word bishop) over the people of God, did not receive their powers from the assembly of the faithful, but from the Spirit.

During the course of his “independent” ministry and in the face of some unusual situations, Paul had to adopt some doctrinal innovations in order to justify his continuous appeals to the believers to group together in united communities.

Undeniably, Paul succeeded, wherever he went, in creating many Churches, extremely united in order to survive and develop outside the structures tied to the synagogues.






JERUSALEM: HEAD OF THE CHURCHES

For the third time Paul went back to Jerusalem to explain to the Elders his mission to the Gentiles. This time he led a delegation representing the Churches he had founded, mostly Pagan-Christians, but also Hebrew disciples like Timothy.

He became the recognized leader (cf. 1Cor. 12:14) of a group of local communities who were in dispute with the synagogues and led an autonomous existence within the Pagan communities. He named them Churches, according to the Deuteronomic tradition, and claimed for each of them the dignity of an assembly of people chosen by God, which primarily was reserved to the Church of Jerusalem.

Paul exercised his authority as an apostle of Jesus Christ (cf. 1Cor. 1:21; 2Cor. 1:1), a title to which he was particularly attached.
But at that time, in the capital of Judaism and in the presence of the Church of Jerusalem, presided over by James, where there were “thousands of believers... from among the Jews” (Acts 20:21), he was asked to prove his devotion to the Fathers. He wrote to the Corinthians “I have become all things to all” – (1Cor. 9:22).

Therefore he would go to the Temple and be purified together with a group of Nazoreans, saying: “everyone will know…that you yourself live in observance of the law” (Acts 20:24). And it is there in the temple where Paul would be arrested.

ARRESTED IN THE TEMPLE OF JERUSALEM

All signs pointed in the direction of impending turmoil: Paul’s preaching in the synagogues provoked fear, as well as, the development of Christianity which was viewed as a threat to structures and laws.

Some incidents broke out when Paul arrived at the Temple on the seventh and final day of the purification: had he been perhaps accompanied by a non-Hebrew Greek, desecrating in such a way the sanctuary? Some Jews from Asia Minor recognized him and incited the crowd, which led to Paul’s expulsion from the Temple.

Thanks to the arrival of the cohort commander and a group of soldiers, Paul escaped death and wished to speak again. “Paul stood on the steps… when all was quiet he addressed them in Hebrew” (Acts 21:40): he explained his fidelity to Judaism, having been formed in the Jewish faith at the school of Gamaliel, and the disconcerting encounter he had on the way to Damascus which dominated and inspired his life.

Later, in front of the Jews of Jerusalem, he added: “While I was praying in the temple, I fell into a trance and saw the Lord saying to me, ‘Hurry, leave Jerusalem at once, because they will not accept your testimony about me’” (Acts 22:17-18), and again: “I shall send you far away to the Gentiles” (Acts 22:21).

These latter words caused another uprising among the crowd because that would mean, in effect, that the Covenant God made with the sons of Israel was opened to everybody.


TIME OF IMPRISONMENT AND TRIALS:
JERUSALEM, CAESAREA AND ROME

Paul was led to the fortress of Jerusalem, for his first trial before the Sanhedrin, however he escaped flagellation since he was a Roman citizen.

He was transferred to Caesarea, after the discovery of a plot by Hebrew zealots to kill him. There he underwent his second trial before Felix, the procurator (years 57-59).

Two years later he was tried for a third time before Felix’s successor Festus.

His fourth trial was heard by King Agrippa II: "This man is doing nothing (at all) that deserves death or imprisonment” (Acts 26:31). “This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar" (Acts 26:32).




THE JOURNEY IN CAPTIVITY

IN THE EYE OF THE STORM

Here is the most legendary story of the New Testament. From Caesarea to Rome, “sailing had become hazardous” (Acts 27:9) after the time of the Fast and now as winter approached. In effect, the ship was driven about from Crete to Malta for fifteen days. They lost their sense of direction because “Neither the sun nor the stars were visible” (Acts 27:20).

Paul, the prisoner, was freer than the 276 members of the crew, the captain, the pilot, the centurion and the sailors, for he was accustomed to the sea and had been shipwrecked three times prior (cf. 2 Cor. 11:25) and, above all, he had a sense of security and confidence that came from God: “Not one of you will be lost, only the ship” (Acts 27:22).

When everything seemed lost, he told his companions, “An angel of the God to whom (I) belong and whom I serve stood by me and said, 'Do not be afraid, Paul… God has granted safety to all who are sailing with you” (Acts 27:23-24).

MALTA

Everyone reached the island; some swam to shore, while others drifted there on planks or debris from the ship. This simple and idyllic leg of their journey - “The natives showed us extraordinary hospitality; they lit a fire and welcomed all of us” (Acts 28:2) - symbolizes how the Pagan world was welcoming the Gospel.

After the danger had passed and the shipwreck, Luke viewed this wonderful stop in Malta as the taste of the dawn of a resurrection. While Paul was placing a bundle of brushwood on the fire, a viper attached itself to his hand. He shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no harm…and the island’s inhabitants took him to be a God (cf. Acts 28:6).

As well, Paul healed the father of the chief of the island, laying his hands on him, and on the crowd of sick who came to him. Finally, “They paid us great honor and when we eventually set sail they brought us the provisions we needed” (Acts 28:10).

ROME

Thereafter, they sailed to Syracuse, Rhegium and Puteoli. Paul had the great joy of being welcomed by some brothers – who had traveled 50 kilometers on foot to see him - because the Apostle was not unknown: three years before, they had received his great Letter to the Romans.

In Rome, he found a community of Christians, whose origin is silently passed over in the Acts of the Apostles, and whom Luke described as quite large and renowned for its faith and works. Undoubtedly, Hebrew merchants brought Christianity here very early on, but it remained isolated near some synagogues.

At the time of Emperor Claudius’ death, there were about 50,000 Jews from very different regions, spread throughout the large agglomeration in various synagogues.

Paul reached Rome in the year 61 to undergo judgment. After two years of living in a guarded residence, in the heart of the city close to the Tiber (the present Jewish neighborhood), during which time Paul evangelized and wrote, the case against him dissolved for lack of accusers.

But in 64, after the fire occurred in Rome, Nero accused the Christians of being responsible for it. Therefore Paul was arrested, bound in chains in the Mamertine Prison and condemned to beheading, which took place outside the Aurelian Walls, along the Ostiense Way, most likely between the years 65 and 67.




MARTYRDOM IN ROME:
THE OPENING OF THE COVENANT TO ALL MANKIND


Paul’s first gesture in the capital city of the Empire and also his last words, documented in the Acts of the Apostles, were aimed at launching – once more – an appeal to the Jews.

He did so in the same manner as in his earlier Letter to the Romans: “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel. It is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: for Jew first, and then Greek” (Rom. 1:16).

In this way, at the conclusion of his mission, the man whom the Lord had chosen as Apostle to the Nations did not want to forget even the “least brothers of mine” (Mt. 25:40), “for it is on account of the hope of Israel that I wear these chains” (Acts 28:20).

He launched his final vibrant appeal for the “conversion” of his people to the radical change of life he had come to know. In Christ, God’s Covenant is now open to all people. His final words did not mean the end of Paul, for on the contrary, Christianity and the Good News spread to all the ends of the earth due to his great witness to the Risen One, in whose image Paul became a “Light of the Nations” (Is. 49:6; Acts 13:47).





Of course, I will be posting here the memorable catecheses that Pope Benedict XVI gave about St. Paul in his teaching cycle on the Apostles.




TERESA BENEDETTA
00Saturday, June 28, 2008 6:29 AM



In the past month, the Italian journal of ideas, TEMPI, has carried two interviews with historians who have studied the life of St. Paul and offer interesting insights to reinforce what Christians believe about his work while refuting his critics.


New historiography on St. Paul:
Historian explains a revised chronology
and confirms the authenticity of
Paul's correspondence with Seneca

by Roberto Persico
Translated from

May 19, 2008


On June 28, the Pope will solemnly inaugurate another great jubilee: the Church celebrates 2000 years since the birth of Saul of Tarsus who became Paul, Apostle of the Gentiles, the man who more than any other had spread Christianity among the peoples who lived along the shores of the Mediterranean, and according to adversary critics, the man who 'invented' Christianity, which, without him, they claim, would have remained an obscure marginal sect in the Jewish world.

It is an extraordinary occasion for the Church to reflect on its own task, its mission 'ad gentes', to the relationship between its Gospel message and the cultures of the peoples that it preaches to - questions which are dramatic and fascinating in the third millennium that has just begun.

It is a subject that has absorbed and fascinated Marta Sordi, emeritus professor of ancient history at the Catholic University of Milan, who has dedicated a life of study to Paul - "from the viewpoint of Roman history," she points out, "and a close study of historical sources, projecting facts from Christian texts to what is known of Roman historical documentation."

It is a knowledge in depth that she will present and discuss as part of the discussion cycles programmed for the Pauline jubilee year by the Cultural Center of Milan, and which she explains with limpid clarity to Tempi.




Prof. Sordi, even now, there are those who claim that Christianity was an invention of St. Paul's who managed to transform an insignificant Jewish sect into a universal religion.
They are wrong, of course. To begin with, the first one to open up Christianity to non-Jews was Peter, not Paul. The Acts of the Apostles, chapter 10, clearly narrate the story of the Roman centurion Cornelius, who was baptized without having been circumcised - it was Peter who made the decision, who entered the house of a pagan, defying the criticisms of the other apostles, and who, in the first Council of Jerusalem, made a statement saying circumcision was not obligatory, that the Christian message was for everyone, not just for the Jews.

On the other hand, Paul did not know Jesus directly - the other apostles told him the facts of his story, out of which he elaborated as theology. In complete accord with the apostolic community, of course. As he writes in the Letter to the Galatians, and as recounted in the Acts, he returned to Jerusalem twice - the first shortly after his conversion, and then, 14 years later, when he already enjoyed great authority in all the churches of Asia Minor.

Both times it was to get the judgment of Peter and those with him - Paul does not mention names, but he very likely meant John and James - who were the recognized leaders of the Christian community.

"I explained to them the Gospel that I have been preaching among the pagans," he writes, "so that I would not run the risk of preaching in vain." So as 'not to preach in vain' - don't you see? Paul was very conscious that if he preached something that diverged from the faith of the apostles, then his work would be in vain.


What then were the principal characteristics of his work?
I would say manifesting to the pagans 'the mystery hidden from ages and from generations past', an impulse was born during his mission in Asia Minor; and his ability to address everyone, including the authorities and the powerful, according to the language and style most appropriate to each one. These were two characteristics which distinguished him from the beginning.

Paul's mission began with his voyage to Cyprus, where he preached, first of all, as he would always do, to the Jewish community. But then, he is summoned by the Roman governor of the island, Sergius Paulus whom, according to the Acts, 'believed' - and it is from here on that he changes his Jewish name Saul, not incidentally taking the name of whom we might call his first illustrious convert. Who became his protector, so that when he landed next in Asia Minor, Paul did not direct himself to the Hellenized communities along the coast but towards the less civilized interior, where the powerful family of the Pauli had lands and great influence.

I believe it was there that Paul first realized that the Gospel of Christ was destined for all peoples. Although he always brought his message first to the synagogues, the Jews would be lukewarm if not outright hostile, seeking to drag him before Roman judges, whereas he was attracting followers from among the Gentiles.

Thus, in Corinth, the Jews accused him before the proconsul of Achaia, Gallion, brother of Seneca, who did not even look at the charges because he found them irrelevant. In Ephesus, he was accused by the silversmiths, who had prospered by selling statuettes of the Ephesian Diana and saw their trade ruined by the new religion. But the Asiarchs intervened to resolve the situation. In both cases we see how the top Roman authorities treated him with benevolence, an evident sign that he knew how to deal with them, how to establish a relation with them.

Then came the famous dream about the Macedonian who begged him "to cross the sea" and bring the message of Christ to the European mainland itself. Of course, he had felt the desire to go to Rome for some time now. According to the Acts, it had taken shape when Paul was in Ephesus, and is expressed in his letter to the Romans, which according to the chronology that I have re-examined, would be around 53-54, not 57 as it has been generally maintained. Among the Roman personages he names are Narcissus, a 'liberto' of Claudius who died in 54, and Aristobulus who was sent in the same year to govern Little Armenia.


You attach great importance to this revised chronology that differs from tradition. Why?
Because following the traditional chronology, there are a lot of things that are incomprehensible. But with the chronology I propose - which agrees with all the data now at our disposition - everything falls into place.

It all hangs on a statement in the Acts (24, 27), which says, "Two years passed and Felix [the Roman governor of Judea] was succeeded by Porcius Festus. Wishing to ingratiate himself with the Jews, Felix left Paul in prison."

Generally, the two years has been interpreted as referring to Paul's imprisonment, whereas it simply refers to Felix's tenure in office, which, according to Roman documents, was in 53-54. This means that Paul was tried under Felix's successor, Porcius Festus, in the first half of 55. But by virtue of his Roman citizenship, Paul appealed to Caesar, and was therefore ordered transferred to Rome, where he arrived at the start of 56, not after the year 60, as has been generally accepted.

In 56, the Praetorian prefect was Afranius Burrus, a friend of Seneca, a tolerant and wise man - which explains the conditions of Paul's captivity, a rather mild form of house arrest in which he was under surveillance by a Praetorian guard but he could meet with anyone he wished.

Then, in the spring of 58, he was absolved, very likely by Burrus, and it is then that he starts his famous correspondence with Seneca - which was generally considered a fabrication in the succeeding centuries. Even I at the start thought it was fake. But after studying it carefully and situating it in the new chronology, I changed my mind.

Two of the letters were definitely added on later - they are different from the others in style and vocabulary, which resulted in casting doubt on the entire correspondence. But if you exclude these two, then I think the rest of it is authentic.

It is an exchange between friends, often little more than notes, with references to daily happenings and common acquaintances. If a counterfeiter had wanted to invent a correspondence between two great persons, he would have chosen weighty subjects, don't you think?

Then, there is the question of style. Poor Latin, full of Hellenisms, a sign that the mother tongue of whoever wrote it was Greek, distinguishes the letters from Paul, not those from Seneca, who in one letter, reproaches Paul goodnaturedly for his deficient Latin and gives him some advice on how to improve it.

Then there is a reference to the 'prolonged remoteness' of Paul and a knowingness about the internal political situation but a circumspection in discussing it, which cannot be the work of a later counterfeiter.


Can you clarify these last points?
According to my reconstruction, Paul remained under house arrest between 56-58, after which he was absolved, and this is when the first letters to Seneca begin. There is a void between 49-62, which is when Paul went to Spain. He came back to Rome just in time to undergo the effects of Nero's ascendancy. That year Burrus died and Seneca lost his own influence with the emperor, replaced in that by Nero's new wife, Poppea. One of Seneca's letters at this time refers to the hostility of the 'domina' [the female master] against Paul for having 'abandoned the faith of his fathers'.

It's an important detail because Poppea was a 'Judaistic' influence and was hostile to Christian - this we know from Flavius Joseph and Tacitus, though the Christians of the second and third centuries did not. Besides, everything about what took place in the imperial court is always treated with great circumspection, as if the letter writers were careful lest the letters fall into the wrong hands. A counterfeiter would never have known to take such precautions.

Paul came back to Rome just in time to enter into fresh disagreement with Peter, shortly before both were condemned to death. Look, it must be stressed that there were never - and I repeat, never - any doctrinal differences between Peter and Paul. What they did have were two contrasting 'pastoral' styles. Peter was far more discreet with the Jews and tended to avoid any disputes with them, whereas Paul always preached first to the Jews before turning to the Gentiles.
But these were differences of method and of temperament, never about doctrine.

In this context, the doctrinal unity between the two was one of the essential foundations of the Church of Rome.

One of the most moving pieces of evidence is an inscription found in Ostia dating to the start of the second century or maybe even the end of the first, referring to a "Marcus Annius Petrus Paulus" - a Christian who had taken the names of the two apostles, indissolubly linked by then - as a surname. And it was on this 'binomial' that the Church of Rome was founded.


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The bimillennial Apostle:
He certainly did not
'invent' Christianity

by Roberto Persico
Translated from

June 24, 2008



At the May 27 encounter on the Apostle Paul with historian Marta Sordi at the Cultural Center of Milan, Spanish historian Jose Miguel Garcia scrupulously kept himself to the role of one of the interlocutors, even if he himself is an authority on the subject.

A professor of early Christianity at the Complutensian University of Madrid and the San Damaso Theological Faculty in the Spnaish capital, he is among the leading lights of the Madrid theological school that has revolutionized Biblical studies in the past few decades.

Acting on the observation that the Greek 'original' of the New Testament presented structural characteristics of the Aramaic language, the Madrid school formulated the hypothesis that the Greek version of the Gospels and apostolic letters on which we base our knowledge of the New Testament is in most cases a translation (and not seldom, approximative) of an original in Aramaic, which they have sought to reconstruct.

The result is a new reading of Sacred Scriptures which, on the one hand, clarifies many points that are otherwise difficult to understand, and on the other hand, confirms that they must have been written at a time very close to the lifetime of Jesus, by persons who were very knowledgeable about the geographical, political and cultural context of the events described.

Pending the release of Garcia's book entitled Il protagonista della storia. Nascita e natura del cristianesimo [History's protagonist: Birth and nature of Christianity] to be published soon by Rizzoli, we asked Garcia to clarify some essential aspects of St. Paul for our readers.

"To make a brief synthesis is a most difficult undertaking," he points out. "How does one choose which aspect of his personality to dwell on? But if I must, then I think there are two things that are worthwhile rediscovering during this Pauline Year: one is his relations with the other apostles, and the other, that his mission was not an exception but rather inherent in the dynamism of proclaiming the faith that characterizes the Church.





The first aspect - that of his relations with the other apostles - is not really well known...
Only by the general public. Because in the scholarly community, the absolute continuity between the work of Paul and those of the oother apostles has long been ascertained fact.

But the mass media and popularizing books by enemies of the Church and the Christian faith prefer to continue reproposing hypotheses that have long been dead and buried in the academic world.

It was during the 20th century that many scholars had insisted on a supposed rupture and opposition between Pauline Christianity and that of the apostles. It all started with the German scholar William Wrede, according to whom, St. Paul - although he had a common 'basis' with Jesus himself, was essentially a new phenomenon - that Jesus was within Judaistic tradition whereas Paul belonged to the Hellenistic world.

Wrede claimed Paul was responsible for a radical change - for having introduced a new image of the historical Jesus, making him a transcendent, pre-existent, divine being, and that is why he should be considered the founder of Christianity as we know it.

But studies that came after Wrede have amply documented that Paul's faith was not different form that of the other apostles, only that his formulations made more explicit than what was expressed in less obvious terms by the synoptic Gospels.


Can you give us an example of this concordance between the faith St. Paul preached and that of the other apostles?
One will suffice - the principal question. Paul expressly announced the divinity of Jesus, which is never affirmed by the Gospels in his terms, even if the entire Gospel narration makes clear Jesus's claim to being God.

That was observed even by Jacob Neusner, whom Benedict XVI cites in JESUS OF NAZARETH - what else, he asks in effect, could have led to the presumption that he, Jesus, was above the law of the Sabbath, above the temple itself, above the Law? For the Jews, only Yahweh is Lord of all - so, for Jesus to place himself above those institutions given to the Jewish people by Yahweh meant putting himself in God's place. In fact, in all his life and his work, Jesus affirms himself as the criterion of salvation. This could only mean that he was identifying himself with God.

Therefore, St. Paul did not 'invent' the divinity of Jesus - he simply formulated in explicit terms what was evident in all the facts of the Gospels.


How did he do this, if it is true that he practically had no contacts with the apostolic community?
But that's another forced assumption. It is true that in the letter to the Galatians, he writes that he went back to Jerusalem 'only twice' and that he had 'little contact' with the apostles, but he does not say this to minimize his relations with them - which, on the contrary, he sought all the time when he thought it necessary - or to oppose his teaching to theirs.

How many times does he say, instead, that what he announces is none other but the faith of the apostles? What he meant by 'little contact' was simply to underscore that his calling came directly from Jesus and not from the preaching of his followers.

But, the critics also point out, Paul was the product of Greek formation and interpreted a Jewish epxerience in this context, adopting categories which were 'alien' to Jewish thought. This is simply not true!

Paul was not only a Jew himself but was a Pharisee, an elite that was very rigorous in requiring that its members should keep themselves well away from any relationship that could contaminate their Jewishness. The Pharisees considered living in a foreign land among such 'contaminants' of ritual purity.

In fact, we do not have news of Pharisaic communities outside Palestine at the time we are concerned with - which shows that Paul's education in Pharisisaism could only have taken place in Jerusalem. He himself, as Luke says in the Acts, stated that he had 'grown up in this city', that is, Jerusalem. The zeal with which he persecuted Christians at the start was that of a man profoundly steeped in the Jewish faith.

So to oppose a 'Greek' Paul to a 'Jewsh' Paul simply makes no sense. Paul knew the Jewish tradition perfectly, he grew up in it, he loved it. That is why, as a Jew, he found Jesus's claims scandalous - because by his acts, he made himself the equal of God. If afterwards Paul came to express the Christian message with a different vocabulary, that was his genius, which allowed him to address various audiences with the language that each one could understand.


So here we are at the second aspect of his work - his mission.
As I said earlier, Paul's mission is inscribed perfectly within a dimension that belonged to the entire early Church. It is true that he has passed on into history as the Apostle to the Gentiles, but even the other apostles - according to the history related by Eusebius of Caesarea - had gone forth to announce the Gospel throughout the known world.

It is just that Paul's evangelizing work is the only one we know well, through the Acts and his letters. But all the other apostles went forth following Jesus's commandment to "Go forth and announce the Gospel to all peoples."

So Paul's case was not 'extraordinary' with respect to the other Apostles - it was simply the most documented. And of course, even he did not go about by himself. The Spirit, the Acts tell us, chose Paul and Barnabas, who then each went on his own, choosing his own collaborators - and all this in close contact with the original apostolic community which participated in all missionary activities - by putting together the funds to support these voyages, taking care of the families of those who went on missions.

But it was St. Paul's missions that were successful - at least, the only missions whose successes were documented. But their characteristics were those of every Christian mission. Paul was a realist - he used all the institutions and all the possibilities that were available to him. He had no mistrusts, no moralistic prejudices - he entered into relationships with everyone.

His only concern was to allow everyone he met to 'encounter' Jesus. Everything he did was to this end, including his own personal patrimony (let us not forget he came from a well-to-do family). The only motivation of all his activity was Jesus - to make Jesus known.

So we see in him a characteristic typical of the entire Church - it is the nature of the Catholic Church to be missionary: one cannot live the faith without communicating it. A faith that is closed in on itself is self destructive. We see throughout history that communities which remain closed eventually die off.

Paul was able to make it absolutely evident that Christianity is nothing other than Jesus himself, a relationship with Jesus, love for Jesus. And that the only way of encountering Jesus after he had ascended to heaven was through meeting a witness to Christ.


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I regret that most of the images used to illustrate the articles on Paul are not identified. I will try to trace the proper identification and provenance online and post these as soon as I have the information.


TERESA BENEDETTA
00Saturday, June 28, 2008 6:10 PM



Real letters to real people
by Nicholas King
June 28, 2008



The next 12 months have been set aside as the Year of Paul. Here a leading scripture scholar begins our series to mark the year with an exploration of the writings of this difficult, passionate figure who taught the non-Jewish world the teachings of Jesus.

Paul's legacy is a complex one. First, he is responsible for a large part of the New Testament. The letters ascribed to him are about a quarter of the whole, and if you add the 17 chapters of Acts that are given over to him, it is more like a third. After Jesus, you could argue, Paul is the central figure of the New Testament.

Secondly, Paul is (as far as we know) the first Christian author. Then there is the fact that the letters have been preserved, even though they are clearly written for particular purposes and addressed to Christians in one city rather than another. That means that from the very beginning, Christians must have thought that there was something of general import. This would have astonished Paul.

Lastly, the Pauline letters have touched hearts down the centuries; think of his effect on St Augustine, Luther (though even Lutherans today recognise that the great reformer misread St Paul), Wesley and Karl Barth, and all the lives that have been influenced through them, including our own.



What kind of a person is it that has bequeathed this legacy to us? One of the great advantages of letters is that for the most part they are personal.

Paul is writing real letters, to real people, aiming to solve the difficulties that arise in real situations. Paul is, moreover, unmistakably flesh and blood, a real person, whom we overhear threatening the Corinthians with corporal punishment, and accusing the Galatians of stupidity, and of being bewitched. There are, moreover, one or two other remarks that he makes, which cannot easily be repeated in polite society.

There is no doubt at all of Paul's humanity: he is a passionate lover, and a prickly, irritable authoritarian, both at the same time. He is a gifted theologian (one of the three unmistakably great minds in the New Testament), with a startling ability to think on his feet when faced with new and unforeseen situations.

One of Paul's strengths is that he is at ease in at least three backgrounds. He is, according to Acts, a Roman citizen. Then he clearly belongs in the Hellenistic world into which he was born at Tarsus, and to which he spent the last 30 years of his life preaching. Finally, but by no means least in importance, he is a Jew who took his Law-based Pharisaic Judaism immensely seriously, and if Acts has it right he studied under the great Pharisee teacher Gamaliel.

All three of these backgrounds are important to Paul, though he has reservations about each of them. Paul was also an innovator, unafraid of change. Notably, his encounter with Jesus meant that the story of the one God, in which he had been brought up, now had to be radically adapted to include the Risen One whom he learned to call "Lord".

One of the difficulties about letters is that they represent only one part of a continuing dialogue, and, maddeningly, we do not have the other side of the conversation. Paul's readers (or rather hearers - the letters were written to be performed rather than studied) knew a great deal more than we do about the background, and in places we must simply guess at what might have been going on, where they would have not been at all puzzled.

Because Paul is addressing many different situations, it is inevitable that he is not always consistent, and although he remains unmistakably the same Paul, different problems call forth different, or at least nuanced, responses from him. It is not respectful to the Apostle always to force him into consistency. At times, too, he is frankly very difficult.

I defy anybody to read carefully through the Letter to the Romans and claim that they fully understand what Paul is saying. Even in that first century people were aware of this obscurity as a problem, as we see in 2 Peter, where the author warns his audience about "our beloved brother Paul" that in all his letters ... "there are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction".

And it is certainly possible that when the Letter of James makes some dark remarks about the relationship between faith and works, the author is attacking either Paul or some of his more enthusiastic followers.

In more recent times, it was recalled how an illiterate old woman, freed from slavery in the United States, would say "Not that man!" when her family read the Bible to her, and suggested something from St Paul. The family remembered that she told them, "the master's minister would occasionally hold services for the slaves. Always the white minister used as his text something from Paul. ‘Slaves, be obedient to them that are your masters ... as unto Christ.' Then he would go on to show how, if we were good and happy slaves, God would bless us. I promised my Maker that if I ever learned to read and if freedom ever came, I would not read that part of the Bible."

St Paul, it is important to repeat, simply did not envisage that he might be taken as legislating for us today. So although as a good Jew, Paul, as he makes it clear in the opening chapter of Romans, felt that homosexuality was "against nature", it does not follow that we are faithful to his inspiration if today we use that as the end point of the debate, rather than one of its starting points. [Hmmm... A rather self-serving comment by a liberal, wouldn't you say?]

To get Paul right, and to assess his legacy properly, it is essential to listen for the heart of his message. What is this heart? The moment that ineradicably changed his life, and has not ceased to echo today, was when he met Jesus.

Paul is quite clear that he has done so, and Luke thought it such an important encounter that he tells the story no fewer than three times. The effect on Paul was quite startling. He was in no doubt that it was Jesus, quite against the run of play, whom he had met; so there was no question of "wishful thinking", or sunstroke or an epileptic fit, such as are often peddled as explanations of what took place.

From that, it followed that what these irritating Jesus people had been claiming was, after all, true - that the Crucified One had indeed been raised from the dead by God. Therefore, he was indeed God's Messiah (which Paul had thought impossible).

More radical yet, Paul realised that he had to address Jesus as "Lord", the title that hitherto Paul would have reserved for God. This was doubly subversive, for it would lead him into conflict not only with his fellow Jews, but also with Roman society, at a time when the emperors were sending out signals that they were quite happy to be so addressed, and to be regarded as divinities.

Two further consequences seem to have followed for Paul. The first was that he understood himself to be charged with the task of telling "Gentiles" (non-Jews, such as most people reading this article) about this lordship of Jesus.

The second was that this new way of life is not a private matter - not a matter of individuals in solitary relationship with Jesus. Christianity (to give the new movement a name that it did not yet possess) is not something you do alone, but is a corporate affair, done in solidarity with others.

That, it seems to me, is the heart of Paul. But a word of caution is necessary. Many competent scholars would give a very different account ("What about justification by faith?" I hear you cry), and the fact is, and has been for almost two millennia, that, just when you think you have pinned him down, Paul goes laughing away from you, and you are forced to look again at a text that you thought you understood.

One more feature of St Paul is essential to grasp - and it may be that "ordinary" readers (or hearers) of his letters are in a better position to understand than academics, who tend to shift uneasily at this sort of talk.

It is that Paul was head over heels in love - there is no other phrase for it - with the Jesus whom he had met. That love drove him onwards for the rest of his life, and made all the horrid things that happened to him, and which occasionally he mentions (have a look at 2 Corinthians 11:23-29, for example), entirely worthwhile.

That love enabled him proudly to describe himself, in the first line of the Letter to the Romans, as "a slave of Jesus Christ". That same love drove him, like a demented gadfly, all the way round the Greek cities of the Mediterranean basin, preaching about the Risen Jesus.

So if you really wish to grasp what is Paul's legacy, what you have to do is to read and re-read (preferably in company with others, rather than on your own) the letters that are attributed to him. Do so with an enquiring and attentive heart, and with an open mind, and allow him to exercise his age-old spell upon you. You will not regret it.

=====================================================================

Well!!! Hallelujah, for Mr. King!


TERESA BENEDETTA
00Saturday, June 28, 2008 6:49 PM




Pauline Year begins
for Churches of Asia as well




The communities of Asia feel themselves to be "descendants" of the work of Saint Paul,
who presented the Christian faith to the pagans.
Activities and pilgrimages are planned in Thailand, Hong Kong, and Indonesia, for the rediscovery of faith in Christ
and of the mission to non-believers.



Rome, June 28 (AsiaNews) - This evening, the vigil of the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, Benedict XVI will inaugurate the Pauline Year, centred on the figure of the apostle who, born in Tarsus around the year 8 A.D., died as a martyr in Rome in the year 67.

That makes 2008 the two thousandth year since his birth; celebrations will last until June 29 of 2009.

Paul's conversion to Christianity and his missionary activity are spoken of throughout the Acts of the Apostles, and many of his letters to Christians of the time are preserved in the New Testament.

Paul's great contribution to the Church is in his exploration of the meaning of faith in Jesus as the one saviour, and in the opening of the Gospel to non-Jews, which made Christianity available to all peoples and cultures.

Many Asian Churches - which see themselves as "descendants" of Saint Paul's work on behalf of the pagans - are planning pastoral events and activities.

In Thailand, the That bishops' conference has decided to insert the Pauline Year within the Year of the Word, which had already been planned. The president of the bishops' conference, George Yod Phimphisan, explained that the celebration should make the Thai faithful "living witnesses to proclaim Jesus Christ courageously, like St Paul".

For the entire year, the faithful are asked above all to become familiar with the Word of God, and to dedicate at least fifteen minutes a day to reading and meditating on the Bible. Every diocese must organise gatherings to read the Bible together, offering hospitality to members of other Christian confessions as well.

Also planned are the creation of instruments of communication to spread the Christian faith in Thai society, and a series of pilgrimage to churches dedicated to St Paul in Thailand, and to the places of the apostle's life in the Holy Land, Syria, Turkey, Greece, and Rome.

Evangelisation began in Thailand in the 16th century. Currently there are 2 archdioceses and 8 dioceses. Out of the population of about 63 million, 95% are Buddhist, 4% Muslim, and only 1.1% Christian. There are about 300,000 Catholics.

In Hong Kong, the Pauline Year will begin on June 29, at 6 p.m., with a solemn Mass celebrated by Bishop John Tong Hon, at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral. Everyone at the Mass will receive a book in Chinese about the apostle Paul.

The diocese of Hong Kong has created a committee to support all of the activities connected to the Pauline Year. Planned are Bible reading courses, publications, video cassettes, and DVD's on St Paul's work of evangelisation, and pilgrimages to places linked to St Paul in Rome, like to the basilica of St Paul's Outside the Walls, where the body of the apostle is preserved .

Out of a population of about 7 million, the Catholics of Hong Kong are almost 250,000. To these must be added another 100,000 Filipinos who work in the territory as domestics.

In Indonesia, the Pauline Year begins with an exceptional event for the Church: a Eucharistic Congress will be celebrated in the diocese of Semarang, the first in the history of the Indonesian Church.

Inaugurated yesterday, it will last the entire week. The site is a shrine dedicated to the Virgin Mary in Ambarawa, 35 kilometres from Semarang (central Java). About 1500 people were present at the inauguration. The diocese of Semarang has about 5000 faithful.

The majority of the 222 million people in Indonesia are Muslim (87%); the Catholics are 3.6%. There are also Protestants (6%), Hindus (1.8 %), and Buddhists (1 %).



Pauline Year - opportunity for testimony:
Turkish Catholics organising celebrations




TARSUS, June 24 (Fides News Agency) - In Tarsus and Antioch, places familiar to the presence and preaching of the Apostle Paul in Turkey, are preparing celebrations for the Pauline Year that has been announced by Pope Benedict XVI to take place from June 28, 2008 to June 29, 2009, in commemoration of the 2,000 year anniversary of Saint Paul’s birth.

The Catholic Church in Turkey opened the Pauline Year on June 22, 2008 in Tarsus with a Mass celebrated by Cardinal Walter Kasper.

Following the solemn opening of the year, a symposium wasd held on Saint Paul in Tarsus and Iskenderun (June 22-24). The event also forms a part of the itinerary of a national pilgrimage following the footsteps of the Apostle through Tarsus, Antioch, Ephesus, as well as other initiatives “accompanied by our Orthodox and Protestant brothers.”

Tarsus and Antioch, especially, will be sites visited by an ever-growing number of pilgrimage groups from all over the world. For this reason, the Church has asked the Turkish government for permission to celebrate Masses and hold prayer encounters and catechesis in the Church of St. Paul in Tarsus, which is currently a museum. The modern-day city is built upon the exact location of ancient Tarsus.

Officially speaking, there is not a large Christian presence there, nor are there many churches. Historians recall that in 1884 a church was opened by an Italian Capuchin named Fray Giuseppe da Genova, but it was later closed following the First World War.

The only official Christian presence that exists today in Tarsus is formed by 3 Italian religious sisters. The Church of St. Paul, where numerous pilgrims will be able to enter, was a church for both Byzantine and Armenian Rites. Later, it was used for years for military storage. Finally, it was made into a museum.

For the Turkish Bishops, who have written a letter to their faithful on the occasion of the Pauline Year (see Fides 28/1/2008), it is of great importance to drawing pilgrims’ attention to the places from the life of St. Paul, which are “an inheritance for all of Christ’s disciples; however, particularly for those of us who are children of this land that he saw at the start of its history, where he preached Christ, and where he bore testimony to Him in so many trials.”

In Antioch, the local Catholic community is preparing to welcome visitors. Antioch of Orontes (with a current population of 200, 000) was birthplace to the first Christian communities spoken of in the Acts of the Apostles. There, disciples of Christ were first called Christians.

In the very same neighbourhood where the disciples met to pray, there is today a small Christian community of about a dozen Catholic families, as well as a considerable number of Greek Orthodox who speak Arabic who come together for sharing their faith and spiritual growth, taking their strength from the Eucharist and the Word of God.

The local Catholic community, under the care of Capuchin friar Fr. Domenico Bertogli, is active in works of social service, as well as pastoral ministry that work to keep Christians from having to emigrate to other cities or countries for economic reasons.

In light of the upcoming pilgrimages, transportation has improved between Antioch and Istanbul. From the capital to Hatay (Antioch’s airport, located 25 km from the city), there will be trips twice a day: in the morning at 7 am going to Istanbul and in the afternoon at 7:30 pm from Istanbul to Antioch.

The local Christian communities have found many positive results since the creation, one year ago, of their website: www.anadolukatolikkilisesi.org/antakya.


=====================================================================


Saturday, 28th June 2008

Titular statues of St Paul
on new Malta stamps


June 28, 2008


Maltapost will be issuing a set of stamps that reproduce titular statues of St Paul in commemoration of the Pauline Year.

The stamps, designed by Paul Psaila, have a face value of €0.19 (8c), €0.68 (29c) and €1.08 (46c). The set incorporates a miniature sheet with a face value of €3 (Lm1.29).

The four titular statues depicted are found in Safi, Munxar, Rabat and Valletta. They are available as first day covers, in mint or cancelled format and as souvenir folders and presentation packs.

Maltapost will also be issuing 7,500 commemorative folders and include information and illustrations on the statues and their respective churches.

The stamps will be on sale as from Saturday at all Maltapost retail outlets, the Maltapost Mobile Unit and the Philatelic Bureau at 305, Triq Ħal Qormi, Marsa.


TERESA BENEDETTA
00Saturday, June 28, 2008 6:58 PM




Reserved for translation of an article from Vatican Radio on the preparations at St. Paul's Basilica today for thef ormal opening of the Pauline Year.


TERESA BENEDETTA
00Saturday, June 28, 2008 9:48 PM




Paul the Apostle:
Between dialog and testimony

By Cardinal Walter Kasper
President, Pontifical Council
for Promoting Christian Unity
Translated from
the 6/29/08 issue of





St. Paul was a man of modest height and he was everything but a brilliant orator. He was imprisoned many times, beaten up and in danger of death. Five times he received the 39 blows, three times he received a whipping, he was punished by stoning once, the underwent three shipwrecks, he suffered hunger and thirst, cold and nakedness; he was calumniated, persecuted and finally sentenced to die by the sword.

Howe could he have undergone all this? He gave the answer himself, when he wrote, "By the grace of God, however, I am who I am" (1 Cor 15,10) and "I could do everything in the name of He who gives me strength" (Phil 4,13).


In these statements, we touch the central point of his life and his faith. He attributed nothing of what he was to his own merit - he considered that he owed everything to God and his grace.

God was the power and the strength of his life. The message of the Apostle is the message of grace. We have value and dignity, salvation and sanctity, only from God and his grace. We cannot save ourselves only through good works. Salvation is given to us for our faith. This grace is offered to each and everyone.

With the grace of God, a new beginning is always possible. With the grace of God, even Saul, persecutor of Christians, became Paul, tireless messenger of Christ. We are all under the light of this grace in every situation, and for always.

In the life of St. Paul, a radical transformation took place that changed everything. While he travelled from Jerusalem to Damascus, full of hate for Christians, he fell from his horse, struck by a blinding light.

In the letter to the Galatians, Paul says that God showed him his Son (1,16). It was if the scales had fallen from his eyes - and now he could recognize Jesus Christ as the Son of God and Savior of the world.

The experience struck him so much that he forgot his entire past, projecting himself completely towards the future (cfr Phil 3,13). For him now, only Jesus and his Gospel mattered (3,8). From then on, he knew himself to be an Apostle of Jesus Christ, pre-selected and sent by God (Rom 1,1-ff) to carry the Gospel of Jesus to the limits of the known world: "Woe unto me if I do not preach the Gospel!" (1 Cor 9,16).

For Paul, the Gospel was not an abstract doctrine but a person: Jesus Christ. God is not far from us. He is the God for us, near us, with us. God came down and humbled himself in Jesus Christ. If God resurrected Christ from the dead, then he will resurrect us too. Thus, in every suffering, in every pain, in all the adversities of life, hope shines for us even beyond death.

It is a joyful message but a demanding one. We should always orient ourselves towards Jesus Christ, to his example, his life, and his Word. We should always convert ourselves anew, allow ourselves to be taken up by him and to follow him.

Jesus Christ is the fulcrum of Christian faith - its identity and its characteristic. Our faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God distinguishes us from the Muslims. We should not hide our faith, but testify to it courageously as Paul did.

This is done not only by words, but above all, through a convincing life of faith, through kindness, availability for others, benevolence, goodness itself, and charity in deeds.

There is another important aspect of St. Paul - one that the Turkish bishops described in their pastoral letter on the Pauline Year. They noted that Paul was an ardent witness to Christ but at the same time a man of dialog.

He was familiar with both the Jewish culture as well as the Greco-Roman world. He spoke Aramaic and Greek. At the Areopagus in Athens, he said, referring to other religions: "God is not far from each of us ... In fact we live in him, we move in him, we exist in him" (Acts 17,27-28).

The Second Vatican Council adopted Paul's exhortation and stated that the Catholic Church 'rejects nothing that is true and holy' in other religions (Nostra aetate, 2). The Council spoke with respect of the Muslims, inviting them to a collaboration in protecting and promoting social justice, moral values, peace and freedom for all men (3).

Dialog does not mean putting aside one's own faith nor making it flexibly adaptable. It only means giving a reason for our faith with all the necessary kindness and patience. To explain what we believe in, how and why we believe. To be active witnesses for our faith.

And we can learn how to do this from the Apostle Paul. Thanks to him, the Church became universal.

The Christians in Turkey are certainly a tiny flock that does not always have it easy, but they are part of a great universal community of believers. The whole Church is rooted somehow in Tarsus and in Turkey. And that is why the universal Church cannot forget the Christians of Turkey.

[It sounds unfinished. Was this the homily Cardinal Kasper gave when he inaugurated the Pauline Year in Tarsus last Sunday, June 22? The Osservatore Romano reports on the Tarsus events in the same issue.]





Numerous encounters in the calendar
of events in Tarsus -
All Christian confessions in Turkey
for the Pauline Year

by Egidio Picucci
Translated from
the 6/29/08 issue of




They are still talking in Tarsus about the emotional opening of the Pauline year which took place Sunday, June 22, in front of the Byzantine Church that the city has dedicated to Paul, its most illustrious son.

It is the talk of the town not because the people know the life and activity of the apostle, but because in the long history of the city, they have never seen such a numerous presence of representatives of all the Christian faiths and the various religious faiths professed in Turkey.

What is normal in Istanbul is history-making in Tarsus - a celebration of the Liturgy of the Word which was participated in by a great number of Italian, German and Iraqi pilgrims.

Tarsus is the place where the Apostle Paul was born. Turkey was the central point of his early missionary activity. Seleucia, Iconium, Listra, Derbe, Ephesus, Miletus, Perge, Troade: Paul began his missionary activities here.

His message continues to be alive and valid. His letters are used during Christian liturgies in every part of the world and are studied in all the theological academies.

The ceremony on Sunday was simple: a reading of the conversion of Paul on the road to Damascus, taken from the Acts, and a passage from the Letter to the Romans in which he says 'do not give evil for evil to anyone'; an address by the Apostolic Vicar of Anatolia, Mons. Luigi Padovese; prayer of the faithful in various languages; prayers offered by the Orthodox Armenians, Syrians and Protestants; a recitation of St. Francis's 'simple prayer'; and a concluding prayer by Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

Present for the rites were the Apostolic Nuncio in Turkey and Turkmenistan, Archbishop Luigi Antonio Lucibello; Mons. Ruggero Franceschini, Archbishop of Izmir; Mons. Giuseppe Germano Bernardini, emeritus Archibishop of Izmir; Mons. Georges Khazzoum, coadjutor Bishop of Turkish Armenia; Mons. Louis Pelâtre, Apostolic Vicar of Istanbul; Mons. Yusuf Sa, Patriarchal Vicar of the Syro-Catholics of Turkey; Mons. François Yakan, Patriarchal Vicar of the Syro-Chaldeans of Turkey; and Mons. Elpidophoros Lambriniadis, first secretary of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I.

The religious ceremony was followed by a civilian program at the square next to St. Paul's Well, so-called because it is located in the Jewish quarter of Tarsus where Paul was born. It is the only reminder left over from the time of the apostle.

Two choirs performed - a classical music choir from the nearby large city of Mersin, and the Choir of Civilization from Antioch, composed of Catholics, Orthodox, Jews, Protestants and Aloites, all dressed in white.

Other events planned in Tarsus are a celebration with 80 deacons on August 24; a pilgrimage by the Pontifical Gregorian University on September 9; a visit by the German bishops conference on October 2; a separate visit by Archbishop Ludwig Schick of Bamberg;' and many local observances.

"The year dedicated to St. Paul," wrote the bishops of the Turkish episcopal conference, "is also an invitation for Catholics to intensify the dialog with the Muslim world: the dialog of life, where one co-exists and shares; the dialog of works, in which Christians and Muslims act together for the integral development and liberation of all peoples; the dialog of religious experience and of theological exchanges, where we seek to know each other better in order to respect each other better. In everything however, without putting aside our own religious beliefs, because there is true dialog only when one remains oneself, maintaining one's identity of faith intact, never keeping silent about it for any reason, even if this may be difficult to understand for those who are not Christian."


TERESA BENEDETTA
00Monday, June 30, 2008 12:30 AM



EVENTS THAT LED TO
THE PROCLAMATION
OF THE PAULINE YEAR


This is part of the retrospective stories for this thread.


St. Paul's tomb unearthed in Rome
by Maria Cristina Valsecchi
National Geographic News



VATICAN CITY, December 11, 2006 - St. Paul's stone coffin has been found beneath Rome's second largest basilica, but its contents remain a mystery, Vatican archaeologists announced today.

The sarcophagus dates back to about A.D. 390 and was uncovered in Rome's Basilica of St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls, named for its location beyond the ancient wall surrounding Rome's center.

Long believed to be buried beneath the church's altar, the coffin is now on display for the first time in centuries—its precious cargo, however, is not.

"For now we didn't open the sarcophagus to study the contents. Our aim was to unearth the coffin venerated as St. Paul's tomb, not to authenticate the remains," said Giorgio Filippi, the archaeologist of the Vatican Museum, who directed the excavations.

"The sarcophagus was buried beneath the main altar, under a marble tombstone bearing the Latin words "Paulo Apostolo Mart.," meaning "Apostle Paul, Martyr."

The basilica "rises on the place where, according to tradition, Paul of Tarsus was originally buried after his martyrdom," Filippi said.

St. Paul was born Saul in the first decade of the first century A.D. in Tarsus, the capital of the ancient Roman region of Cilicia in what is now Turkey.

Though he never met Jesus Christ, he joined the first Christians after a dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus, as told in the Acts of the Apostles, one of the Bible's New Testament books.

Baptized as Paul, he traveled around part of what is now Turkey as well as ancient Greece and Rome, founding a number of religious communities.

Paul's thought largely influenced Christian doctrine by means of 13 or 14 letters, the Pauline epistles, included in the New Testament. Perhaps his most recognizable passage—to modern wedding guests, anyway—is his poetic definition of love ("Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast. … ").

According to later reports, in A.D. 65 Paul of Tarsus was imprisoned in Rome, beheaded, and then buried in the family tomb of a devout Roman noblewoman, Matrona Lucilla (Rome map, facts, photos, and more).

"Around A.D. 320 Emperor Constantine built a first small basilica to receive the pilgrims visiting Saint Paul's tomb," Filippi said.

"In A.D. 390 Emperor Theodosius enlarged the building and encased Paul's remains in a sarcophagus located on view in the middle of the basilica—the same sarcophagus we found."

"We know for sure it's the same object because the stone coffin is embedded in the layer of the Theodosian basilica," he continued.

In A.D. 433 part of the building collapsed during an earthquake. In the course of renovations the floor was elevated. The sarcophagus was buried and covered by a marble tombstone.

In 1823 a fire completely destroyed the ancient basilica, and the modern Saint Paul's Outside-the-Walls was built on the site.

"The sarcophagus and the tombstone were covered by concrete and debris, on top of which the main altar, named the Papal Altar, was placed," Filippi said.

Six years ago the Catholic Church celebrated what it called the Jubilee 2000. Pilgrims from all over the world visited Rome and Saint Paul's Outside-the-Walls.

"They asked to see Saint Paul's tomb and were disappointed to learn that it was buried and not on view," said Cardinal Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo, the archpriest of the basilica.

"So we decided to begin excavations and bring the sarcophagus to light."

Work started in 2002 and just recently wrapped up.

"Archaeologists opened a window 70 centimeters [28 inches] wide and 1 meter [39 inches] deep through the concrete layer under the main altar to reach the side of the sarcophagus," he continued.

Archaeologist Filippi said, "There is a hole in the cover of the sarcophagus, about ten centimeters [four inches] wide.

"In ancient times people used it to dip pieces of fabric inside the coffin, so they would become relics too. Currently the hole is closed by debris.

"It could be used to access to the remains of the saint if and when Vatican authorities decide to explore what the sarcophagus contains."

Cardinal di Montezemolo added: "At last, today pilgrims visiting the basilica can see the side of the sarcophagus through a small window we left open under the papal altar."



St Paul's tomb found under altar
By Malcolm Moore

Dec. 12, 2006

The tomb of St Paul the Apostle has been found under one of Rome's largest churches and the stone coffin will shortly be raised to the surface to allow pilgrims to see it.

The remains of St Paul, one of the Christian Church's most important leaders and the supposed author of much of the New Testament, have been hidden under an altar at St Paul Outside-the-Walls for almost 200 years.

"I have no doubt that this is the tomb of St Paul, as revered by Christians in the fourth century," said Giorgio Filippi, the Vatican archaeologist who made the discovery.

Dr Filippi will present the results of his scientific tests on the remains of the saint on Monday at the Vatican. St Paul's sarcophagus was found after five years of extensive excavations at the church, which is second only in size to St Peter's in Rome. Dr Filippi began looking for the tomb at the request of Archbishop Francesco Gioia, within whose jurisdiction the church falls.

In 2000, the Archbishop was inundated with queries from pilgrims about the whereabouts of the saint. The same requests have persuaded the Vatican that there is enough demand from tourists to warrant raising the sarcophagus to the surface so that it can be viewed properly.

"We wanted to bring it to the light for devotional reasons so it can be venerated," said Dr Filippi.

St Paul Outside-the-Walls has been rebuilt several times since it was erected by the Emperor Constantine, most recently in 1823 following a fire.

The archaeologists had to descend into a series of tunnels and chambers that dated to the fourth century. There they found a marble plaque inscribed with "Paul the Apostle, Martyr".

St Paul's remains lay underneath a stone slab, in which three holes were originally punched to allow visitors to push pieces of material through and touch the saint's remains. The cloth would then be imbued with the sanctity within.

The sarcophagus is thought to date from AD390, when the Emperor Theodosius "saved" the remains and moved them to the site, near the Appian Way. St Paul, was born in Tarsus, a city that used to stand in the Mersin province of Turkey, shortly after Jesus.

Originally named Saul, and Jewish, he converted to Christianity on the road to Damascus. He was arrested in Jerusalem for being Christian and subsequently exercised his right as a Roman citizen to a trial in Rome.

According to the Bible, St Paul was imprisoned in Rome.

The traditional legend states that he was beheaded in the city around AD64. The head is not thought to be with the rest of the remains.

Instead, it is supposed to be located inside a silver bust at the St John Lateran church on the Celian hill. St Peter's head is also thought to be there.




POPE WILL PROCLAIM
THE 'YEAR OF ST. PAUL'



VATICAN CITY, June 20, 2007 (Translated from PETRUS) - Pope Benedict XVI will proclaim a special Pauline year to commemorate the second millenium anniversary of the death of the Apostle Paul, at the Vespers ceremony traditionally presided by the Pope on June 28, eve of the Feast of saints Peter and Paul, at the basilica of St. Paul outside the Walls.

This was confirmed today by the abbey at the Basilica in announcing the Triduum calendar to be observed at the Basilica on June 26,27 and 28.

The Arch-Priest of St. Paul, Cardinal Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo had anticipated a Pauline Year proclamation months ago, when the Basilica opened the Tomb of St. Paul to public viewing.



Pope launches Pauline Year
with its unique ecumenical dimension




Rome, June 28, 2007 (AsiaNews) – The year dedicated to Saint Paul which Pope Benedict XVI announced today will have an important ecumenical dimension. Inspired by the example of the Apostle to the Nations, the Pauline Year will show “that the action of Church is credible and effective only to the extent that its members are willing to personally pay for their fidelity to Christ in every situation.”

In the Roman basilica dedicated to the Apostle to the Nations, the Pope stressed this afternoon the witness, which united Paul and Peter up to their martyrdom, during the first vespers for the Solemnity of Sts Peter and Paul.

Planned as part of the celebrations of Saint Paul’s birthday (which historians place between 7 and 10 AD), the Pauline Year—from June 28,2008 till June 29, 2009— will be in the Pope’s words “a series of liturgical, cultural and ecumenical events as well as pastoral and social initiatives inspired by St Paul’s spirituality.”

“There will be conferences and special studies on St Paul’s writings which will improve our understanding of the wealth of learning they contain—a real legacy for humanity redeemed by Christ. Around the world in local dioceses, shrines and places of worship, religious, educational and welfare institutions bearing St Paul’s name or inspired by him and his teachings will be able to organise similar initiatives.”

“Last but not least,” the Pope said, “a special aspect that will need much care at the different stages of the Pauline bimillenary is its ecumenical dimension. Especially involved in bringing the Good News to all the peoples, the Apostle to the Nations did all he could for the unity and harmony of all Christians. May he lead and protect us in this bimillenary celebration, helping us progress in a humble and sincere search for the complete unity of all the parts of the mystical Body of Christ.”

As if embodying that hope, a delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople took part in the service listening to what Benedict XVI said. It was sent by Patriarch Bartholomew to repay a visit made by a Holy See delegation to Istanbul on the occasion of the Feast Day of Saint Andrew, founder of the Orthodox Church,

“These meetings and initiative are not mere courtesy calls between Churches,” the Pope said, “but are meant to express their shared commitment to do all that is in their power to hasten the day when there will be full communion between the Christian West and East.”

“This basilica, which has seen many ecumenically charged events,” Benedict XVI noted, “reminds us of how important it is to pray together to plead for the gift of unity, something for which Saint Peter and Saint Paul devoted their entire existence till the ultimate sacrifice of their blood.”



Pope announces special year
dedicated to St. Paul

By John Thavis



ROME, June 29 (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI announced a special jubilee year dedicated to St. Paul, saying the church needs modern Christians who will imitate the apostle's missionary energy and spirit of sacrifice.

The Pope said the Pauline year will run from June 28, 2008, to June 29, 2009, to mark the approximately 2,000th anniversary of the saint's birth.

He made the announcement while presiding over a vespers service at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome June 28, the eve of the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, patron saints of Rome.

"Dear brothers and sisters, as in the (church's) beginning, today, too, Christ needs apostles ready to sacrifice themselves. He needs witnesses and martyrs like St. Paul," the pope said.

The Pauline year will feature numerous special liturgies and events in Rome, the pope said, but should also be celebrated in local churches and in the sanctuaries, religious orders and other institutions that have a special link to St. Paul.

In a special way, the Pauline year will be ecumenical, reflecting the saint's commitment to the unity and harmony among all Christians, he said. The pope's announcement was met with applause in the crowded basilica.

Seated near the altar were representatives of other Christian churches, in particular a delegation from the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. The pope made a point of greeting them warmly and reiterating their "common commitment to do everything possible to hasten the time of full communion between the Christian East and West."

Beneath the basilica's main altar, Vatican experts in recent years have unearthed what they say is evidence that a roughly cut marble sarcophagus was indeed the tomb of St. Paul, who was believed martyred nearby.

Pope Benedict went even further, saying in his sermon that the sarcophagus "according to the common opinion of the experts and unopposed tradition holds the remains of the apostle Paul."

He said that during the Pauline year particular care should be taken to welcome Catholics from various countries who may want to make penitential pilgrimages to the saint's tomb.

St. Paul was born in Tarsus, in what is now Turkey, at the start of the Christian era, sometime between A.D. 7 and 10, according to church historians. After his conversion on the road to Damascus, he became one of the church's foremost evangelizers, first among Jews, then among Gentiles.

The Pope said the commemorative year would include symposiums and special publications devoted to the writings of St. Paul. The saint's letters are a primary source of information about the life of the early church and have strongly influenced church thinking through the centuries.

In his sermon, the Pope said St. Paul's success as an evangelizer was not credited to skills as a speaker or to a "refined strategy" of missionary argumentation.

His achievements had more to do with his extraordinary personal involvement in announcing the Gospel and his total dedication to Christ, despite problems and persecutions, he said.

St. Paul's life holds a lesson for modern Christians, the Pope said.

The action of the church is credible and effective only to the extent that Christians are willing to "pay personally for their faith in Christ, in every situation," he said. Where this commitment is lacking, the appeal of the Gospel will be weaker, he said.

The Pope recalled that St. Paul was once a violent persecutor of Christians who experienced a lasting personal conversion.

"He lived and worked for Christ; he suffered and died for him. How current is his example today," he said.

The Pope also noted that, according to a long-standing tradition, Sts. Peter and Paul met near the basilica before they were martyred, and they hugged and blessed each other.

They were very different figures, with different roles in the church, and there were sometimes tensions between them, the pope said, but together they helped build the church and showed the world a new way of being brothers.



Pope OKs opening of St. Paul's tomb

June 30, 2007


Eighteen months after the sarcophagus believed to have once contained the remains of St. Paul the apostle was positively identified by Vatican archaeologists, Pope Benedict XVI has given his approval to plans by investigators to examine the interior of the ancient stone coffin with an optical probe, according to a German Catholic paper.

As WND reported in 2005, the sarcophagus was discovered during excavations in 2002 and 2003 around the basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in south Rome.

"The tomb that we discovered is the one that the popes and the Emperor Theodosius [A.D. 379-395] saved and presented to the whole world as being the tomb of the apostle," said Giorgio Filippi, a specialist with the Vatican Museums.

The excavation was conducted after the administrator of St. Paul's basilica, Archbishop Francesco Gioia, received inquiries about the location of the apostle's tomb from thousands of pilgrims visiting during the Jubilee Year of 2000.

Over the centuries, the basilica grew over the small church built at the burial site early in the 4th century. While the authenticity of the site – or at least, the authenticity conferred by the actions of Theodosius – was not in doubt, repeated enlargements and rebuildings, as well as a fire in 1823, meant the exact location of the sarcophagus was lost for many years.

"There has been no doubt for the past 20 centuries that the tomb is there. It was variously visible and not visible in times past and then it was covered up. We made an opening (in the basilica floor) to make it visible at least in part," Cardinal Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo, archpriest of the basilica, told Reuters last year.

An initial survey of the basilica enabled archaeologists to reconstruct the fourth century building's original shape.

The Vatican team found the sarcophagus during a second excavation under the basilica's main altar.

Under the altar, a marble plaque is visible, dating to the 4th century, bearing the inscription "Apostle Paul, martyr."

Surprisingly, said Filippi, "nobody ever thought to look behind that plaque," where the Vatican team found the sarcophagus.

"We tried to X-ray it to see what was inside but the stone was too thick," said Montezemolo.

Since the rediscovery of the tomb, measuring approximately eight feet long, four feet wide and 3 feet high, archaeologists have cleared away centuries of debris and plaster that surrounded the site. According to Kath.net, investigators have been given permission to remove a plug with which the coffin has been sealed so an endoscopic probe can be inserted and images of the contents captured.

"Absolute proof that it holds St. Paul's bones is impossible," Leonard Rutgers, an archaeologist at the University of Utrecht who visited the excavation, told Archaeology magazine in April.

St. Paul's remains were removed from the original burial site in A.D. 258, according to documentary evidence, reburied in another part of Rome, and then moved back to the site of the basilica when it was built over the original church in the late fourth century.

"So they were schlepping these bones around a lot," says Rutgers. "It's hard to say if the remains in the sarcophagus itself belong to the saint. But it is still a significant late-fourth-century burial."

The Bible does not state how Paul died. Many scholars believe he was beheaded in Rome in about A.D. 64 during the reign of Roman Emperor Nero. The "apostle to the gentiles," as he described himself, was the most prolific of all the New Testament writers.

======================================================================

I will post appropriate photographs later.


TERESA BENEDETTA
00Monday, June 30, 2008 12:32 AM




Pope launches year of St. Paul
with call for Christian unity




A full translation of the Holy Father's homily and Patriarch Bartholomew's greeting at the Vespers has been posted in HOMILIES, DISCOURSES, MESSAGES.


ROME, June 28 (Reuters) - Pope Benedict called for Christian unity when he joined the spiritual head of Orthodox Christians on Saturday to launch a year dedicated to St. Paul, the evangelist of the early Church born two millennia ago.













The Pope presided over the ceremony at Rome's Basilica of St. Paul's Outside the Walls, which houses a marble sarcophagus believed to contain the remains of the 1st century apostle.





It is the second largest of Rome's basilicas, after St. Peter's in the Vatican.

"We, although being many, are one body only," the Pope said, referring to the ties that unite Christians.

He was joined by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the spiritual head of worldwide Orthodoxy, which split from the Roman Catholic Church in 1054.



St. Paul was born in the city of Tarsus in present-day Turkey. He persecuted early Christians but converted when he had a vision on the road to Damascus years after Christ's death and became known as the "apostle to the Gentiles."

According to Catholic tradition, St. Paul was killed for his faith in the 1st century and buried on Rome's Via Ostiense, where St. Paul's Basilica was later erected.

Benedict has met Bartholomew several times with the goal of healing the rift between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.

"St. Paul reminds us that the full communion among all Christians finds its grounds in a single father, a single faith and single baptism," Benedict said in an address to Bartholomew earlier on Saturday.




NB#1: Lots of thanks to Shawn Tribe of New Liturgical Movement whose video-caps provide much-needed important shots of the evening's events which the newsphotos generally tend to overlook, including elementary things as 'context shots' or 'establishing shots' which provide an overview of where an event is taking place!
NB#2: The vestments for the Holy Father and his liturgical suite tonight were the ones patterned after the fabric used for a Medici Pope's inaugural robes.



Pauline Year begins under the banner
of search for Christian unity



Benedict XVI and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew call for overcoming Christian division, with representatives
of other Christian Churches and communities. Before the ecumenical Vespers today, a jubilee brazier was lit
at St. Paul's Basilica to stay lit during the entire year.




The Pope and the Patriarch pray at the altar that holds the 'chains of St. Paul' and underneath which may be the seen - through a glass panel - the recently unearthed tomb of the Apostle.



Rome, June 28 (AsiaNews) - "Bring us back together again, from all our divisions": Benedict XVI's prayer for Christian unity marked today's opening of the Pauline Year, which celebrates the 2000th anniversary of the birth of the Apostle to the Gentiles.

The desire for unity was also expressed in the few words spoken by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, after the Pope. With them, as a concrete image of the journey of ecumenism, was a representative of the archbishop of Canterbury, who was unable to attend the ceremony, and of other Christian churches and communities, and patriarchs representing the Eastern Churches, including Russia.

Before entering the Basilica of St Paul's Outside the Walls, the Pope and the representatives of other Churches, walked in procession around the four-sided portico of the basilica.





Next to the Pauline Door, Benedict XVI lit the first candle of the brazier that will remain lit for the entire Pauline Year, until June 29, 2009. After him, the gesture was repeated by the ecumenical patriarch and the representatives of the other Churches.



"Who is Paul?" began Benedict XVI's homily tonight. "Teacher of the gentiles, apostle and proclaimer of Jesus Christ", the Pope recalled, "is how he characterises himself in a retrospective look at the course of his life. But with this, our attention is not directed only to the past. 'Teacher of the gentiles' - this title is open to the future, to all peoples and all generations. Paul is not for us [only] a figure of the past, whom we recall with veneration. He is also a teacher, apostle and proclaimer of Jesus Christ for us as well. We have therefore gathered not to reflect on a history left behind forever. Paul wants to speak with us - today".



"In the letter to the Galatians", he continued, "he provided for us a very personal profession of faith, in which he opens his heart to the reader of all times, and reveals the deep driving force of his life. 'I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me' (Gal. 2:20)."

"Everything that Paul does begins from this centre. His faith is the experience of being loved by Jesus Christ in a completely personal way; it is the awareness of the fact that Christ has faced death not for some anonymous person, but out of love for him - for Paul - and that, as the Risen One, he still loves him. Christ has given himself for him.

"His faith comes from being transfixed by the love of Jesus Christ, a love that shakes him to his core and transforms him. His faith is not a theory, an opinion about God and the world. His faith is the impact of the love of God on his heart. And thus his faith is itself love for Jesus Christ.

"This love is now the 'law' of his life, and in this very way it is the freedom of his life. He speaks and acts on the basis of the responsibility of love. Freedom and responsibility are here united in an inseparable way. Because he stands in the responsibility of love, he is free; because he is someone who loves, he lives completely in the responsibility of this love and does not take freedom as the pretext for willfulness and egoism".

In the "search for the interior physiognomy of St Paul", Benedict XVI evoked the words that Jesus spoke to him on the road to Damascus, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?", in order to highlight how in these words there is an "identification" between Christ and his Church.

Benedict said "It is the Lord himself, then, who asks: "How could you have lacerated my body? Before the face of Christ, this word becomes at the same time an urgent request: Bring us back together again, from all our divisions. Make this a reality again today: there is only one bread, because we, although we are many, are only one body".



"We hope that the life and Letters of St Paul", echoed Patriarch Bartholomew in his homily, "may continue to be for us a source of inspiration 'so that all nations may be obedient to faith in Christ' (cf. Rom. 16:27)".

"The radical conversion and apostolic kerygma of Saul of Tarsus", he said earlier, "'shook' history in the literal sense of the term, and moulded the very identity of Christianity".

Referring to the Basilica, Bartholomew said: "This sacred place outside the Walls is without a doubt eminently suited for commemorating and celebrating a man who established a marriage between the Greek language and the Roman mentality of his time, stripping Christianity, once and for all, from any mental restriction, and establishing forever the catholic foundation of the ecumenical Church".

In conjunction with the celebrations of the Catholic Church, the Pauline Year was inaugurated today in Damascus as well - this city of the apostle's conversion - with the participation of all the Christian communities: Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant.

The inauguration was proclaimed, in the name of all the Christian communities the city, by the Greek Orthodox patriarch of Antioch, Ignatius IV, while the Greek-Melkite Catholic patriarch of Antioch, Gregory III, was in Rome at the basilica of St Paul.

In Turkey, the modern-day location of Tarsus, the city of St Paul's birth, the Year was opened a few days in advance, on the 22nd. In Tarsus, as of today, there are officially no Christians or churches. For this year, permission has been requested for the use of the old church of St Paul, officially a museum, as well as many other churches in Turkey.
TERESA BENEDETTA
00Monday, June 30, 2008 1:31 AM



HOMILY AT VESPERS,6/28/08
VIGIL OF THE SOLEMNITY OF SAINTS PETER AND PAUL
FORMAL OPENING OF THE PAULINE YEAR



Here is a translation of the homily delivered by the Holy Father Saturday night at the Basilica of St. Paul outside the Walls.






Your Holiness and Fraternal Delegations,
Lord Cardinals,
Venerated Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,
Dear brothers and sisters:

We are gathered at the tomb of St. Paul who was born 2000 years ago in Tarsus of Cilicia, now modern-day Turkey.

Who was this Paul? In the temple of Jerusalem, before an agitated crowd that wanted to kill him, he presented himself with these words: ""I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city (Jerusalem). At the feet of Gamaliel I was educated strictly in our ancestral law and was zealous for God..." (Acts 22,3).

At the end of his journey, he would say of himself: "...I was appointed... teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth" (1Tm 2,7; cfr 2Tm 1,11). Teacher of the Gentiles, apostle and preacher of Jesus Christ - that is how he characterizes himself in a retrospective look at the course of his life.

But he is not looking only to the past. 'Teacher of the Gentiles' - these words open up to the future, to all peoples and to all generations. Paul is not, for us, a figure of the past whom we remember with veneration. He is also our teacher - apostle and preacher of Jesus Christ, even for us.

We are therefore gathered here not to reflect on a story from a past that has irrevocably gone. Paul speaks to us - today. That is why I proclaimed this special Pauline Year - to listen to him and to learn from him, as our teacher, 'faith and truth', in which are rooted the reasons for unity among the disciples of Christ.

In this context, too, I wished to light, for this bimillennary of the birth of the Apostle, a special Pauline Flame which will remain lit during the whole year in a special brazier mounted in the quadri-portico of the Basilica.

To solemnize this occasion, I have also inaugurated the so-called Pauline Door, through which I entered the Basilica, accompanied by the Patriarch of Constantinople, the Cardinal Arch-Priest of the Basilica and other religious authorities.

It is an intimate joy for me that the opening of the Pauline Year has a special ecumenical character with the presence of numerous delegates and representatives of other churches and ecclesial communities, whom I welcome with an open heart.

I greet in the first place His Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew I and the members of his delegation, as well as the large group of Orthodox lay faithful who have come to Rome from various parts of the world to experience with him and with all of us these moments of prayer and reflection.

I greet the fraternal delegates of the Churches who have a particular bond to the Apostle Paul - Jerusalem, Antioch, Cyprus, Greece - which make up the geographical setting of the Apostle's life before he came to Rome.

I cordially greet our brothers from different churches and ecclesial communities of the East and West, together with all of you who have wanted to take part in this solemn beginning of the year dedicated to the Apostle of the Gentiles.

And we are here to ask ourselves about the great Apostle. We ask ourselves not only 'Who was Paul?' We ask above all "Who is Paul? What does he have to say to me?"

At this time, at the start of the Pauline Year that we are inaugurating, I wish to choose from the rich testimony of the New testament three texts in which we see his interior physiognomy, the specifics of his character.

In the Letter to the Galatians, he has given us a very personal profession of faith , in which he opens his heart to readers of all time and reveals the most intimate marrow of his life.

"I live in the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Gal 2,20). Everything that Paul does comes from this core.

His faith is the experience of being loved by Jesus Christ in a very personal way. It is a consciousness of the fact that Christ faced death not for something anonymous, but out of love for him - of Paul - and that, as the Risen One, he continues to love him; that Christ gave himself for him.

His faith is having been struck by the love of Jesus Christ, a love that stirs him up in his most intimate being and transforms him. His faith is not a theory, an opinion about God and the world. His faith is the impact itself of the love of God on his heart. And so, his very faith is love for Jesus Christ.

Many have presented Paul as a combative person who could wield a sword as well as words. In fact, his path as an apostle never lacked for disputes. He never sought superficial harmony. In the first of his Letters, that which was addressed to the Thessalonians, he says: "We had the courage... to announce the Gospel of God to you in the midst of much struggle....In fact, as you know, we never pronounced words of adulation" (1Ts 2.2.5).

Truth was, for him, too great to consider sacrificing it in order to gain external success. The truth he experienced in his encounter with the Risen Christ earned for him struggle, persecution, suffering.

But what motivated him in his deepest being was being loved by Jesus Christ and the desire to transmit this love to others. Paul was a man capable of love, and all his work and his suffering can be explained on this basis. The founding concepts of his preaching can be understood only on that basis.

Let us take one of his key words: freedom. The experience of being loved all the way by Christ opened his eyes to the truth and the way of human existence - and that experience comprehended everything. Paul was free as a man loved by God, who, because of God, was also able to love together with him. This love was now the 'law' of his life, and as such, was his 'freedom' in life. He spoke and acted in response to the responsibility of that love.

Freedom and responsibility are united here inseparably. Because he has the responsibility of love, he is free. Because he is one who loved, he lives totally in the responsibility of that love, and he does not take freedom as a pretext for arbitrariness and selfishness.

In the same spirit, Augustine formulated the statement he made famous:
Dilige et quod vis fac (Tract. in 1Jo 7,7-8) – love and do what you please.

Whoever loves Christ the way Paul loved him can truly do what he wants, because his love is united to the will of Christ, and therefore, to the will of God: Because his will was anchored in truth and because his will was no longer simply his - no longer the free will of an autonomous I - but integrated in the freedom of God from whom it receives the way to follow.

In the search for the interior physiognomy of St. Paul, I wish, in the second place, to remember the words that the Risen Christ said to him on the road to Damascus.

First the Lord asked him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" To his question, "Who are you, Lord?", the answer was, "I am Jesus whom you persecute" (Acts 9,4f). In persecuting the Church, Paul was persecuting Jesus himself.

"You are persecuting me." Jesus is identifying with the Church as one sole subject. This exclamation by the Risen Lord, which transformed the life of Saul, contains the entire doctrine of the Church as the Body of Christ.

Christ has not retreated to heaven, leaving on earth a legion of followers to carry 'his cause' forward. The Church is not an association to promote a certain cause. It is not about any cause. It is about the person of Jesus Christ, who even as the Risen One remains 'flesh'. He is 'flesh and bone' (Lk 24,39), the Risen One affirms in the Gospel of Luke to the disciples who thought he was a phantasm.

He has a Body. He is personally present in his Church. "Head and Body' form one single subject, Augustine would say.

"Do you not know know that your bodies are members of Christ?", writes Paul to the Corinthians (1Cor 6,15). And he adds: as, in the second Book of Genesis, man and woman become one single flesh, so Christ with his own becomes one single spirit, one single subject in the new world of the resurrection (cfr 1Cor 6,16ff).

In all this, one sees the Eucharistic mystery in which Christ continually gives bis Body and makes of us his Body: "The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf" (1Cor 10,16f).

With these words, not only Paul but the Lord himself addresses us: How could you have lacerated my Body? Before the face of Christ, this word becomes at the same time an urgent request: Let us repair together all divisions, make it reality again: There is one bread because we, though we are many, are just one body.

For Paul, the word on the Church as the Body of Christ is not a metaphor. It goes far beyond being a metaphor.

"Why do you persecute me?" Continually Christ draws us within his Body, he h builds his Body starting from the Eucharistic center, which, for Paul, is the center of the Christian existence - by virtue of which everyone, together and individually, can experience in a very personal way (that) Jesus has loved me and given himself for me.

I wish to conclude with a late word from St. Paul, an exhortation to Timothy from prison in the face of death. "Bear your share of hardship for the Gospel", the apostle tells his disciple (2Tm 1,8). This word, which comes like a testament at the end of the ways the Apostle has gone through, goes back to the very beginning of his mission.

When, after his encounter with the Risen Christ, Paul found himself blind in his habitation in Damascus, Ananias received the order to go to the feared persecutor to lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight. To Ananias's objection that this Saul was a dangerous persecutor of Christians, came the answer: This man should bring my name before peoples and kings. "I will show him how much he must suffer for my name" (Acts 9,15f).

The responsibility of proclaiming Christ and the call to suffering for Christ come together inseparably. The call to become the teacher of peoples is at the same time and intrinsically a call to suffering in communion with Christ, who has redeemed us through his Passion.

In a world where lies have power, the truth is paid for with suffering. Whoever wants to avoid suffering, to keep it away from himself, also holds life itself and its greatness away - and cannot be a servant of the truth and thus, a servant of the faith.

There is no love without suffering - without the suffering of self-renunciation, of transformation and purification of the I, for true freedom.

Where there is nothing worth suffering for, life itself loses its value. The Eucharist - center of our Christian being - is based on Jesus's sacrifice for us, it is born from the suffering of love, which culminated on the Cross. From this love that was self-giving, we live. It gives us the courage and the strength to suffer with Christ and for him, in this world, knowing that by doing so, our life becomes great and mature and true.

In the light of all the letters of St. Paul, we see how his journey as the teacher of all peoples fulfilled the prophecy made to Ananias when he was called: "I will show him how much he must suffer for my name."

His suffering made him credible as a teacher of truth who did not seek his own interest, his own glory, his personal satisfaction, but committed himself for him who loved us and gave himself for all of us.

At this time, let us thank the Lord because he called Paul and made him the light for the Gentiles and teacher of us all, and let us pray to him: Give us even today witnesses to the Resurrection, struck by your love and able to carry the light of the Gospel in our time.

St. Paul, pray for us! Amen.




GREETING FROM HIS HOLINESS BARTHOLOMEW I

Holiness, Beloved Brother in Christ,
and all the faithful in the Lord,

Inspired by joy full of solemnity, we find ourselves praying the Vespers in this ancient and splendid temple of St. Paul outside the Walls, in the presence of many devout pilgrims from all over the world, for the happy formal inauguration of the Year of St. Paul, Apostle of the Gentiles.

The radical conversion and apostolic kerygma of Saul of Tarsus 'shook' history in the literal sense of the word and shaped the identity of Christianity itself. This great man exercised a profound influence on the classic Fathers of the Church, like St. John Chrysostom in the East, and St. Augustine of Hippo in the West. Even if he had never met Jesus of Nazareth, St. Paul directly received the Gospel "through the revelation of Jesus Christ" (Gal 1,11,12).

This sacred place outside the walls is doubtless more than ever the appropriate place to commemorate and celebrate a man who established the union between the Greek language and the Roman mentality of his time, stripping Christianity once and for all of every mental constraint and forging for always the catholic foundation of the ecumenical Church.

Let us hope that the life and Letters of St. Paul may continue to be for us a source of inspiration "so that all men may have the obedience of faith in Christ" (cfr Rom 16,26-27).



TERESA BENEDETTA
00Monday, June 30, 2008 1:35 AM


Paul's teaching:
A faith beyond frontiers

by Mons. GIANFRANCO RAVASI
President, Pontifical Council for Culture
Translated from
the 6/29/08 issue of




On his notebook, he had written: "Draft screenplay for a film on St. Paul (in the form of notes for a production director)" and underneath it, the date "Rome, 22-28 May 1968".

Forty years ago, then, Pier Paolo Pasolini had thought of a film dedicated to the Apostle though he would never see it realized. But in those notes was an intuition that may be revisited, in view of the Pauline Year that Benedict XVI opened solemnly yesterday at the Roman Basilica which houses the tomb of this capital figure of Christianity.

Pasolini, in fact, had thought of translating Paul's experiences to our day, substituting the ancient metropolises of culture and power (Athens, Rome, Corinth, Jerusalem...) with New York, London, Paris, Berlin and present-day Rome.

And indeed, the Apostle was a man who had pursued 'modernity' in his time without ever allowing himself to be 'homogenized' to it.

He succeeded to inculturate a message with strong Jewish connotations into the linguistic, ideal and social coordinates of the Roman empire and Hellenistic culture.

He did not fear to tread beyond the elevated paths of theology, but avoided falling into the asphyxiating snares of ideology.

He was a builder of spiritual cathedrals but also of local Christian communities intimately woven into the urban fabric.

And so, our Gramsci [Antonio, Communist theoretician, widely considered to be Italy's most outstanding intellectual of the 20th century] was wrong when he attempted to liquidate St. Paul as 'the Lenin of Christianity', just as Nietzsche erred when he opposed Paul to the 'evangelists', meaning the first announcers of the 'good news' of Christ, labelling him as a 'disangelist', meaning the herald of 'bad news', and conferring on Paul a secular stereotype which has become widespread even among believers, who think of St. Paul as a frigid theoretician, "the cause of the principal defects of Christian theology", as Renan charged.

Of course, Paul was convinced that faith and thinking require each other reciprocally and therefore demands religious and intellectual rigor from his readers.

The Second Letter of Peter was aware of this when it observed that "in the letters of our beloved brother Paul, there are some things hard to understand that the ignorant and unstable distort to their own destruction" (3,16).

That is why it is necessary to have supervised, accurate reading of the Pauline literary and theological patrimony which constitutes 2003 verses of the 5621 which make up the New Testament.

Paul leads us back to a faith that welcomes and deepens the reasons which sustain it. This Pauline Year, even if it is anchored on a birth date that is more symbolic than real, could be the occasion for re-proposing a personal and communitarian meditation on the Pauline epistolary.

It will certainly be a vigorous mental exercise, but also an occasion for recovering a pure spirituality, stripped of secondary frills, devotional redundancies, evanescent trends - a faith which has its profound and vital core in that Jesus Christ who is named at least 400 times in the writings of the Apostle.

The emblematic Pauline motto is, in fact, found in that sentence set within the letter addressed to his beloved Christians in the Macedonian city of Philippi: "To me, life is Christ" (1,21).

His reflections succeed in scaling the peaks of ultimate religious thinking, on subjects such as grace, faith, justification, the law, freedom, salvation, agape - without avoiding the dark abysses of sin, the flesh, evil, and our fragility as creatures.

That is why the poet Mario0 Luzi defined Paul's personality as 'boundless' - one capable of crossing all frontiers to descend into man's shadowy secrets and ascend towards the heaven of divine and full redemption.

And his theological masterpiece, the Letter to the Romans, is there before us even today to challenge us to undertake the path of radical and authentic Christianity.




TERESA BENEDETTA
00Monday, June 30, 2008 2:02 AM



Celebrating the Year of Saint Paul
THE MOST REVEREND MICHAEL A. SALTARELLI
Bishop of Wilmington, Delaware


On the Eve of the Solemnity of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, celebrated on June 28, 2007 at the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside-the-Walls, Pope Benedict XVI stated in his homily at Vespers:

Dear brothers and sisters, as in early times, today too Christ needs apostles ready to sacrifice themselves. He needs witnesses and martyrs like St. Paul.

Paul, a former violent persecutor of Christians, when he fell to the ground dazzled by the divine light on the road to Damascus, did not hesitate to change sides to the Crucified One and followed him without second thoughts. He lived and worked for Christ, for him he suffered and died. How timely is his example today!

And for this reason I am pleased to announce officially that we shall be dedicating a special Jubilee Year to the Apostle Paul from 28 June 2008 to 29 June 2009, on the occasion of the bimillenium of his birth, which historians have placed between the years 7 and 10 AD.

It will be possible to celebrate this 'Pauline Year' in a privileged way in Rome where the sarcophagus which, by the unanimous opinion of experts and an undisputed tradition, preserves the remains of the Apostle Paul, has been preserved beneath the Papal Altar of this Basilica for 20 centuries.

This Pauline Year presents us with many opportunities to spread our Catholic faith here in the Diocese of Wilmington and beyond. I am writing to you in advance of the beginning of the Pauline Year so that the people of the Diocese can discern how best to study, pray and celebrate the life, inspired writing, spirituality and missionary spirit of Saint Paul.

I offer six themes to consider:

I. Paul's Conversion Experience on the Road to Damascus
and our Personal Conversion in the Year of Saint Paul


I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting. Get up and go into the city, where you will be told what to do. (Acts of the Apostles 9:5-6)

Paul was complicit in the murder of Saint Stephen, the first martyr, whose feast day we celebrate on December 26. The Acts of the Apostles tells us that those who were stoning Stephen to death "laid down their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul." (Acts 7:58).

Stephen's glowing, peaceful face and his forgiveness of his persecutors as he died must have made an indelible impression on Saul, and prepared him for the experience of the Risen Lord that he had on the road to Damascus, when all of Saul's energetic personality previously focused on the persecution of Christianity suddenly became focused on the spread of Christianity.

In a blinding flash of light, the Risen Lord penetrated the inmost being of Saul -- henceforth to be known as Paul -- and shattered his resistance, causing a complete change of mind and heart, a metanoia1, that led him to be a "servant" and "apostle" of Jesus Christ. (Romans 1:1)

So much of the story of the early Church can be traced back to the contemplative and enthusiastic heart of Saint Paul ignited by his intimacy with the Risen Lord.

We can never under-estimate the power of a Catholic life lived with integrity and radiant vitality. How many potential "Saint Pauls" might we influence by radiating the power of Christ from deep within as Saint Stephen did? Paul's reversal was so striking and complete as to be almost unbelievable to his contemporaries.

When the Lord spoke in a vision to Ananias to seek out Paul and lay hands on him to restore his sight, Ananias replied "Lord, I have heard from many sources about this man, what evil things he has done to your holy ones in Jerusalem." (Acts 9:13) It's as though Ananias was politely asking the Lord if he really knew who this man was!

The great English churchman, theologian and writer, John Cardinal Newman, meditated on how Paul's conversion prepared him for his missionary role: "…his awful rashness and blindness, his self-confident, headstrong, cruel rage against the worshippers of the true Messiah, then his strange conversion, then the length of time that elapsed before his solemn ordination, during which he was left to meditate in private on all that had happened, and to anticipate the future -- all this constituted a peculiar preparation for the office of preaching to a lost world, dead in sin. It gave him an extended insight, on the one hand, into the ways and designs of Providence, and, on the other hand, into the workings of sin in the human heart, and the various modes of thinking in which the mind is actually trained."(2)

So much of the story of the early Church can be traced back to the contemplative and enthusiastic heart of Saint Paul ignited by his intimacy with the Risen Lord.

Saint Paul understood how sin works in human nature and how the Holy Spirit can completely transform habits of corruption. Saint Paul also understood how to influence non-Christian and anti-Christian mindsets with charity so as to be able to be an instrument of another mind's enlightenment.

The best way that we can celebrate the Year of Saint Paul is to go to the Risen Lord and ask Him about what deep and intimate conversion of life He is calling us to.

We know from Paul's life that at the heart of conversion is a surrender to the love of the Risen Lord. Any interior movement leading from pride to humility, anger to mildness, greed to detachment, lust to a chaste spirit, envy to joy in the talents of others, sloth to zeal, gluttony (including internet, television, cell phone and blackberry gluttony!) to temperance is a surrender to the power of Christ's love within. This love allows us to let go of the fear of surrendering completely to Christ3 so that we can see others with the eyes of Christ. (4)



II. Living and Praying Christ
in the Year of Saint Paul


It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me. (Galatians 2:20)

Many great saints have built their lives on Galatians 2:20: "It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me." It can be so easy for us to hear these inspired words over and over again during the course of our lives and never really understand their revolutionary character.

Christ lives within us. He wants to express himself through our facial expressions, our tone of voice, even our body language. Paul was aware of his personal weaknesses, his intellectual and personality shortcomings, his unnamed struggle with "a thorn in his flesh."(2 Corinthians 12:7)

But his humble awareness of these weaknesses only made him more reliant on Christ: "I can do all things in He who strengthens me."(Philippians 4:13) His understanding of his personal weakness drove him to open up to the presence and power of Christ within him.

When we are aware of Christ's presence in this way, we enkindle it in many ways: through prayer, meditation, Mass and the sacraments, the sanctification of our daily work5, through joyful and sacrificial family life. Then the light of Christ that naturally emanates from us can be an illumination for a wide range of people, be they fellow believers and people of good will on the road to belief or be they atheists and agnostics. All whom we encounter will sense something different in us and be led to ask themselves questions that could alter their lives and destinies.

We have seen this not only in the lives of saints like Stephen and Paul, but in many others.

Think of Saint Thomas More, Patron of Statesmen, Politicians and Lawyers, and his example of virtuous governance and family life6. Think of Saint Vincent de Paul and Saint Louise de Marillac serving the poor on the streets of Paris. Think of Blessed Damien serving his lepers in Molokai. Think of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta serving the destitute and disfigured in city streets around the world even as she courageously navigated through dry times in her interior life. Think of Pope John Paul II's radiant and joyful face on his papal journeys. Think of millions of Catholic lay people who through the centuries have lived the sacrament of marriage heroically and radiated Christ to the generations that came before and after them. All of these lives are eloquent, tangible commentary on Paul's testimony that, "It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me."

The Year of Saint Paul is a time for us to stand on the shoulders of Catholic saints through the centuries and to live Paul's life-changing words in ways that address the world's need for holiness in the 21st Century.


III. Praying, Studying and Living
the Inspired Word of God in the Pauline Year


The Word of God cannot be chained. (2 Timothy 2:9)

In a September 16, 2005 address to participants in the International Congress organized to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Dei Verbum7(The Word of God), the Second Vatican Council's Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, Pope Benedict XVI wrote:

I would like in particular to recall and recommend the ancient tradition of Lectio divina (divine or sacred reading): the diligent reading of Sacred Scripture accompanied by prayer brings about that interior dialogue in which the person reading hears God who is speaking, and in praying, responds to him with trusting openness of heart (cf. Dei Verbum 25).

If it is effectively promoted, this practice will bring to the Church -- I am convinced of it -- a new spiritual springtime. As a strong point of biblical ministry, Lectio divina should therefore be increasingly encouraged, also through the use of new methods carefully thought through and in step with the times. It should never be forgotten that the Word of God is a lamp for our feet and a light for our path (cf Ps 119[118]: 105).

I echo Pope Benedict's advice for Catholics to engage daily in Lectio divina of the Sacred Scriptures as a means for deepening our communion with God and attaining spiritual insight.

"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly." (Colossians 3:16) This daily meditative prayer on the Sacred Scriptures engages thought, imagination, emotion and desire. This mobilization of our faculties deepens our convictions of faith, prompts the conversion of our hearts and strengthens our wills to follow Christ. (8)

A deep focus on the Word of God reveals to us the fundamental Catholic truth of the road to Emmaus story in the Gospel of Luke. (9) To be authentically biblical is at the same time to be authentically sacramental and Eucharistic. Any investment in understanding and praying the Scriptures more deeply is at the same time an investment in a fuller, more active and conscious participation in our Catholic Mass and sacramental liturgies.

Saint Jerome described the union of the Word and the Eucharist: "The Lord's flesh is real food and his blood real drink; this is our true good in this present life: to nourish ourselves with his flesh and to drink his blood in not only the Eucharist but also the reading of Sacred Scripture. In fact, the Word of God, drawn from the knowledge of the Scriptures, is real food and real drink". (10)

In addition to prayerful Lectio Divina, the Year of Saint Paul affords us the opportunity to rediscover the Roman Catholic Church's contemporary biblical scholarship.

The Church's scientific approach to the Sacred Scriptures, characterized by a balanced use of the historical critical method, canonical exegesis (11) and many other sophisticated tools for the interpretation of the sacred texts, is well documented in the Pontifical Biblical Commission's The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church issued in 1993 and available on the Vatican website.

Of course, Dei Verbum continues to be an excellent resource to understand the Church's approach to Sacred Scripture:

Sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture form one sacred deposit of the word of God, committed to the Church. Holding fast to this deposit the entire holy people united with their shepherds remain always steadfast in the teaching of the Apostles, in the common life, in the breaking of the bread and in prayers (see Acts 2, 42), so that holding to, practicing and professing the heritage of the faith, it becomes on the part of the bishops and faithful a single common effort.

But the task of authentically interpreting the word of God, whether written or handed on, has been entrusted exclusively to the living teaching office of the Church, whose authority is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ.

This teaching office is not above the word of God, but serves it, teaching only what has been handed on, listening to it devoutly, guarding it scrupulously and explaining it faithfully in accord with a divine commission and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it draws from this one deposit of faith everything which it presents for belief as divinely revealed." (Dei Verbum 10)

The popularity of recent books and films, which purport to expose Church history or to challenge our beliefs, serve as a catechetical wake up call to promote biblical literacy and daily biblical engagement as well as a fuller understanding of Catholic teaching on Revelation according to the Catholic principle of the union and harmony of faith and reason. (12)


IV. Lifting High the Cross of Christ
in the Year of Saint Paul


I was determined that while I was with you I would speak of nothing
but Jesus Christ and Him crucified. (1 Corinthians: 2:2)

The Cross of Jesus Christ is at the center of all that Paul does. He teaches us how to deal with the hardships and grief of life. Paul experienced it all: rejection, calumny, indifference, shipwrecks, imprisonment and, ultimately, martyrdom as symbolized in art by Paul holding a sword. (13)

The Cross influences everything about Paul. He states: "I preach Christ and Him Crucified." The Cross transformed his teaching and allowed him to evangelize others by helping them to interpret the meanings of their own sufferings.

He also uses a curious phrase: "I boast in the Cross of Christ." (Galatians 6:14) He puts the Cross of Christ above any temptation to egoism or pride. The Cross is the true source of his apostolic effectiveness.

Paul's letters reveal an intense driving personality. The tone of his letters also reveals temperamental struggles. Easily hurt, he was prone to brooding especially when the early Christian communities did not live up to the Gospel. Paradoxically, his interior struggles offer us encouragement and strength to continue fighting with regard to our own character and temperament struggles.

With Paul, we too fight the good fight, endeavoring to allow the Beatitudes, the theological and cardinal virtues, the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, and ultimately Father, Son and Holy Spirit to reign in us. Dying to self and rising in Christ, we embrace the Cross and remember: "Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends." (1 Corinthians 13:7-8)

Pope Saint Clement I, in his own letter To the Corinthians, 514, described how Paul made progress in these struggles: "It was through jealousy and conflict that Paul showed the way to the prize for perseverance. He was put in chains seven times, sent into exile, and stoned; a herald both in the east and the west, he achieved a noble fame by his faith. He taught justice to all the world and, when he had reached the limits of the western world, he gave his witness before those in authority; then he left this world and was taken up into the holy place, a superb example of endurance."

Pope Benedict XVI's recent encyclical on the theological virtue of hope entitled Spe Salvi has many references to Paul's living the virtue of hope while he was in prison (15) and shows the inspiration his texts provided to subsequent saints such as Saint Augustine (16) and a Vietnamese martyr Paul Le-Bao-Tinh (+1857) (17) and the African religious Saint Josephine Bakhita. (18)

In the Year of Saint Paul, each of us is called to lift high the Cross of Christ and to carry it with Paul's courage, determination and trust in God's providential design. (19)


V. Rekindling a Love for the Eucharist and the Church
in the Year of Saint Paul

Is not the cup of blessing we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ?
And is not the bread we break a sharing in the body of Christ. (1 Corinthians 10:16)

One of the classic Pauline images is that of the Body of Christ as a communion of individuals with specific charisms and talents which build up of the Body. Paul shows that the Eucharist is the source of unity, harmony and communion in the Body. Our reverent reception of the Eucharist is the great spark of missionary activity that leads us, like Saint Paul, to the ends of the earth.

In his 2003 encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia, Pope John Paul II wove Paul's teaching throughout his meditation on the Eucharist:

The words of the Apostle Paul bring us back to the dramatic setting in which the Eucharist was born… The Apostle Paul, for his part, says that it is 'unworthy' of a Christian community to partake of the Lord's Supper amid division and indifference to the poor (cf. 1 Cor 11:17-22, 27-34).

Proclaiming the death of the Lord 'until he comes' (1 Cor 11:26) entails that all who take part in the Eucharist be committed to changing their lives and making them in a certain way completely 'Eucharistic.' [#20]"

Studying and praying Pauline texts on the Eucharist help us to "rekindle our Eucharistic amazement" (20) and to realize that every Mass has a "cosmic significance." (21)

Every Mass is "celebrated on the Altar of the World." (22) When we rekindle our Eucharistic faith, awe and amazement at the truth of the Real Presence, our marriages and our families are rekindled in Christ. Vocations to the priesthood and religious life are rekindled. A missionary spirit, evangelization and effective catechesis at every level are rekindled. And as mentioned earlier, a devotion to the inspired Word of God is rekindled resulting in a new "spiritual springtime."

We rekindle a concrete living of our Catholic respect for life and social justice in regard to the poor, the imprisoned, the stranger and the unborn.

In his 2007 apostolic exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis, Pope Benedict XVI captures the power of the Eucharist:

More than just statically receiving the incarnate Logos (Word), we enter into the very dynamic of his self-giving.' Jesus 'draws us into himself.' The substantial conversion of bread and wine into his body and blood introduces within creation the principle of a radical change, a sort of 'nuclear fission,' to use an image familiar to us today, which penetrates to the heart of all being, a change meant to set off a process which transforms reality, a process leading ultimately to the transfiguration of the entire world, to the point where God will be all in all (cf. 1 Cor 15:28). (23)

With Saint Paul's intercession, we too can be apostles of the Real Presence of the Eucharist in the world.


VI. The Universal Call to Holiness
and the Universal Call to Mission

Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel! (1 Corinthians 9:16)

Oscar Andres Cardenal Rodriguez Maradiaga, SDB, Archbishop of Tegucigalpa in Honduras, wrote me a Christmas card which included these words:

Que el ano de San Pablo, evangelizador infatigable sea la occasion para renovar nuestro Corazon misionero. 'Ay de mi si no evangelizo' (1 Cor 9,16) [May the Year of Saint Paul, the untiring evangelizer, be a time for renewing our missionary heart. 'Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel' (1 Cor 9,16)]

I am convinced that one of the goals of Pope Benedict XVI in proclaiming the Year of Saint Paul is to have every Catholic hold up a mirror to his or her life and to ask: am I as determined and as energetic about spreading the Catholic faith as Saint Paul was? Is spreading the faith both by example and by our conversations with our friends even a concern?24

What are we doing, in particular, to instill a love of Jesus and an understanding of our faith in the hearts and minds of our youth who are the future of the Church? In his boundless energy and athletic metaphors, Saint Paul's example should be especially appealing to young people, encouraging them to apply their energy and enthusiasm to spreading the Gospel of Christ.

Pope John Paul II always reminded us that our Catholic faith only grows when we consciously and conscientiously share it with others. Christ will look at each one of us with his merciful eyes at our individual judgment and ask what efforts we made during the course of our lifetime to invite people into communion with Jesus Christ and His Church. Is it any surprise to us that Pope John Paul began his 1990 encyclical on missionary activity Redemptoris Missio with a tribute to Saint Paul? He wrote:

The mission of Christ the Redeemer, which is entrusted to the Church is still very far from completion. As the second Millennium after Christ's coming draws to an end, an overall view of the human race shows that this mission is still only beginning and that we must commit ourselves wholeheartedly to its service. It is the Spirit who impels us to proclaim the great works of God: 'For if I preach the Gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!' (1 Cor 9:16) In the name of the whole Church, I sense an urgent duty to repeat this cry of Saint Paul.

May each of us living now in the 21st century sense that same duty to repeat the cry of Saint Paul. Pope John Paul II showed us that mysticism and missionary spirit go hand in hand and that the universal call to holiness is closely linked to the universal call to mission. (25)

Pope Paul VI captured the heart of Saint Paul in a passage from his 1975 apostolic exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi:

That model evangelizer, the Apostle Paul, wrote these words to the Thessalonians, and they are a program for us all: 'With such yearning love we chose to impart to you not only the gospel of God but our very selves, so dear had you become to us.' What is this love? It is much more than that of a teacher; it is the love of a father; and again, it is the love of a mother. It is this love that the Lord expects from every preacher of the Gospel, from every builder of the Church. A sign of love will be the concern to give the truth and to bring people into unity. Another sign of love will be a devotion to the proclamation of Jesus Christ, without reservation or turning back. (26)

What better example of that than Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, our own American Saint Paul, whose cause for canonization is currently in process? Living in the dawn of the television age, he recognized early the potential of harnessing modern means of technology to spread the Gospel. Imagine how Saint Paul would have used satellite communications, the Internet and YouTube.

On the Roman campus of Propaganda Fide, a seminary that forms future priests for the Third World, there is a retreat center whose main room has a beautiful bust of Bishop Sheen at its heart. I can think of no better image that describes the Pauline missionary fire in the heart of this great 20th century American, a fire that spread to the ends of the earth influencing the formation of so many African, Asian and Indian priests and religious.

May the fire that the Holy Spirit cast down into the heart of Saint Paul, which in turn lit up the earth, inflame our hearts to be vibrant and effective missionaries in the Year of Saint Paul and throughout our lives.



TEN WAYS TO CELEBRATE THE YEAR OF SAINT PAUL

Pray to the Holy Spirit about your unique and intimate "Road to Damascus" conversion experience that the Spirit is calling you to in the Year of Saint Paul.

Live Galatians 2:20 "It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me" and study the lives of saints from Saint Paul to Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta who lived these words so inspirationally.

Read and pray The Acts of the Apostles and the letters of Saint Paul in the New Testament. Consult, too, the many helpful biblical commentaries and general studies of Paul that are presently available and will become available during the Year of Saint Paul.

Take Pope Benedict XVI's challenge and engage daily in Lectio divina so that the Church will have a "new springtime" of spiritual growth and evangelization. Discover in a personal way that "the Word of God cannot be chained!" For an introduction to Lectio divina, see www.valyermo.com/ld-art.html.

Study the Church's Teaching on Revelation and biblical interpretation in such Church documents and resources as:

The Second Vatican Council's Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation Dei Verbum

The Pontifical Biblical Commission's The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church (1993)

Relevant sections of the Catechism of the Catholic Church [Part One: sections 26-184, pp. 13-50] and the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church [Questions 1-32, pp. 5-12]

Pope Benedict XVI's Jesus of Nazareth

Study and Pray through Paul's teaching on the power of the Cross of Christ. "Preach Christ crucified" in the way you carry the Cross and the way you help others carry their crosses.

Develop even more deeply a Pauline reverence for the Eucharist and the Body of Christ. Read and pray:

Pope John Paul II's apostolic letter Dies Domini 1998
Pope John Paul II's encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia 2003
Pope Benedict XVI's post-synodal apostolic exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis

Participate in Parish and Diocesan Masses during the Year of Saint Paul for the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul (Sunday, June 29, 2008 and Monday, June 29, 2009), the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul the Apostle (Sunday, January 25, 2009), and the Feast of Saint Stephen, First Martyr (Friday, December 26, 2008). Make a pilgrimage during the Year of Saint Paul to Saint Paul's parish in Wilmington, Saint Paul's Parish in Delaware City and Saint Peter and Paul's Parish in Easton, MD. If you should be fortunate enough to visit Rome this year, make sure to visit and venerate the tomb of Saint Paul at the Basilica of Saint Paul-Outside-the-Walls. Vatican officials announced in December 2006 that several feet below the Basilica's main altar and behind a smaller altar, they had found a roughly cut marble sarcophagus beneath an inscription that reads "Paul Apostle Martyr." The small altar was removed and a window inserted so that pilgrims can see the sarcophagus. Also visit the new ecumenical chapel which will be located in the southeast corner of the Basilica (what had been since the 1930s a baptismal chapel). While praying there, ask the intercession of Saint Paul for ecumenical progress and full Christian unity.27

Seek Paul's intercession to be a more vibrant missionary in the world. Respond to the Universal Call to Holiness and the Universal Call to Mission. Study classical Church texts on missionary spirit and evangelization that discuss the life and ministry of Saint Paul such as Vatican Council II's 1965 Decree on the Church's Missionary Activity, Ad Gentes Divinitus, Pope Paul VI's 1975 apostolic exhortation Evangeli Nuntiandi, Pope John Paul II's 1990 encyclical Redemptoris Missio and Pope John Paul II's 1999 post-synodal apostolic exhortation Ecclesia in America.

Study and pray the classical paintings of Saint Paul such as Rembrandt's Saint Paul at his Writing-Desk (1629-1630), Caravaggio's The Conversion of Saint Paul (1600), El Greco's Saint Paul (1606), Michelangelo's The Conversion of Saul (1542-1545), Raphael's Saint Paul Preaching in Athens. For an internet tour of these paintings and other art works that focus on Saint Paul, see the website: www.jesuswalk.com/philippians/artwork-st-paul.htm. And see the 1981 film Chariots of Fire (and other films with Pauline themes) which examines how Eric Liddell, a Scottish 1924 Olympic runner, lives and speaks about the Pauline "running the race" of faith and "feeling God's pleasure" when he runs. This film is a moving commentary on Galatians 2:20.28
We can explore many other Pauline themes during the Year of Saint Paul and many other creative ideas beyond the ten above will help us to live the Year of Saint Paul well. I am counting on you to study the themes and to discover in prayer the ideas. I am counting on you to develop, spread, and live them.

The great French Catholic historian Henri Daniel-Rops summarized Paul's charism in this way:

"How close he seems to us, this man whom the Divine Light struck down on the road to Damascus -- defeated, yet through his very defeat, overwhelmed by a profound anticipation of Grace -- for, after all, we ourselves are still treading that same Damascus road today! He is, after Jesus, the most vivid and complete of all the New Testament figures, the man whose face we can visualize most clearly… And whenever we listen to the least important of his sayings, we recognize that tone of unforgettable confidence attainable only by those who have risked their all." 29
May you and I risk our all for the Gospel during the Year of Saint Paul. And may I express my love for you as your Shepherd in the words of Saint Paul himself: "Do I need letters of recommendation to you or from you as others might? You are my letter, known and read by all men, written on your hearts. Clearly you are a letter of Christ which I have delivered, a letter written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh in the heart." (2 Corinthians 3:1-3)

Saint Paul, Apostle, Martyr, Mystic and Missionary, pray for us!


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1 Cf. Roch A. Kereszty Jesus Christ: Fundamentals of Christology (Staten Island, NY: Communio Books), 40.
2 John Henry Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons, Sermon 9, Saint Paul's Conversion Viewed in Reference to his Office, The Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1997), 290-291.
3 Cf. Pope Benedict XVI's Homily for the Mass for the Inauguration of the Pontificate, April 24, 2005.
4 Cf. Pope Benedict XVI's 2005 encyclical Deus Caritas Est 18.
5 See Bishop Michael Saltarelli's August 30, 2001 Pastoral Letter Holiness in the World of Work published in The Dialog and available on the Diocese of Wilmington website www.cdow.org. The Pastoral Letter was also published nationally in Origins under the same title on August 30, 2001 (Vol. 31: No. 12), 217-220.
6 See Bishop Michael Saltarelli's September 30, 2004 Litany of Saint Thomas More, Martyr and Patron Saint of Statesmen, Politicians and Lawyers and the accompanying statement On the Litany of Saint Thomas More, Martyr and Patron Saint of Statesmen, Politicians and Lawyers published in The Dialog and available on the Diocese of Wilmington website www.cdow.org. It has become a custom in the Diocese of Wilmington to pray this litany during October Respect Life month and at the conclusion of the Red Mass that the Saint Thomas More Society celebrates with the Bishop each October.
6 The full English text of Dei Verbum and the other Church documents referred to in this letter can be accessed using the search feature on the Vatican website at www.vatican.va/phome_en.htm.
7 Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church (second edition) 2708.
8 See the Pope John Paul II's October 7, 2004 Apostolic Letter entitled Mane Nobiscum Domine for the Year of the Eucharist (October 2004-October 2005)
9 S. Hieronymous, Commentarius in Ecclesiasten, 313: CCL 72, 278 as quoted in the Lineamenta for the Universal Church Synod on the Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church scheduled in Rome for October 5-26, 2008.
10 See Pope Benedict XVI's Jesus of Nazareth (New York: Doubleday, 2007), xviii: "The aim of this (canonical) exegesis is to read individual texts within the totality of the one Scripture, which then sheds new light on all the individual texts. Paragraph 12 of the Second Vatican Council's Constitution on Divine Revelation had already clearly underscored this as a fundamental principle of theological exegesis: If you want to understand the Scripture in the spirit in which it is written, you have to attend to the content and to the unity of Scripture as a whole."
11 See Bishop Michael Saltarelli's September 15, 2005 Pastoral Letter Go and Teach: Facing the Challenges of Catechesis Today published in The Dialog and available on the Diocese of Wilmington website www.cdow.org. The Pastoral Letter was also published nationally in Origins under the title A Vision for Catechesis on October 27, 2005 (Vol. 35: Number 20), 329-334.
12 See 2 Corinthians 11:23-29.
13 See the Liturgy of the Hours Office of Readings for the June 30th Feast of the First Martyrs of the Church of Rome.
14 Pope Benedict XVI's 2007 encyclical Spe Salvi 4.
15 Pope Benedict XVI's 2007 encyclical Spe Salvi 33.
16 Pope Benedict XVI's 2007 encyclical Spe Salvi 37.
17 Pope Benedict XVI's 2007 encyclical Spe Salvi 3.
18 For a reflection on the Cross of Christ in our experience of September 11, 2001, see Bishop Michael Saltarelli's September 5, 2002 Pastoral Statement The Spiritual Lessons of September 11 published in The Dialog and available on the Diocese of Wilmington website www.cdow.org.
19 Pope John Paul II's 2003 encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia 6.
20 Pope John Paul II's 2003 encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia 8.
21 Pope John Paul II's 2003 encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia 8.
22 Pope Benedict XVI's 2007 post-synodal apostolic exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis 11.
23 See Bishop Michael Saltarelli's January 13, 2000 Pastoral Letter How to Reach Out to Inactive Catholics in the United States Today published in The Dialog and available on the Diocese of Wilmington website www.cdow.org. The Pastoral Letter was also published nationally in Origins under the title How to Reach Inactive Catholics on January 27, 2000 (Vol. 29: Number 32), 514-518.
24 Cf. Pope John Paul II's 1990 encyclical Redemptoris Missio 90.
Pope Paul VI's 1975 apostolic exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi 79.
25 Cf. Catholic News Service Report by Cindy Wooden, December 19, 2007.
26 See Bishop Saltarelli's April 1, 2004 Pastoral Letter Contemplating the Face of Christ in Film published in The Dialog and available on the Diocese of Wilmington website www.cdow.org. The Pastoral Letter was also published nationally in Origins under the same title on April 15, 2004 (Vol. 33: Number 44), 764-767.
27 Henri Daniel-Rops The Church of Apostles and Martyrs (Volume 1) (New York: Image Books, 1962), 72.



Reprinted with permission of Bishop Michael Saltarelli and the diocese of Wilmington, Delaware.

Copyright © 2008 His Grace Michael A. Saltarelli


TERESA BENEDETTA
00Monday, June 30, 2008 2:25 AM




TERESA BENEDETTA
00Monday, June 30, 2008 2:46 AM



MICHELANGELO'S 'CONVERSION OF SAUL'


Michelangelo, Conversion of Saul, Fresco, 625 x 661 cm
Cappella Paolina, Palazzi Pontifici, Vatican



From The Web Gallery of Art:

The conversion of Saul (St Paul) is the best-known and most widely represented of the Pauline themes (Acts 9:1-9).

On the road to Damascus, where he was going to obtain authorization from the synagogue to arrest Christians, Paul was struck to the ground, blinded by a sudden light from heaven. The voice of God, heard also by Paul's attendants, as artists make clear, said, 'Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?' They led him to the city where, the voice had said, he would told what he had to do.

According to a tradition, connected with the medieval Custom of representing pride as a falling horseman, Paul made the journey on horseback. He lies on the ground as if just thrown from his horse, prostrate with awe, or unconscious. He may be wearing Roman armour. Christ appears in the heavens, perhaps with three angels. Paul's attendants run to help him or try to control the rearing horses.

In Michelangelo's fresco the composition shows great depth of feeling obtained by the use of light and darkness that foreshadows Rembrandt and testifies to the heroic virtuosity of the aged master. A focal line traverses the the painting, its progression at once reveals the meaning of the composition.

Starting at the top left it flows diagonally, along the figure of Christ descending and a beam of light. It follows a figure with raised fingers and another, bent over the fallen Saul, and circumscribes the ellipse of this body.

From his right leg it curves back and upward in the direction of a horse galloping in the background, and loses itself in the undulating contours of the mountains with a vision of the heavenly Jerusalem faintly outlined in their folds - unless we accept a more literal explanation and call it Damascus.

Note that this line has the shape of a bishop's staff and sums up the whole incident in symbolic form: Saul destined to be shepherd and overseer of people. (The term 'bishop' means overseer.)

The high-light on the head of Saul and on the horse's head confirms the symbolic meaning; the dim awareness of fallen man is touched by the lightning flash of grace, and as universal consciousness awakens in him, he loses his animal torpor and gains true knowledge.





THE ENIGMA OF DAMASCUS:
What really happened on that road?

by Romano Penna
Translated from
the 6/29/08 issue of



As with many personages of antiquity, we do not know the exact year of birth of Paul, much less of his death. But a whole series of sure dates and various indications allows us a good approximation of the extremes as well as the intermediate stages of his life.

When he wrote his letter to Philemon, probably in the year 54 (or according to another chronology, around 62), he called himself 'old', in Greek presbutes (Phil 9). And when Luke in the Acts of the Apostles narrates the stoning of Stephen at the start of the 30s, he notes the presence of Saul whom he describes as 'young', in Greek neanias (Acts 7,58).

The two adjectives are evidently generic. but according to the ancient way of reckoning age, 'old' in the first case roughly indicates someone in his 60s, and 'young' means someone in his 30s. From this we deduce that Paul must have been born in the last years of the pre-Christian era, and therefore a few years younger than Jesus.

Born in Tarsus, Cilicia (Acts 22,3), as a Greek-speaking Jew of the Diaspora, and with a Latin name (changed by assonance from Saul to Paul), and even more, distinguished by his Roman citizenship (Acts 22,25-28), he appears situated on the frontier of three diverse cultures and perhaps because of this, disposed to a fertile universalistic openness as he would later manifest abundantly.

Perhaps taking after his father, he also learned a manual occupation consistent with the occupation of skenopoios, literally 'tentmaker' (cfr Acts, 18,3), most probably a worker in goat's wool to be made into carpets or tents, perhaps for military use, but above all, for domestic use (cfr Acts 20, 33-35).

Moreover, in antiquity Tarsus was famous for fabric weaving, especially linen (cfr Dione of Prusa, Discourses, 34, 21), such that some papyri use the adjective tarsikarios to indicate a linen weaver.

When he was about 12-13, around the age when a Jewish boy becomes bar mitzvah ['a son of the precept'], Saul left Tarsus for Jerusalem to be educated at the feet of Rabbi Gamaliel the Older, in the most rigid norms of Pharisaism (cfr Gal, 1,14; Phil, 3,5-6; Acts 22,3; 23, 6; 26,5), immersing himself with great zeal in the Torah of Moses.

It was on the basis of his strong religious orthodoxy acquired from Gamaliel, that he saw in the new movement that traced itself to Jesus of Nazareth a great risk to Jewish identity.

On the one hand, Saul was familiar with the strong criticisms of Stephen at the Temple of Jerusalem (cfr Acts, 6, 14; 7, 47-50). On the other hand, he could not accept a crucified Messiah who could only be considered a scandal and a curse (cfr 1 Cor, 12; Gal 3,13). If then Christians were positively linked to those who are ignorant of the Law (cammê ha-'aretz) and even with sinners, such that in order to be considered just before God, one only had to believe in Jesus, then the Torah would end up no longer adequate nor even necessary.

This explains why Paul so fiercely 'persecuted the Church of God", as he admits three times in his letters (1 Cor, 15,9; Gal, 1,13, Phil, 3,6). But it is difficult to imagine concretely what this persecution consisted of. For instance, what Luke writes in Acts 9,1-2 ("Saul, still breathing murderous threats against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, that, if he should find any men or women who belonged to the Way, he might bring them back to Jerusalem in chains") is difficult to match with historical data, as commentators have pointed out. In fact, under the Roman procurators the Sanhedrin did not have jurisdiction outside the land of Israel, nor could Paul enjoy any official mandate without being a member of the Sanhedrin himself.

It is therefore hypothesized that he was simply sent to Damascus by a synagogue of 'Hellenistic' Jews in Jerusalem, perhaps with a letter of recommendation from the High Priest, to alert the local synagogues against the danger of the new heresy and to exhort them to take adequate measures, even severe ones.

What is certain is that on the road to Damascus, at the start of the 30s, perhaps in 32, the decisive moment for Paul's life took place.

What happened there was a turnaround, or rather, a reversal of values. Unexpectedly, he now started to consider as 'harm' and 'rubbish' everything that had once been for him the maximum ideal, the reason for his existence (cfr Phil 3,7-8). What happened exactly?

In this regard, we have two types of sources. The first type, more popular, are the accounts coming from Luke's pen, who narrates the event three times (cfr Acts 9,1-19; 22,3-21; 26,4-23), indulging in certain picturesque details, such as the light from the skies, his falling to the ground, the voice that calls to him, his sudden blindness, and his healing, as though scales had fallen from his eyes, his fasting.

It is difficult to think that Paul himself was the source of these accounts, because he never spoke in such terms, and because in Galatians (1,13), he refers to things his readers must have heard about him.

Therefore it is very possible that Luke used a story that may have started from the community of Damascus (think of the local color given by the character of Ananias, and the names given of the street as well as the owner of the house where Paul stayed (Acts 9,11), which constituted at that time a tale of conversion highlighting the extraordinary transformation of the onetime persecutor, which also became a vocational tale about a new evangelizer.

The second source type is that which is more 'authentic', being the testimony of the concerned party - the letters of Paul himself. Many times, in fact, he refers to that extraordinary experience, but it is always in very brief indications, not descriptive, that merely point to the sense of what happened (cfr Rom 1,5: Through Christ Jesus we received the grace of the apostolate"; 1Cor 9,1: "Did I not see Jesus, our Lord?"; 1Cor, 15,8: "Last of all, as to one born abnormally, he appeared to me"; 2Cor 4,6: "For God who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness', has shone in our hearts to bring to light the knowledge of the glory of God on the face of (Jesus) Christ"; Phil 3,7: "Whatever gains I had, these I have come to consider a loss because of Christ").

The longest text can be read in Galatians 1,15-17: "But when (God), who from my mother's womb had set me apart and called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, so that I might proclaim him to the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; rather, I went into Arabia and then returned to Damascus".

In all these passages he does not indulge in any narrative details, but always interprets that moment not so much as a fact of conversion - since he never uses the specific vocabulary (with the verbs metanoèin-epistrèfein and their derivatives] as for the foundation of his apostolate, nor as a charge of responsibility, but as an event of mission (with a lexicon of vision, apparition, revelation, illumination).

We might well ask what explains the change that occurred in Paul on the road to Damascus. In the Romantic climate of the 19th century, the theme of the tormented man was very much favored, especially one who finally finds a way out of his personal anguish by adopting an extreme solution.

In this context, something in Romans 7, 7-25, has been interpreted in an autobiographical sense, when Paul speaks in the first person, singular: "I do not do what I want, but I do what I hate.... For I take delight in the law of God, in my inner self, but I see in my members another principle at war with the law of my mind, taking me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members" (vv. 15,22,23)

But the exegesis today of this Pauline page is much more cautious and dubious, be it because the text is written in the present tense (therefore literally it could not refer to the past that preceded his conversion), or because it refers not to an autobiographical context but to a reflection on the principle of the value of the Law (since the 'I' could well be explained as rhetorical 'enallage' [in which one grammatical form is replaced by another, sometimes incorrect, to make a point] to mean universal experience), or because in another passage that is definitely autobiographical Paul says, on the contrary, that he was irrepressible in applying the Law (Phil 3,6: here what emerges outright is his pride and joy in a Jewish identity that was lived in fullness as a 'gain').

One can always think that what he wrote in Romans 7.7-25, simply represents the succeeding (Christian) conscientization of an old unconscious conflict with the Law, while Philippians 3,4-6, represents the consciousness that characterized the pre-Christian Paul.

But things are more complex. The personal testimony of Paul on the event in Damascus are constantly centered on the figure of Jesus himself. He does not speak of anything else, to the point of confessing himself 'possessed by Jesus Christ' (Phil 3,12).

Damascus was therefore essentially an encounter of 'persons', in which the concepts, the 'ideas', though implicit, play a secondary role. Paul saw the glory of God shining in the face of Christ (cfr 2 Cor 4,6).

From this point of view, the experience of Paul must be explained also with reference to certain categories of Jewish mysticism, the merkavah or chariot, which has its roots in the vision described in the first chapter of Ezekiel.

In it, the prophet claims to have seen a chariot drawn by four living creatures "and on a kind of throne, on high, a figure with human likeness ... Such did the glory of the Lord appear to me" (1,26-28). Here, then, one dares to associate the celestial glory of God with a human being, even though indeterminate - which explains the reservations by rabbinism about this page.

In any case, one cannot ignore the psychological dimension of Paul's experience, often treated as a hallucination (even if historians and theologians generally lack training in psychology, just as psychologists often lack any knowledge of history or theology).

A study done a few years ago sought to clear up this issue, distinguishing between hallucination and illusion, or honestly stating that the non-objectivity of the phenomenon (sight, hearing, smell, touch) only concerns the external observer but not the subject who is experiencing it, or even taking into account the socio-cultural conditioning of the subject undergoing the experience.

As for Paul, we must note that his statements about the event are rare (not in all the letters) and very moderate (devoid of descriptions). Moreover, one must note that he never refers to that experience to establish his authority nor to guarantee a theological thesis nor to reinforce any disciplinary position. Rather, if at all, he uses it to the contrary.

Therefore it is necessary to guard against judging the event on the road to Damascus in the categories of psychopathology. The only sure thing on the level of historical fact, to use Jungian terms, is that it had a prospective function in determining the rest of Paul's life, and did this in a way that was totally positive and fertile.

On the road to Damascus, Paul had a meeting, after which he matured the belief that overturned his whole existence, changing his entire patrimony of ideas and reorienting his energies to a new purpose.

Crotchet
00Monday, June 30, 2008 10:59 PM
THANK YOU
This is a most interesting and informative new thread. Highly appreciated. Many thanks, Teresa.


=====================================================================

To both Crotchet and Mary...

It's a rare bimillennial chance in our lifetime, after all! We didn't have a chance to to anything similar for the Great Jubilee of 2000 ... and since no one thought of marking the bimillenary of Peter's birth [which might have been before the birth of Christ], the Church won't have a chance to observe a Peter jubilee till 50 years or more from now, to mark his death (and Paul's) by which time none of us is likely to still be around!

It's going to be a lot of work, but Paul is an infinitely fascinating subject and his letters will never cease to be challenging...

And Mary, you have even begun earning the indulgences that go with the Pauline Year... Looking forward to your photos and stories, you fortunate one!

TERESA


maryjos
00Monday, June 30, 2008 11:26 PM
The Year of Paul opened with great beauty and hope
Thank you, indeed, Teresa, for starting this new thread and providing such excellent illustrations. I was there on Saturday evening and just being there was so important. Now I feel I can take on the task of reading all of Paul's letters.
Greetings from Rome!
Mary xxxx
TERESA BENEDETTA
00Tuesday, July 1, 2008 3:34 AM



A witness for Christ
who continues to fascinate

by EGIDIO PICUCCI
Translated from
the 6/29/08 issue of





11 volumes, 143 interventions, 3,120 pages.

That's the printed contribution so far of scholars to the Symposia on St. Paul that the Franciscan Institute of Spirituality at the Pontifical Antonianum University of Rome has sponsored for the past 19 years with the cultural association Eteria in Tarsus, the apostle's birthplace.

The latest symposium (the 12th in the series) was held from June 22-25 and promoted at the Don Andrea Santoro Inter-Cultural and Inter-Religious Cultural Center founded last year in Turkey. The theme was: "Paul of Tarsus: History, archeology, reception".

Taking part were Biblical scholars from Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Turkey, Greece and Spain.

From the very beginning, the choice of venue for the symposia was considered fundamental to help understand the formation and the personality of Paul who, in Tarsus, breathed what an ancient historian called "the zeal of its inhabitants for philosophy and general culture in a way superior to Alexandria, Athens and any other place where schools of philosophy arose at the time."

Even if his early environment in Tarsus does not explain all of Paul's genius, it helps to understand his mastery of Greek (which was his mother tongue), the fact that he carried out his ministry pricicpally in the cities and not in the countryside, and among higher levels of society to whose cultural mindset he managed to address the Christian message effectively.

Tarsus as an environment was particularly relevant to this year's symposium because the ancient city has been re-emerging from under ten meters of accretion that have buried it over the cneturies.

For instance, there have emerged traces of a road that led towards the Taurus mountains and a bridge which crossed the Kidnos river in teh middle of the city. Paul might well have walked this road and this bridge many times, since between persecutions and other dangers, he did spend a great part of his 16,000 frequent-traveller kilometers in Asia Minor. travelling through Lidia, Panfilia, Licaonia and Galatia.

From recent archaeological discoveries, the symposium also touched on new historical knowledge about the Asian ports of call from which the apostle embarked or where he disembarked in the course of his three missionary journeys.

But Pope Benedict's proclamation of the Pauline Year naturally focused emphasis on Paul's writings and how they have been received through the centuries.

In particular, the symposium examined what the Letters that Paul dictated or wrote could have to say to the men of today - considering that the writer has been gone for centuries; that the news he reports, the language he uses, the ways of expressing himself, and the mindset itself are inescapably dated; that the social and cultural conditions today are completely different. In a third millennium overwhelmed by a tsunami of spiritually lethal contaminations, how can Paul's letters be relevant?

Of course they can be and they are - was the consensus. Because Paul anchored his thought not on an idea, but on a Man, one who was killed and was resurrected, whom he 'experienced' in his flesh, as it were, with whom he 'fell in love' completely.

Starting with this premise, it was easy for the participants to speak of the reality of Paul - about his mystical experiences; the validity of what he called 'domestic churches'; the genial exegesis that the Fathers of the Church made of his writings and which Biblical scholars still find useful today; on the exemplary 'reception' of such works by outstanding minds through the centuries (Thomas More, Erasmus, von Balthasar); and even the attempt to integrate Christianity and Islam at the time of Manuel Komnenos [12th century Byzantine emperor].

In the Acts we read that the Jewish advocate Tertullus, in his capacity as a public minister, said in the year 58: "We have found out that this man is a plague", giving Paul one of his least conventional descriptions.

This year's Tarsus Symposium was opened by Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, shortly after he opened the Pauline Year formally in Turkey - a week before its inauguration in Rome. Welcome remarks were given by Mons. Luigi Padovese, the Apostolic Vicar in Anatolia.

It must be underscored that the Pauline Symposia always end in Antioch (now Antakya), the other Turkish city closely associated with Paul, but where the memory of Peter is equally alive. Just as it must be remembered that Peter more than once called on the early Christians to read Paul's letters 'according to the wisdom you have been given'.

And while these Pauline symposia may not have planetary resonances, they do work to expose to laymen the greatness and wisdom of a man whose words provide material for endless meditation and reflection.

As he writes in the Second Letter to the Corinthians: "We are before God the perfume of Christ - between those who are saved and those who are lost; the odor of death for the some, and for others, the odor of life for always."



======================================================================


Last week, Picucci filed this story from Tarsus, posted in NEWS ABOUT THE CHURCH on 6/24/08:


Tarsus gives Catholics
a 'new church' for St. Paul

by EGIDIO PICUCCI
Translated from
the 6/24/08 issue of




TARSUS, Turkey - ”The municipality of Tarsus has acquired an old cotton factory which it intends to remodel and place at the disposition of Christian pilgrims who will visit the birthplace of Paul, the most illustrious son of our land”.

The announcement made by the mayor of Tarsus was a surprise to hundreds of Turkish, German and Italian Catholics who had arrived in Tarsus for the inauguration of the Pauline Year which started here Saturday, one week ahead of the official beginning announced by Pope Benedict XVI.

The decision goes in the direction of a wish expressed for some time by Mons. Luigi Padovese, Apostolic Vicar in Anatolia (former Asia Minor), who had asked for the restitution of the church dedicated to St. Paul centuries ago in Tarsus but which is now a museum. That request is still being weighed by Turkish authorities.

But meanwhile, the municipality has guaranteed free access to the church by Catholics during the entire Pauline Year, even for the celebration of liturgies, without having to request permission every time, which has been the rule till now.

The former factory is two steps away from the Church-Museum, near where Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, opened the Pauline Year in Tarsus with an emotional ecumenical ceremony, in which the entire Turkish bishops conference participated, along with the leaders of various Christian confessions and other religions in Turkey.

“Tarsus prepared Paul for his apostolate among the peoples of his time,” Kasper said.

According to Mons. Genovese, “Through this commemoration of St. Paul, we wish to show that religious geniuses, like great mystics, thinkers and scientists, are a common patrimony for mankind because they have a message that is valid for everyone an because they represent the best of our humanity.”

Genovese cited that “in 1991, the Holy See honored the Muslim mystic Yunus Emre and in 2007, the great Sufi Menlana Celaleddin Rumi.. Tarsus does this today in joining the celebrations for a year dedicated to the study of Paul’s activities and writings.”

In a message for the Pauline Year, the Catholic bishops of Turkey wrote:

“The Pauline Year concerns all Christian communities, but it concerns us particularly who are in this land, because the Apostle of the Gentiles is a son of this land and because he spent here a great part of the 10,000 miles of his journeys, undergoing hostility, mortal dangers, prison, beatings and privations of every kind, in order to announce Christ and his Gospel.

“Accustomed to meeting with men of different races and religious traditions, he was a man of dialog, in whose name we are called on to intensify our dialog with the Muslim world.”

On Sunday, the XII Pauline Symposium, organized by the Franciscan Institute of Spirituality of the Pontifical Antonianum University in Rome, opened in Tarsus with the theme, “Paul of Tarsus: History, archeology and reception”.


Map of Paul's apostolic world. Tarsus is at the southeastern part of present-day Turkey
near the Mediterranean coast
.




Commemorative plaque of St. Paul set up by the city of Tarsus in 1945.

=====================================================================

MORE ABOUT TARSUS

Working backwards now, here are earlier stories about Tarsus that were posted in NEWS ABOUT THE CHURCH:



View of Tarsus today.


Catholics hope Turkey opens
church for St Paul Year

By Tom Heneghan, Religion Editor



ISTANBUL, May 27, 2008 (Reuters) - The Roman Catholic Church hopes a year dedicated to Saint Paul, born two millennia ago in Tarsus in today's southern Turkey, will bring signs of more religious tolerance in the mostly Muslim but secularist country.

Pope Benedict proclaimed the "Pauline Year", 12 months of events starting on June 29, to honor the great evangelizer of the early Church martyred in the year 64 under the Emperor Nero.

The event has taken on a contemporary twist in Turkey, where the state keeps tight control on religion, and figured in a German debate between Muslims aiming to build mosques there and bishops calling for more churches in Muslim countries.

The main issue in Turkey is a Catholic request for a former church, which was confiscated by the state in 1943 and is now a museum, to be turned back into a house of worship for pilgrims coming to Tarsus during the Pauline Year and afterwards.

"We think this could be a good sign of religious freedom in Turkey," Bishop Luigi Padovese, apostolic administrator for the Anatolia, told Reuters. "We have big hopes and our hopes have a firm foundation."

Local officials have cooperated in planning for the hundreds of thousands of pilgrims expected during the year and Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan might attend an inaugural ceremony in Tarsus on June 21, he said.

A decision to turn the museum over to the Catholics, who say they would allow all Christian denominations to use it, would be a positive step in a country where cautious efforts at expanding religious rights in recent years seem to have been put on hold.

Erdogan, whose AK Party has its roots in political Islam, raised hopes in recent years among Turkey's 100,000-strong Christian community by stressing greater rights for religion as part of a liberalization needed to join the European Union.

But a bid to scrap one constraint -- a ban on Islamic headscarves at universities -- has landed him in a legal clash with the secularist elite. By late June, the Supreme Court may have banned him from belonging to a political party.


The Church of St. Paul in Tarsus today - Pictures from the Turkish Ministry of Tourism.

The only church in Tarsus is a simple medieval building with bare walls and no cross. Confiscated in 1943, it was used by the army and later as a museum. "There's only the building, with nothing special in it. Not much of a museum," Padovese said.

Local officials have long allowed priests to say Mass in the Tarsus church if they remove the cross and all other religious items immediately afterwards. They recently stopped charging the museum entrance fee, something the worshippers resented.

But turning it back into a church would mean it could have a cross and icons whenever pilgrims visit it, Padovese said. "This empty building is not a church," he added. "Imagine how it feels to pray in a museum with no cross."

Tarsus Mayor Burhanettin Kocamaz said he had also received a request to build a church there. "We do not support one project over another, as we don't have the authority to decide," he said. "We will apply whichever decision the government makes."

Erdogan's office did not answer requests for a comment on how the government in Ankara saw the issue in Tarsus.

Catholic bishops in Germany have taken up the Tarsus church issue as part of a larger effort by the Vatican to have Muslim countries allow more rights for Christians in parallel to the freedom Muslims have to build mosques in western states.

A delegation of bishops will visit the city in September and many dioceses there are organizing pilgrimages, Padovese said.

Cologne Cardinal Joachim Meisner, who has criticized plans by Turks in Germany to build a large mosque there, has written to Erdogan to ask his help with the Tarsus project. He has also mentioned the possibility of building a church in the city.

Meisner, a friend of Pope Benedict, has said a functioning church in Tarsus would be "a strong sign of understanding and would help balance things out here in Cologne." He has denied this was meant as an ultimatum to Ankara.

=====================================================================

Cardinal Meisner's interest in the Tarsus church was first reported in NEWS ABOUT THE CHURCH on 3/19/08 (Page 98) - at which time the Turkish Prime Minister was also quoted as being supportive, as follows:


____________________________
JUBILEE YEAR OF ST. PAUL



Cardinal Meisner calls for construction
of a church in St. Paul's hometown




Cologne, Mar 18, 2008 (CNA)- The Archbishop of Cologne, Cardinal Joachim Meisner, has called on Turkey’s president Tayyip Erdogan to support the construction of a church in Tarsus and to allow the current church there that was turned into a museum to be used again for religious purposes.

In the letter sent to President Erdogan in February and published in the latest edition of the Archdiocese of Cologne’s newspaper, Cardinal Meisner reminded the Turkish leader that starting June 28, the atholic Church will celebrate the 2000th anniversary year of St. Paul’s birth, and that Christians from around the world will go on pilgrimage to Tarsus.

The German cardinal said he plans to visit Tarsus this year and that he believes the construction of a church in St. Paul’s hometown would be of significance to Cologne, as it would improve relations with the large Turkish community that lives in that city. He also said working together in the construction of the church would be a sign of unity.

Last month during a visit to Cologne, President Erdogan expressed his supports for plans to build the church in Tarsus, and during a press conference he said, “As soon as the Church makes this request of me, I will make a statement in support, even if it goes against the opposition.”

=====================================================================

May 27, 2008

The Tarsus Chamber of Commerce has opened a site - in English and Turkish - on the Pauline Year with a really great banner which I cannot 'lift' because it is an Adobe Flash presentation.

www.paulineyear.org/default.asp

It is still in construction, but there's already some interesting material. Its unifying icon is a literal icon of St. Paul that I have not seen before:



but they flip it around, so that the image faces inward towards the page rather than outward as in the original

The last paragraph of the site's biography of Paul reads:

Paul’s first trip to Iconium, (modern Konya) may reveal what he actually looked like. The source of our knowledge comes from a second century story entitled ‘Paul and Thekla’, ascribed a man from Iconium by the name of Onesiphoros. Paul, according to this source, had a Roman nose, wide forehead, and short hair. His face at times seemed like a man’s at other times like an angel’s. He appeared to have been a bow-legged man of short stature.



Right now, the site's most interesting feature is 360-degree panorama shots of Tarsus historical places -
www.paulineyear.org/360_en.asp
in which by dragging the mouse over a picture, one can get a 360-degree look at each location.




TERESA BENEDETTA
00Wednesday, July 2, 2008 12:13 AM




Paul, son of three cultures,
apostle of hope

by Mons. Gianfranco Ravasi
President, Pontifical Council for culture
Translated from
the ... issue of




On the occasion of the opening of the Pauline Year, the issue of the magazine Luoghi dell'Infinito [Places of the infinite] that comes out with the July 1 Avvenire is dedicated to the 'apostle beyond frontiers'. Introduced with an editorial by Davide Rondoni, the dossier includes an article by Mons. Ravasi, which is reprinted here [in L'Osservatore Romano]. NB: Some of what Mons. Ravasi writes here is touched upon in his earlier, much shorter essay for OR translated and posted on this thread earlier.


What happened, on a unspecified day some time between 33 and 35 A.D., on the road which led from Galilee to Damascus, has remained engraved in the collective memory as an image - itself rather fantastic - memorialized iconically by Caravaggio in his painting found in the Church of Santa Maria del Popolo in Rome: an enormous horse looms over Paul who has been unseated and lies on the ground, blinded.



Caravaggio, The Conversion of Saint Paul, 1600-1601
Oil on canvas, 90 1/2 x 70 in.
Cerasi Chapel, Santa Maria del Popolo, Rome



In fact, the description of that famous epiphany (or better, Christophany) offered three times by the evangelist Luke in the Acts of the Apostles, does not include that equestrian image:

On his journey, as he was nearing Damascus, a light from the sky suddenly flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?" He said, "Who are you, sir?" The reply came, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. (9,3-5).

Paul, in evoking that capital turning-point, uses three verbs in his letters - two in the sense of illumination [Christ appeared to me... God deigned to reveal his Son to me"] and one of struggle ("I was seized by Jesus Christ").



Caravaggio, The Conversion of St. Paul, 1600
Oil on cypress wood, 237 x 189 cm (approx 93 x 74 inches), Odescalchi Balbi Collection, Rome

[This was painted a year before the more famous one and is approximately the same size.]


What's certain is that the event was definitive for him: the persecutor Saul, a fanatical Pharisee {I persecuted beyond measure the Church of God, seeking to destroy it"), would become the apostle Paul, ready to declare that his very life is Christ.

And so 'the road to Damascus' has become a universal symbol to indicate not just an existential turning point or a conversion, but a literal bolt of lightning that revolutionizes the entire being of a person.

Think of August Strindberg and his daring play called 'Towards Damascus', written between 1898 and 1904. The Swedish playwright transforms the Pauline symbol into a parable of the course of life, although with an antithetical goal. His Damascus is an oneiric [nightmarish] labyrinth and certainly not an illumination, an obsessive spiral in which the past is not nullified but intrudes in bits and pieces into the present, where everything is a tangle and the destination is not liberating.

How different from the glorious revisitation of that event by the Protestant believer Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy who, with his grandiose oratorio Paulus - with 356 choir members and a 160-piece orchestra, it was a great hit at its world premiere on May 22, 1836 - offered a musical exegesis of Paul's life spanned by a 'before' and 'after' divided by that road to Damascus. It was no accident that two basses incarnate the protagonist - as Saul the Jew of the 'before', and as Paul the Christian of the 'after'.

That this musical meditation by Mendelssohn was also theological is clear from the fact that the overture is based on that splendid Lutheran chorus 'Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme!" [Awake, the voice calls us], which is magnificently gentle in its Bachian interpretation (Bwv 140), and whose opening line is in itself an illuminating interpretation of the road to Damascus as 'awakening and resurrection'.

That 'resurrection' makes Saul a capital figure in the new religion through all of its succeeding history, even if not always a peaceful figure or one who is taken for granted.

In the Second Letter of Peter, the writer observes that "in the letters of our beloved brother Paul, there are some things hard to understand that the ignorant and unstable distort to their own destruction, just as they do the other scriptures" (3,16).

A famous 19th-century German theologian and exegete, Wilhelm Wrede, coined for Paul the definition 'second founder of Christianity' in a work simply entitled Paulus (1904) - a defective definition because it could (and did) imply the transformation of Jesus's message into another religion altogether.

It was in this context that Nietzsche branded Paul a 'disangelist' - announcer of bad news - as opposed to the 'evangelists', bearers of good news, while our own Antonio Gramsci rashly called Paul 'the Lenin of Christianity' - by which he meant a cold theoretician inclined to system-building. And in the 19th century, the French writer Ernest Renan did not hesitate to call the Pauline writings "a danger and an obstacle, the cause of the principal defects of Christian theology."

At this time, let us seek to delineate an essential and objective profile of this figure, "holy for the Church, great for mankind", as Victor Hugo said of him, and we will do so on the basis of New Testament data.

These are substantially found in the second work of Luke - the Acts of the Apostles - and in the Pauline epistolary which includes 13 letters explicitly signed by Paul, while the 14th, the letter to the Hebrews, has been excluded for some time now from his authorship.

But we must note that most scholars consider only seven of those letters (Thessalonians, first and second Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, Romans, and Philemon) strictly Paul's, while the other six are from the circle of Paul, and therefore, only indirectly from the apostle - though this does not mean that they are not as 'inspired' and canonical as the other seven.

Another 19th-century German scholar, Adolf Deissmannn, called Paul a 'cosmopolite'. In fact, he was the son of three cultures which are clearly represented in his 'Identikit'.

His original name was Jewish, the same as the first king of Israel, Saul. "I am a Jew from Tarsus in Cilicia," he declared to the Roman tribunal who interrogated him when he was first arrested in Jerusalem (Acts, 21, 19).

Disputing with his Jewish detractors in Corinth, he refers to his roots: "Are they Jews? Even I am a Jew. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descended from Abraham? So am I" (2Cor 11,12).

To his beloved Macedonian Christians in Philippi, he vigorously asserts that he had been "circumcised on the eighth day, fro, the race of Israel, of the Tribe of Benjamin, a Jew descended from Jews, a Pharisee by law" (3,5).

In rising tones, he writes to the Romans: "For I could wish that I myself were accursed and separated from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kin according to the flesh. They are Israelites; theirs the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; theirs the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, is the Messiah" (9, 3-5).

And to the Galatians, he even makes a point of nationalistic pride: "They are Jewish by nature and not sinners like the Gentiles" (2, 15).

Formed in Jerusalem - "at the feet of Gamaliel... educated strictly in our ancestral law" (Acts 22,3), trained according to Jewish practice even in manual labor, that of skenopoiòs, 'maker of tents' (most likely, one who wove goat's hair into a coarse material called 'cilicium' after the region where it was made, Cilicia, Paul's home region), Saul was nevertheless a Jew of the Diaspora, born in Tarsus, 'no mean city', as he describes it coquettishly (Acts, 21,39).

Located on the river Kidnos, the city, which is within present-day southern Turkey, was the seat of a lively Stoic philosophical school, which left its mark on the thinking of the apostle, who enjoyed Roman citizenship, granted to him under Marc Antony and Augustus.

Paul would use his right as a Roman citizen with pride, not just appealing his case to the supreme Roman tribunal (Acts 22, 28), but also presenting himself in all his letters using his frankly Latin name, Paul.

Subsequent tradition, in the fourth century, would not hesitate to create an apocryphal correspondence between the Apostle and Seneca [See recent interview with historian Marta Sordi posted on this thread earlier, in which she says the correspondence was authentic] which included exchanges like the following:

Seneca to Paul: "If the name of a man so great and favored by God should be coupled with mine, this cannot be anything but good for your Seneca". Paul to Seneca: "During your reflections, truths have been revealed to you through a privilege granted to only a few by the Divine... Therefore, I am sowing imperishable seed - the unchanging Word of God - in an already fertile field."

But Paul was not only Jewish and Roman. His culture and his activity took place in a Hellenistic climate. He used the Greek language creatively, forging it with great liberty as with a red-hot iron. He knew the rhetorical resources of that language and reworked them inventively, attributing unprecedented meanings to terms like sarx (flesh), pneuma (spirit), hamartia (sin), dikaiosyne (justice), soterìa (salvation), eleutherìa (freedom), agàpe (love).

Paul's story is thus consummated in a crossroads of cultures and his triple identity of Jew, Roman and Greek are indispensable for understanding his work and his personal experience, which took place completely within the Mediterranean basin, with his dream of reaching its Western extremity in Spain (Rom 15, 22-24).

Historically, the external and 'profane' firm point of the Pauline chronology has been the apostle's meeting with the Roman proconsul Gallio in Corinth (Acts 18, 12-17): An inscription in Delphi tells us that Gallio lived in that Greek city in the years 50-51. From this chronological point, scholars have tried to fix a chronology for the not always consistent data from the two New Testament sources cited, the Acts and Paul's letters.

Starting with his conversion, one can reconstruct two temporal trajectories. The first, based on the Acts, is marked by Paul's three great missionary journeys: After the first one, the 'council' of the apostles in Jerusalem takes place (in 49-50), Between 58-60 comes a period of 'protective custody' while awaiting trial in Maritime Caesarea, and another two years of house arrest in Rome (60-62), while awaiting the outcome of his appeal to the supreme imperial court. His death, preceded by yet another detention, would have taken place some time between 64-67, but the Acts are silent about this.

The second chronology, based on the Pauline letters, would date the 'Council' of Jerusalem after the second missionary journey to Greece (50-51); introduces a longer stay, perhaps in prison, in Ephesus (52-55); while his arrest in Jerusalem and his incarceration in Caesarea would date to 56-57, the transfer by ship to Rome in the winter of 57-58, the house arrests in Rome would have lasted from 58-60, and he would have been condemned to death under Nero in the year 60.

Beyond this chronological biography, the figure of Paul is decisive for the history of the Church on the theological level. His activity opened up two prospects that were decisive for Christianity.

He was firmly convinced that "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal 3,28).

It was a choice that brought tensions within the early Church, which is indicated by the aforementioned 'council' of Jerusalem (Acts, 15) and of the Kephas-Peter polemic recalled by Paul himself writing to the Galatians.

But his conviction [on the universality of the Christian message] is immovable and would be affirmed by his entire apostolic ministry. "(God), who from my mother's womb had set me apart and called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, so that I might proclaim him to the Gentiles" (Gal 1, 15-16).

Of course, this openness implies an elaboration of the very language and even a deeper examination of the message of Christ. Which opens up a second equally fundamental prospect, that which is strictly theological.

Paul offers us an ideal design constructed through his various letters, with Christ at is core, one of its principal points being the so-called "justification through faith and through grace".

That is formulated three times in an essential way in just one passage of the Letter to the Galatians: "...A person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ. Even we have believed in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified" (2,16).

Not just the Letter to the Galatians develops this theme, but even the apostle's theological masterpiece, teh Letter to the Romans. Of course, the 432 verses of this work touch on other lines and areas of thought that make the theology of Paul a polar star in the secular reflection of the Church, often as a 'sign of contradiction'. Just think of the Protestant Reformation and the ever alive and fertile debate on Pauline thought, a thought which has been examined in detail even for its ecclesial and moral points.

The poet Mario Luzi was right when he wrote: "Paul is an enormous figure who emerges from the chaos of error and the uneasy expectations of men to give us a sense of hope."

And for the Apostle, hope cannot be founded other than on "Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God" (1Cor, 24).

======================================================================




The two Caravaggio's - the earlier version is on the right.

A commentary in Wikipedia on the Caravaggio painting in Santa Maria del Popolo (left photo):

On this canvas, Saul is an epileptic and fractured figure, flattened by the divine flash, flinging his arms upward in a funnel. There are three figures in the painting. The commanding muscular horse dominates the canvas, yet it is oblivious to the divine light that defeated his rider's gravity. The aged groom is human, but gazes earthward, also ignorant of the moment of where God intervenes in human traffic. Only Saul, whose gravity and world has been overturned lies supine on the ground, but facing heaven, arms supplicating rescue. The groom can see his shuffling feet, and the horse can plod its hooves, measuring its steps; but both are blind to the miracle and way. They inhabit the unilluminated gloom of the upper canvas. Saul, physically blinded by the event for three days, suddenly sees the Christian message. For once, his soul can hear the voice of Jesus, asking, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" His sword and his youthful sinews are powerless against this illuminating bolt of faith.


TERESA BENEDETTA
00Thursday, July 3, 2008 1:27 AM



ST. PAUL IN FOUR LESSONS:
CATECHESES BY BENEDICT XVI
October-November 2006



The Holy Father today started a new catechetical cycle dedicated to the figure and teachings of St. Paul during this Jubilee year in his honor. First, here are the four catecheses that Benedict XVI devoted to St. Paul in late 2006 during his teaching cycle on the Apostles and early Christians.

NB: For all translations of Biblical passages, I have been using USCCB's New American Bible - not the most satisfactory, but it is an approved text.


10/25/06





We have concluded our reflections on the twelve Apostles directly called by Jesus during His earthly life. Today we will start to look at other figures who were important for the early Church.

They too gave their lives for the Lord, the Gospel and the Church. These are men and women who, as Luke writes in the Acts, "dedicated their lives in the name of our Lord Jesus Chirst" (15,26).

The first of them, called by the Lord Himself, by the Resurrected Christ, to be a true Apostle is undoubtedly Paul of Tarsus. He shines like a star of the first magnitude in the history of the Church, and not only in that of the primitive Church.

St. John Chrysostom exalted him as a figure who was superior to many angels and archangels (cfr Pangeyrics, 7,3). Dante Alighieri, in the Divine Comedy, inspired by the story told by Luke in the Acts (cfr 9,15) defined him simply as the 'vessel of election" (Inferno, 2,28), which means an instrument chosen by God.

Others have called him the 13th Apostle - and in fact, he insisted himself that he was a true Apostle, having been called by the Risen One, "the first after the Only One." Certainly, after Jesus, he is the one person in the early Church about whom we are best informed.

We have not only the story told by Luke in the Acts of the Apostles, but also a group of Letters coming directly from his own hand, and which reveal without intermediaries his personality and his thought.

Luke tells us that his original name was Saul (cfr Acts 7,58; 8,1; etc), which was its form in Hebrew (cfr Acts 9,14,17;22,7,13;26,14), as King Saul (cfr Acts 13,21). He was a Jew of the Diaspora, Tarsus being situated between Anatolia and Syria.

Early on, he went to Jerusalem to study Mosaic law in depth at the feet of the great Rabbi Gamaliel (cfr Acts 22,3). He also learned a manual and rough trade as a tentmaker (cfr Acts 18,3), which subsequently enabled him to support himself without imposing on the local Churches(cfr Acts 20,34; 1 Cor 4,12; 2 Cor 12,13-14).

An encounter with the community of those who professed themselves to be disciples of Jesus was decisive for him. From them, he learned of a new faith - a new path - which placed in the center not so much the law of God as much as the person of Jesus, who was crucified and resurrected for the remission of sins.

As a zealous Jew, he considered this message unacceptable, even scandalous, and so, he felt it was his duty to persecute Christ's followers even outside Jerusalem. It was on his way to Damascus, at the start of the fourth decade of the first century when, according to his own words, Christ "took possession of him. (Phi 3,12).

While Luke recounts this with little detail - that the light of the Risen One touched Saul and fundamentally changes his whole life - Paul himself in his letter goes straight to the point and speaks not only of a vision (cfr 1 Cor 9,1), but of illumination (cfr 2 Cor 4,6) and above all, of revelation and vocation in his encounter with the Risen Christ (cfr Gal 1,15-16).

In fact, he explicitly defines himself as an "apostle by calling" (cfr Rm 1,1; 1 Cor 1,1), "or apostle by the will of God" (2 Cor 1,1; Eph 1,1; Col 1,1), as if to underscore that his conversion was not the result of a development of thoughts and reflections, but the fruit of divine intervention, of unpredictable divine grace.

From then on, everything that had constituted value for him paradoxically turned into 'loss and rubbish' (cfr Phi 3,7-10). And from that moment, all his energies were placed at the exclusive service of Christ and His Gospel. From then on, his existence would be that of an Apostle who wants "to do everything for everyone" (1 Cor 9,22) without reservations.

From here we learn a very important lesson: what counts is to place Jesus Christ in the center of our life, so that our identity would be distinguished essentially by the encounter and communion with Christ and His Word. In His light, every other value derives and is purified of dross.

Another fundamental lesson offered by Paul is the universal breadth which characterizes his Apostolate. Feeling acutely the problem of access by the Gentiles, or pagans, to God who, in Jesus Christ crucified and resurrected, offers salvation to all men without exception, Paul dedicated himself to making this Gospel known, literally the "good news", that is, an announcement of grace that is destined to reconcile man with God, with himself and with other men.

From the first, he understood that this was a reality that did not concern only the Jews or a certain group of men, but that it had universal value and concerned everyone, because God is the God of everyone.

The point of departure for his travels was Antioch in Syria, where for the first time, the Gospel was announced to the Greeks and where the name 'Christian' was first coined (cfr Acts 11,20,26), namely "believers in Christ."

From Antioch, he headed first for Cyprus, and later, made repeated visits to the regions of Asia Minor (Pisidia, Licaonia, Galatia), then to European lands (Macedonia, Greece). The most notable visits were to Ephesus, Philippi, Thessalonia, Corinth, not to forget Berea, Athens and Miletus.

Paul's Apostolate did not lack for difficulties which he faced courageously for love of Christ. He himself recalls acting through "labors..imprisonments...beatings, and numerous brushes with death...; thee times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked...; frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my own race, dangers from Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers at sea, dangers among false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many sleepless nights, through hunger and thirst, through frequent fastings, through cold and exposure. And apart from these things, there is the daily pressure upon me of my anxiety for all the churches. (2 Cor 11,23-28).

From a ssage of his Letter to the Romans (cfr 15, 24,28) we see he intended to push farther towards Spain to the limits of the West, to announce the Gospel everywhere even to the limits of then-unknown lands.

How can we not admire a man like him? How can we not thank the Lord for having given us an Apostle of this stature? Clearly it would not have neen possible for him to face so many difficult and at times desperate situations, if there had not been a reason of absolute value before which no limits could be considered impassable.

For Paul, this reason, we know, was Jesus Christ, of whom he writes: "The love of Christ impels us...that those who live may no longer live for themselves but for Him who died and was resurrected for them" (2 Cor 5, 14-15), for us, for everyone.

In fact, the Apostle would give the supreme testimony of blood under the emperor Nero here in Rome where we keep and venerate his mortal remains. And so the Roman Clement, my predecessor in this Apostolic Seat in the last years of the first century, wrote: "For all the jealousy and discord (around him), Paul was obliged to show himself worthy of the prize for patience... After having preached justice to the whole world, and after having reached the extreme confines of the West, he suffered martyrdom at the hands of the authorities; and so he left this world and reached the holy place, becoming for us the greatest model of perseverance." (To the Corinthians, 5).

May the Lord help us to put into practice the exhortation left by the Apostle in his Letters: "Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ" (1 Cor 11,1).

Later, he said in English:

In our catechesis on the Church’s apostolic ministry, we now turn from the twelve Apostles called by Jesus during his earthly life to some other important figures of the early Church.

Outstanding among these is Saint Paul, who has been called the "thirteenth Apostle". Paul was a devout follower of the Law, whose initial hostility to the Gospel suddenly melted when he encountered the Risen Lord on the road to Damascus.

His own accounts of this dramatic conversion speak not only about his vision of Jesus, but also his call to be an apostle. From that moment on, Paul’s life was completely dedicated to the service of Christ.

From Paul we learn to make Christ the centre of our lives and to see all things in the light of God’s universal, reconciling love.

Paul’s zeal for the Gospel led him to preach the name of Jesus in Asia and Europe, and to face countless trials with courage and undying love for the Lord. Truly, the love of Christ impelled him (cf. 2 Cor 5:14), even to his death as a martyr here in Rome.

Through the prayers of Saint Paul, may we respond joyfully to his challenge to become "imitators of me, as I am of Christ" (1 Cor 11:1)!




11/8/06
The centrality of Jesus Christ
in Paul's teachings




In our last catechesis 15 days ago, I sought to trace the essential lines of the biography of the apostle Paul. We saw how the encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus literally revolutionized his life.

Christ became his reason for being and the profound motivation of all his apostolic work. In his letters, after the name of God which appears more than 500 times, the next most mentioned name is that of Jesus (380 times).

It is therefore important that we take note of how much Jesus Christ can register in the life of one man and therefore even in our own lives. In truth, Christ is the apex of the history of salvation and therefore the true point of discrimination in our dialog with other religions.

Looking at Paul, we can formulate a basic question: How does a human being's encounter with Christ take place? And what does the resulting relationship consist of? The answer given by Paul may be understood in two instances.

In the first place, Paul helps us to understand the absolutely basic and irrreplaceable value of faith. This is what he writes in his Letter to the Romans: "We consider that a person is justified by faith apart from works of the law" (3,28).

Similarly in the Letter to the Galatians: "...a person is not justified by works of the law but only through faith in Jesus Christ; even we have believed in Jesus Christ that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified" (2,16).

"To be justified" means to be made one of the just, to be welcomed by the merciful justice of God, and enter in communion with Him, and consequently, to be able to establish a more authentic relationship with all our brothers: and this, on the basis of total forgiveness of our sins.

Well, Paul says in all clarity that this condition of life does not depend on our eventual good works but on the pure grace of God: "(We) are justified freely by His grace through the redemption realized in Christ Jesus" (Rom 3,24).

With these words, St. Paul expresses the fundamental substance of his conversion, the new direction of his life as a result of his encounter with the risen Christ.

Before his conversion, Paul was not a man far from God and His law. On the contrary, he was an observant (Jew), faithful to the point of fanaticism. But in the light of his encounter with Christ, he understood that in his previous life he had sought to build up himself, his own justification, and that with all this, he was living for himself alone.

He understood that a new orientation of his life was absolutely necessary. We find this new orientation expressed in his words:
"...I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given Himself up for me" (Gal 2,20).

Paul, therefore, no longer lived for himself, to achieve his own justification. He now lived for Christ and with Christ - giving himself, and no longer seeking and building himself.

This is the new justification, the new orientation given us by the Lord. Before the Cross of Christ - extreme expression of His self-giving - no one can boast of himself, of his own self-achieved and self-serving justification!

Elsewhere, Paul - echoing Jeremiah - spells out this thought by writing: "Whoever boasts should boast in the Lord" (1 Cor 1,31 = Jer 9,22f). Or: "... may I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world" (Gal 6,14).

Reflecting on the meaning of 'justification not by works but by faith,' we come to the second component which defines the Christian identity described by St. Paul in his own life.

It is a Christian identity that is composed of two elements: first, not searching for oneself but being received by Christ and giving oneself, with Christ, and thus participating personally in the experience of Jesus Himself, to the point of immersing ourselves in Him and sharing His death as well as His life.

It is as Paul writes in his Letter to the Romans: "(we) were baptized in His death...we were buried with Him...we have been completely united with him...Consequently, you too must think of yourselves as (being) dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus" (Rom 6,3.4.5.11).

This last expression itself is emblematic: for Paul, indeed, it was not enough to say that Christians are baptized or believers; for him, it was just as important to say that they are "in Jesus Christ" (cfr Rom 8,1.2.39; 12,5; 16,3.7.10; 1 Cor 1,2.3, etc).

Other times he inverts the terms and writes that "Christ is in us" or "Christ is in you" (Rm 8,10; 2 Cor 13,5) or "in me" (Gal 2,20).

This mutual compenetration between Christ and the Christian, characteristic of Paul's teaching, completes his discourse on the faith. Indeed, faith while uniting us intimately with Christ, also underscores the distinction between us and Him.

But according to Paul, the life of a Christian also has a component tht we might call 'mystical' - insofar as it refers to our measuring ourselves with Christ and Christ in us. In this sense, the apostle even qualifies our sufferings as "Christ's sufferings in us" (2 Cor 1,5), such that we "always carry about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body" (2 Cor 4,10).

All this we should bring down to the level of our daily life, following the example of Paul who always lived in this great spiritual space.

On the one hand, faith should maintain itself in a constant attitude of humility before God, and more - in adoration and praise of Him. Because what we are as Christians we owe only to Him and to His grace.

Because nothing and no one can take the place of God, it is therefore necessary that we render the homage we give Him to nothing and no one else. No idol should contaminate our spiritual universe, otherwise, instead of enjoying the freedom we gain, we would fall into a form of humiliating slavery.

On the other hand, our radical belonging to Christ and the fact that "we are in Him" should inspire in us an attitude of total confidence and immense joy. We should exclaim with St. Paul: "If God is for us, who will be against us?" (Rm 8,31).

And the answer is that nothing and no one "could ever separate us from the love of God which is in Jesus Christ, our Lord" (Rm 8,39).

Our Christian life, therefore, rests on the most stable and secure rock that one can imagine, from which we draw all our energy, as the Apostle writes: "I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me" (Phil 4,13).

So let us face our existence, with its joys and its sorrows, sustained by these great sentiments that Paul offers us. Experiencing these ourselves we may understand how true it is what this Apostle wrote: "...I know Him in whom I have believed and am confident that He is able to guard what has been entrusted to me until that day" (2 Tim 1,12) of our encounter with Christ the Judge, Savior of the world and ours.



11/15/06
St. Paul and the Holy Spirit






Today, as in the last two catecheses, we turn to St. Paul and his thinking. We are looking at a giant figure not only on the level of concrete apostolate but even for his theological doctrine which is extraordinarily profound and stimulating.

After having meditated last week on what Paul wrote about the centrality of Jesus Christ in our faith, today let us look at what he says about the Holy Spirit and His presence in us, because the Apostle has much of great importance to teach us.

We know what St. Luke tells of the Holy Spirit in the Acts of the Apostles, where he describes what happened at Pentecost. The Pentecostal Spirit brought a vigorous impulse to the commitment to bear witness to the Gospel throughout the world.

The Acts describes a whole series of missions carried out by the Apostles, starting in Samaria, then along the coastline of Palestine, then towards Syria. Above all, it recounts the three great missionary voyages undertaken by Paul, as I recounted in an earlier catechesis.

However, in his Letters, St. Paul talks to us about the Holy Spirit from a different angle. He does not simply illustrate the dynamic and operational dimension of the Third person of the Most Holy Trinity, but he analyzes His Presence in the life of every Christian, whose very identity is branded by the Spirit.

In other words, Paul reflects on the Spirit by showing His influence not only on how the Christian acts but on his very being. It is him who says that the Spirit of God lives in us (cfr Rm 8,8; 1 Cor 3,16) and that "God has sent the Spirit of His Son to our hearts" (Gal 4,6).

Thus, for Paul, the Spirit marks us in our most profound personal intimacy. Here are some of his words that have relevant significance: "The law of the Spirit which gives us life i Jesus Christ has liberated you from the law of sin and death...For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, 'Abba, Father!'" (Rm 8, 2.15), because as sons, we can call God our Father.

Thus we see that the Christian, even before he acts, already possesses a rich and fecund interior given to him in the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation, an interior that establishes the objective and original relationship of being a child of God.

Therein lies our dignity: we are not only in the image of God, we are His children. We are invited to live the fact of being a child of God, to be ever more conscious that we are adopted children in the great family of God.

We are invited to transform this objective gift into a subjective reality that determines our thinking, our behavior, our very being. God considers us His children, elevating us to a similar but not equal dignity as Jesus Himself, His only true Son in the full sense. In Jesus, we are given - or rather given back - our filial condition and trustful freedom in relation to God.

Thus we discover that for the Christian, the Spirit is no longer just the 'Spirit of God' as it was normally referred to in the Old Testament and continues to be called in Christian language (cfr Jn 41,38; Es 31,3; 1 Cor 2,11.12; Phil 3,3; etc.).

Nor is it just the 'Holy Spirit' in the generic sense as expressed in the Old Testament (cfr Is 63,10.11; Sal 51,13), and by Judaism itself in its texts (Qumran, rabbinism). Indeed, one of the specifics of Christian faith is a belief in the original sharing of this Spirit with the Risen Christ who Himself became 'the life-giving Spirit' (1 Cor 15,45).

Because of this, St. Paul speaks directly of the 'Spirit of Christ' (Rm 8,9), of 'the Spirit of the Son' (Gal 4,6) or the 'spirit of Jesus Christ' (Phil 1,19). It is as though he wished to say that not only is God the Father visible in His Son (cfr Jn 14,9) but that the Spirit of God Himself is expressed in the life and actions of our Lord who was crucified and resurrected.

Paul also teaches us another important thing: that true prayer does not happen without the presence of the Spirit in us. He writes: "...the Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings. And the one who searches hearts knows what is the intention of the Spirit, because it intercedes for the holy ones according to God's will" (Rm 8, 26-27).

That is like saying that the Holy Spirit, that is, the Spirit of the Father and of the Son, has become the soul of our soul, the most secret part of our being, from whom a movement of prayer - whose terms we cannot even specify - constantly arises to God.

The Spirit that is always awake in us makes up for what we lack and offers the Lord our adoration along with our deepest aspirations. Of course, this requires a level of vital communion with the Spirit. And an invitation to be ever more sensible, more attentive to the presence of the Spirit in us, so we can transform this awareness into prayer, feel His presence and learn to pray, to speak to God as His child in the Holy Spirit.

There is another aspect typical of the Spirit that St. Paul teaches us: His connection with love. The Apostle thus writes: "...hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us" (Rm 5,5).

In my encyclical Deus caritas est, I cied a very eloquent sentence from St. Augustine: "If you see charity, you see the Trinity" (n. 19), and he continued by explaining: "The Spirit, in fact, is that interior power which harmonizes the hearts [of the faithful] with Christ's heart and moves them to love their brethren as Christ loved them..." ibid.).

The Spirit places us into the rhythm of divine life itself, a life of love, making us personal participants in the relationship between the Father and the Son. It is not without significance that Paul, in enumerating the various components of fructification by the Sprit, places love first: "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, etc." (Gal 5,22).

And since, by definition, love unites, it means above all that the Spirit creates commuunion within the Christian community, as we say at the start of the Holy Mass, using a Pauline expression, "May the communion of the Holy Spirit [meaning that which is operated by Him] be with you all" (2 Cor 13,13).

On the other hand, it is also true that the Spirit inspires us to weave relations of love with all men. When we love, we give space fo the Spirit, we allow the Spirit to be expressed in His fullness. So we understand why Paul in his Letter to the Romans puts two exhortations side by side on the same page: "Be fervent in the Spirit" and "Do not repay anyone evil for evil" (Rm 12, 11.17).

Lastly, the Spirit, according to St. Paul, is a generous advance given to us by God Himself as an earnest and as a guarantee at the same time of our future legacy (cfr 2 Cor 1,22; 5,5; Ef 1,13-14).

And so we learn from St. Paul that the action of the Holy Spirit orients our life to the great values of love, joy, communion and hope. It is up to us to avail of it in our daily life by following the interior promptings of the Spirit, aided in our discernment by the enlightening guidance of the Apostle.


Later, he addressed the following to English-speaking pilgrims:

Continuing our reflections on the Apostle Paul, we now turn to his teaching on the Holy Spirit.

Saint Paul not only presents the Holy Spirit as the driving force of the Church’s mission, he also speaks of the Spirit’s presence and activity in the life of each individual Christian.

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Risen Lord, the Spirit of adoption poured into our hearts (cf. Gal 4:6), by which we become, in Christ, sons and daughters of the Father. True prayer is thus the fruit of the Spirit’s presence within us.

As the Spirit of the Father and the Son, he helps us in our weakness and constantly intercedes for us before the Father.

The Spirit is also the Spirit of love (Rom 5:5): he gives us a share in God’s own life; enables us to love others with Christ’s own love; and strengthens the bonds of communion within the Church.

Finally, Paul teaches us that the Holy Spirit is the pledge and guarantee of the inheritance awaiting us in heaven (cf. 2 Cor 1:22; 5:5).

May Saint Paul’s example and insight inspire us to treasure the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives and to follow his promptings with hope-filled joy and generous love!




11/22/06
St. Paul and the early Church






Today we complete our 'encounters' with the Apostle Paul, dedicating a last reflection to him. We cannot take leave of him, in fact, without taking into account one of the definitive components of his activity and one of the most important themes of his thought: the reality of the Church.

First, we must note that that his first contact with the person of Jesus took place through the testimony of the Christian community of Jerusalem. It was a tempestuous contact. Having heard of this new group of believers, he became their fiercest persecutor. He himself acknowledges this at least three times in as many letters: "I persecuted the Church of God," he writes (1 Cor 15,9; Gal 1,13; Phil 3,6), almost presenting his actions as the worst of crimes.

History shows us that one normally reaches Christ through the Church. In a certain sense, it is what happened to Paul as well, who encountered the Church before finding Jesus. But this first contact, in his case, was counterproductive; it did not cause adherence, but rather a violent repulsion. [Paul was a very devout Jew who came to Jerusalem to study with a renowned rabbi.]

Paul's adherence to the Church was brought about by the direct intervention of Christ, who, revealing Himself to Paul on the road to Damascus, identified Himself with the Church and made Paul understand that to persecute the Church was to persecute him, the Lord. In fact, the Risen One said to Paul, the persecutor of the Church: "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? (Acts 9:4) (because) in persecuting the Church, he was persecuting Christ.

Thus, Paul converted, at one and the same time, to Christ and to the Church. So we can understand why the Church was so present in the thoughts, in the heart and in the activity of Paul. In the first place, because he literally founded many local Churches in the different cities where he went as evangelizer.

When he speaks of his "concern for all the Churches" (2 Cor 11,28), he is thinking of the various Christian communities established over time in Galatia, Ionia, Macedonia and Achaia.

Some of those Churches caused him worry and displeasure, as, for example, the Churches of Galatia, which he saw "turning to a different gospel" (Gal 1,6), something which he opposed with great determination. And yet, he felt bound to the communities he founded not coldly, bureaucratically, but intensely and passionately.

For example, he describes the Philippians as "my dearest and greatly longed-for brothers, my joy and crown" (4,1). At other times he compares the different communities to a unique letter of recommendation: "You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, a letter written in our hearts, to be known and read by all men" (2 Cor 3,2).

At other times he shows them the genuine feelings not only of a father but even of a mother, as when he addresses them "My little children, with whom I shall suffer the pains of labor until Christ takes shape in you!" (Gal 4,19; cfr l Cor 4,14-15; 1 Thes 2,7-8).

In his letters, Paul also illustrates for us his doctrine on the Church. We know well his original definition of the Church as the "Body of Christ," which we do not find in other Christian authors of the first century (cfr 1 Cor 12,27; Ef 4,12; 5,30; Col 1,24).

The most profound root of this surprising description of the Church is the Sacrament of the Body of Christ itself. St. Paul says: "Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread" (1 Cor 10,17). In the Eucharist, Christ gives us His body and makes us His body. In this sense, St. Paul tells the Galatians: "You are all one in Christ" (Gal 3,28).

In all this, Paul makes us understand that the Church does not only belong to Christ, but that in a sense, the Church is equivalent to and identical with Christ. It is from this that the Church - and all of us who are part of the Church - derive its greatness and nobility. Because we are the limbs of Christ, an extension almost of His personal presence in the world. And thus, it follows that we have the duty to truly live in coformity with Christ.

This concept is also the basis of Paul's exhortations about the many charisms which animate and build the Christian community. All such charisms trace themselves to a single source - the Spirit of the Father and the Son - and we know that no one in the Church lacks this, because, as the Apostle writes, "To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good" (1 Cor 12,7).

What is important, however, is that all the charisms cooperate together to build the community instead of causing them to be torn apart. And so Paul asks rhetorically: "Is the Christ divided?" (1 Cor 1,13). Paul knows well and teaches us that it is necessary "to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace: one body, one Spirit, just as you are called to one hope" (Eph 4,3-4).

Obviously, to underline the need for unity does not mean advocating that the life of the Church should be flattened out and made to function everywhere in a uniform way. Elsewhere Paul says "Do not quench the Spirit" (1 Thes 5,19), meaning, make generous room for the unpredictable dynamism of the Spirit's charismatic manifestations, because the Spirit is an ever-new source of energy and vitality.

If there is one criterion that Paul values most, it is mutual edification: "Let all things be done for edification" (1 Cor 14,26). Everything should concur to weave the ecclesial fabric in an orderly way, without knotting up, without dropping a stitch, without tearing it.

One of Paul's letters then presents the Church as the bride of Christ (cf. Eph 5,21-33), in this way taking up a prophetic metaphor, which saw the people of Israel as the spouse of the God of the Covenant (cf. Hos 2,4.21; Isa 54,5-8). This expresses the intimacy of the relationship between Christ and his Church, both because she is the object of the most tender love on the part of her Lord, and because love must be mutual and therefore we, as members of the Church, should show Christ our passionate fidelity.

Therefore, it is a relationship of communion that is in play here: the vertical relationship between Jesus Christ and all of us, but also the horizontal relationship among all those who distinguish themselves in the world 'by invoking the name of our Lord Jesus Cirst" (1 Cor 1,2).

This defines us: we are among those who call upon the name of the Lord Jesus. That is why we can understand how desirable it is to realize what Paul himself wished for when he wrote the Corinthians: "If everyone is prophesying, and an unbeliever or uninstructed person should come in, he will be convinced by what he hears; he will be judged by everyone, and the secrets of his heart will be disclosed; and so he will prostrate himself and worship God, declaring, 'God is really in your midst.'" (1 Cor 14,24-25).

That is the way it should be with our liturigcal encounters. A non-Christian who comes into one of our assemblies should be able to say at the end. "God is truly with you."

Let us pray to the Lord that we may be such, in communion with Christ, and in communion among ourselves.

Later, he synthesized the catechesis in English:

Continuing our reflections on the Apostle Paul, we now turn to his teaching on the Church.

St. Paul's encounter with the risen Lord on the way to Damascus led him to understand that, in persecuting the Church, he was persecuting Christ himself. Paul was thus converted both to Christ and the Church. We can understand, then, why the Church plays so important a part in his thought and work.

Paul founded several Churches during his missionary journeys, and he demonstrated, through his letters and visits, a constant and lively "concern for all the Churches" (2 Cor 11:28).

For Paul, the Church is truly the "Body of Christ," an extension, as it were, of the risen Lord's presence in the world, enlivened, structured and built up by the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

The Pauline image of the Church as the Bride of Christ (cf. Eph 5,21ff.) likewise stresses the relationship of fidelity and love uniting the Lord and all the members of his body.

Through the prayers of St. Paul, may we enter ever more deeply into this mystery of communion, in order to testify more effectively to Christ's presence in our world.





TERESA BENEDETTA
00Thursday, July 3, 2008 2:12 AM




BENEDICT XVI STARTS
CATECHESIS CYCLE ON ST. PAUL
FOR THE PAULINE YEAR



Here is a translation of the Holy Father's catechesis today, 7/2/08, which starts a new cycle dedicated to the figure and teachings of St. Paul. The audience was held at Aula Paolo VI.





The cultural context
of St. Paul's work



Dear brothers and sisters,

I wish to start a new catechetical cycle today dedicated to the great Apostle St. Paul. As you know, this year is dedicated to him, starting from the liturgical Feast of Saints Peter and Paul last Sunday, to the end of the same feast day next year.


Illustration from a 14th-century Bologna Bible, Vatican collection.


The Apostle Paul, an exceptional and perhaps inimitable figure, always stimulating, is an example for us of total dedication to the Lord and his Church, as well as of great openness to mankind and its cultures.

It is therefore right that we reserve for him a special place not only in our veneration but even in the effort to understand what he has to say to us Christians today.

In this first encounter, let us stop to consider the environment in which he lived and worked. Such a subject would seem to take us far away from our time since we have to imagine the world 2000 years ago. But this is true only apparently and in part, because we will note that under various aspects, the socio-cultural context today did not differ much from what it was in those days.

A primary and fundamental factor to keep in mind is the relationship between the environment into which Paul was born and grew, and the global context into which he subsequently situated himself.

He came from a culture that was precisely defined and circumscribed, certainly a minority one, which is that of the people of Israel and their tradition. In the ancient world, and most notably within the Roman empire, as scholars tell us, the Jews made up only about 10% of the total population. Here in Rome, in the middle of the first century after Christ, they were even much fewer relatively, not being more than 3% of the city population.

Their beliefs and their life style, then as now, distinguished them clearly from their surroundings, and this could have two results - either derision which could lead to intolerance, or admiration, which was expressed in various ways, as for instance, among 'those who fear God' and the 'proselytes' - pagans who associated themselves with the synagogue and shared Israel's faith in God.

As concrete examples of this two-sided attitude we can cite, on the one hand, the cutting dismissal of an orator like Cicero who despised the Jewish religion and even the city of Jerusalem (cfr Pro Flacco, 66-69), and on the other hand, that of Nero's wife, Poppea, whom the Jewish historian Flavius Joseph recalls to be a 'sympathizer' of the Jews (cfr Antichità giudaiche 20,195.252; Vita 16), not to mention that Julius Caesar himself had officially recognized particular rights for them as Flavius has recorded (cfr ibid. 14,200-216).

What is certain is that like today, the number of Jews who lived outside the land of Israel - the Jews of the Diaspora - was much more than those who lived within the territory that was called Palestine.

It is not surprising then that Paul himself was the object of these two opposing assessments that I referred to. One thing is sure: the distinctive particularity of Jewish culture and religion easily found its place within an institution as omni-pervasive as the Roman empire was.

More difficult and trying would be the position of those - Jews or Gentiles - who would adhere faithfully to the person of Jesus of Nazareth, to the degree that Christianity differed both from Judaism and from the prevailing pagan culture.

In any case, two factors favored Paul's mission. The first was Greek culture - perhaps Hellenistic is a better term - which after Alexander the Great, became the common patrimony of the eastern Mediterranean and the Near East, integrating many elements from the cultures of peoples who were traditionally considered barbarians.

A writer of the time says in this respect that Alexander "ordered that everyone should consider the entire 'ecumene' as their homeland... and that there should no longer be any distinction between Greeks and barbarians" (Plutarch, De Alexandri Magni fortuna aut virtute, §§ 6.8).

The second factor was the political-administrative structure of the Roman empire, which guaranteed peace and stability, from Britain to southern Egypt, unifying a vast territory without precedent.

Within that space, one could move about with freedom and safety, utilizing among other things an extraordinary highway system, and finding at each place, characteristic and basic cultural elements which, without detriment to local values, formed a common fabric of unification super partes (above divisions], such that the philosopher Fhilo of Alexandria, a contemporary of St. Paul, praised the Emperor Augustus because he "had brought together in harmony all the savage peoples ...making himself the guardian of the peace" (Legatio ad Caium, §§ 146-147).

The universal vision that characterized the personality of St. Paul - at least of the Christian Paul following the event on the road to Damascus - certainly owes its basic impulse from his faith in Jesus Christ, in that the Risen Lord was beyond any specific constraints.

In fact, for the apostle, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal 3,28).

Nonethless, the historico-cultural situation in his time and in his surroundings could not fail to have an influence on Paul's choices and his work.

Someone has called Paul 'a man of three cultures' because of his Jewish matrix, his Greek mother tongue, and his prerogatives as a 'civis Romanus' (Roman citizen), as attested even by the Latin origin of his Christian name.

One must remember above all, that Stoic philosophy, which was dominant in Paul's time, also influenced Christianity, even if marginally. In this regard, we cannot fail to mention some Stoic philosophers like the initiators Zeno and Cleantes, and those chronologically closer to Paul like Seneca, Musonius and Epictetus - in whom we find the highest values of humanism and wisdom which would be assimilated into Christianity.

As one study on this subject says best, "the Stoa... announced a new ideal which imposed on man duties towards his peers, but at the same time liberated him of all physical and national bonds and made of him a purely spiritual being" (M. Pohlenz, La Stoa, I, Florence 2 1978, pp. 565s).

We can think, for instance, of the doctrine that conceives the universe as one great harmonious body, which leads to the doctrine of equality among all men without social distinctions, to the equality - at least in principle - of men and women, and to the ideal of frugality, moderation and self-discipline to avoid any excess.

When Paul writes the Philippians: "Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things" (Phil 4,8), he is merely re-stating an eminently humanistic concept from Stoic philosophy.

In St. Paul's time, traditional religion was undergoing a crisis, at least in its mythological and even its civic aspects. After Lucretius, a century earlier, had judged polemically that "religion has led to so many misdeeds"(De rerum natura, 1,101), a philosopher like Seneca, going far beyond mere external ritualism, taught that "God is near you, he is with you, he is within you" (Letter to Lucilius, 41,1).

Analogously, when Paul addressed an audience of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers at the Areopagus of Athens, he says textually that "God does not dwell in sanctuaries made by human hands...(but) in him we live and move and have our being" (cfr Acts 17, 24-28).

In this, he certainly restates the Jewish faith in a God who cannot be represented in anthropomorphic terms, but he also uses a religious wavelength that his audience knows well.

We should also take into account that many pagan cults did not use the official temples of the city but carried out their activity in private places which favored the initiation of new adepts.

So it was no surprise that even the Christian assemblies ( called ekklesiai), as the Pauline letters often attest, took place in private homes. Moreover, at that time, there were no public edifices yet [for Christians].

So the early Christian gatherings must have seemed to their contemporaries as just another variant of the common practice of a more intimate form of religion.

Of course, the differences between pagan worship and Christian worship were considerable and had to do with the conscious self-identification of the participants in Christian worship, the common participation of men and women, their celebration of 'the Lord's Supper' and the reading of Scriptures.

In conclusion, from this quick overview of the cultural environment in the first century of the Christian era, it is clear that it is not possible to understand St. Paul adequately without placing him in the context, Jewish as well as pagan, of his time.

This way, his figure gains historic and intellectual weight, showing what he shared with the prevailing culture and how he was original. And this goes equally well for Christianity in general, of whom Paul is a paradigm of the first order from whom we all have much to learn.

This is the goal of the Pauline Year: to learn from St. Paul, to learn the faith, to learn Christ, and thus to learn the way of right living.



This is how the Holy Father synthesized the lesson in English:

Last Sunday, the Solemnity of the Apostles Peter and Paul, marked the beginning of a Year dedicated to the figure and teaching of the Apostle Paul.

Today’s Audience begins a new series of catecheses aimed at understanding more deeply the thought of Saint Paul and its continuing relevance.

Paul, as we know, was a Jew, and consequently a member of a distinct cultural minority in the Roman Empire. At the same time, he spoke Greek, the language of the wider Hellenistic culture, and was a Roman citizen.

Paul’s proclamation of the Risen Christ, while grounded in Judaism, was marked by a universalist vision and it was facilitated by his familiarity with three cultures. He was thus able to draw from the spiritual richness of contemporary philosophy, and Stoicism in particular, in his preaching of the Gospel.

The crisis of traditional Greco-Roman religion in Paul’s time had also fostered a greater concern for a personal experience of God. As we see from his sermon before the Areopagus in Athens (cf. Acts 17:22ff.), Paul was able to appeal to these currents of thought in his presentation of the Good News. Against this broad cultural background, Paul developed his teaching, which we will explore in the catecheses of this Pauline Year.




TERESA BENEDETTA
00Friday, July 4, 2008 5:17 PM



Posted earlier today in NEWS ABOUT BENEDICT:


Pope and Patriarch together
and images for the Pauline Year

By Elizabeth Lev



ROME, JULY 3, 2008 (Zenit.org).- How blessed Christians are to have seen God! When the Word was made flesh, all of our senses were invited to participate in the experience of the Lord. More than just a recounted story, Jesus came to be seen and touched. Centuries of art have celebrated this happy event: the Incarnation.

And what a sight greeted the faithful at the Mass for the feast of St. Peter and St. Paul last Sunday in St. Peter’s Basilica: Christ’s Vicar on earth, Benedict XVI, seated side-by-side with the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople upon the high altar over the tomb of St. Peter.

This was the second time in two days the two men appeared together. The evening before they had presided over vespers at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside-the-Walls to inaugurate the Year of St. Paul for the Churches of both East and West.

The city has been abuzz with the meaning of these fraternal appearances. Could it be that we will see the Churches of the East and West united in our lifetimes? Experts are already hard at work analyzing the significant gestures and issues, but I found myself fascinated by the images that these two extraordinary religious figures dwelt upon during the Mass.

As the twins Romulus and Remus founded the Rome that would grow into an empire, so did Sts. Peter and Paul, as Benedict XVI said in his homily. “Through their martyrdom, they became brothers; together, they are the founders of the new Christian Rome.”

As Benedict XVI and Bartholomew I stood on the tomb of St. Peter, it seemed almost as though Paul had returned to Rome, and that the elusive encounter we search for in the Gospels between the two apostles in the Eternal City was happening before our eyes.

Over their heads soared Michelangelo’s dome, with the words of Christ to Peter shimmering in the sunlight: “You are Peter and on this rock I will build by Church” (Matthew 16:18).

From one of the piers supporting the massive dome, the statue of St. Andrew by Francis Duquesnoy faced the two men. Brother to Peter and the first to be called, St. Andrew died in Greece after having spent his last years spreading the Gospel through the Eastern Empire.

One could imagine his joy as he saw the spiritual leader of millions from the lands where he suffered and died reunited with the successor of his brother. Following the Liturgy of the Word, Bartholomew I took a seat near the tribune of St. Andrew.

Benedict XVI and Bartholomew I both drew upon the shared tradition of images in the two Churches during the Mass.

Bartholomew I’s homily gave us a glimpse of Eastern art. Speaking of the icons that are part of the celebrations for this feast day, he described an image of Sts. Peter and Paul exchanging a fraternal embrace.

The Patriarch commented that the icon reflects the traditional story recounting the martyrdom of the two saints. When sentenced to their deaths, he reflected, Sts. Peter and Paul exchanged the kiss of peace one last time as St. Paul said: “'Peace be with you, foundation of the Church and pastor of the sheep and lambs of our Lord.'

"Peter then said to Paul: 'Go in peace, preacher of good morals, mediator, leader and solace of righteous people.'”

The Patriarch then addressed Benedict XVI saying, “It is indeed this kiss that we have come to exchange with you, Your Holiness, emphasizing the ardent desire and love in Christ, things which are closely related to each other.”

Benedict XVI’s homily also meditated on the same image of the fraternal kiss between the two great Roman apostles, a reflection of harmony in the visual tradition of the Church.

The Roman Pontiff also spoke of the Church of Gentiles and its birth at the foot of Christ’s cross. “The centurion of the Roman execution squad recognizes the Son of God in Christ,” said Benedict XVI, referring to the soldier Longinus who exclaimed, "Truly this man was the Son of God" (Mark 15:39).

A few feet away, Bernini’s colossal statue of St. Longinus stood before them, arms akimbo, hair, drapery and musculature rippling as the awe of realization washes over him. His kinetic excitement, his feeling of profound witness of a crucial moment sparkled in the basilica that day.

Across from the Roman centurion, the gigantic statue of St. Helen, the mother of the man who brought the Church to Constantinople, stood in its niche by the altar, reaching out to invite everyone to join Longinus at the foot of the cross and to see and be amazed.

Behind their heads in the apse of the basilica, mosaic letters spelled out Christ’s charge to St. Peter, “Feed my sheep and lambs” (John 21:17) in both Latin and Greek. For many there, it seemed as though Sts. Peter and Paul were joining forces once again to tend to an increasingly threatened flock in this postmodern world.

Addressing the archbishops who were to receive their palliums, Pope Benedict used an image taken from the dawn of Christianity, the Good Shepherd. “When we put the pallium on our shoulders, this gesture reminds us of the Shepherd who puts the lost sheep upon his shoulders -- the lost sheep who by himself can no longer find the way home -- and takes him back to the sheepfold.”

This symbol, whether painted hastily on a catacomb wall or engraved on a stone sarcophagus, has accompanied Christians since the earliest years of developing a visual narrative of the story of salvation.

But from the lips of Benedict XVI, the image seemed as fresh and apt as it must have been to the first community of persecuted Christians.

Faith, history and art, brought together on the tomb of St. Peter, allowed the gathered faithful to bask in the long visual tradition of the Church while looking forward with hope to the future.


TERESA BENEDETTA
00Friday, July 4, 2008 5:38 PM






Challenges to preaching Paul
by Michael F. Hull



Preaching Paul is no mean feat. The Pauline literature in the Lectionary includes the thirteen disparate letters bearing Paul’s name, as well as Hebrews.(1)

To be sure, Paul’s letters are, at one and the same time, some of the most pastorally sensitive and theologically profound writings in the New Testament. There is no doubt that they present a richness of theological insight, which ought to be expounded from the pulpit for the benefit of the people of God.(2)

In order to speak about challenges to preaching Paul, my departure point is a definition of preaching by Brad R. Braxton, an African-American Baptist minister, who teaches homiletics at Vanderbilt Divinity School.

In his book Preaching Paul, Braxton says: “Preaching is the faithful, passionate reporting of God’s useful news.”(3)

Braxton’s definition is very helpful because it focuses on three challenges in preaching: the challenge to be faithful, the challenge to be passionate and the challenge to be useful. On one level, these challenges transcend Paul’s preaching and our own preaching of Paul, inasmuch as these three challenges are immediately present in all preaching, either from the Old or New Testament. Yet on another level, they are particularly poignant because they are conspicuous in Paul’s letters.(4)

Even a cursory perusal of Paul’s letters reveals his faithfulness to his calling on the Damascus road and his desire to finish the “race” that he first describes in 1 Cor. 9:24. The imagery is picked up again in 2 Timothy: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (4:7; cf. Heb. 12:1).

So too, we cannot forget his passion in Romans, when, lamenting the lack of conversions to Christ among his fellow Jews, he says, “For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen by race” (9:3). Paul’s passion leaps off the page!

And, as far as usefulness goes, no one speaks more to practicalities than Paul. Paul talks about anything and everything, whether it be women in church in 1 Corinthians 11 or fighting with Peter and company in Galatians 2. Once again, as Braxton has it, “Preaching is the faithful, passionate reporting of God’s useful news.”

The challenge to be faithful

It is a challenge to be faithful in preaching. A homily has to be faithful, that is, faith-full. God’s people need to hear about the faith from the pulpit. They do not need to hear about anything else. What is somewhat confusing is the distinction between having the faith and knowing the faith.

Since the lion’s share of preaching is the competence of the ordained, it is helpful to recall the rite of ordination to the diaconate. There, the candidate is handed the Book of the Gospels and the ordaining bishop says: “Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you have become. Believe what you read, teach what you believe and practice what you teach.”

In terms of preaching, it is, obviously, vitally important for the preacher to be faithful, but it is also vitally important for the preacher to have knowledge of the faith.

Many may still recall the days of the “canonicals,” when priests had to pass examinations before they could hear confessions or preach; or the days of “simplex” priests, mostly in religious orders, like the famous Capuchin Friar Solanus Casey, who were ordained priests who could not preach.

Even though faculties are concomitant with ordination in the new Code of Canon Law, the Church still reminds us in law, particularly in the strict requirements of seminary studies, that knowing the faith is vital. Preachers ought to think of themselves as, to quote Paul about himself and his fellow apostles, “servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God,” as “trustworthy stewards” (1 Cor. 4:1–2; cf. 1 Pet. 4:10).

A preacher who wants to be a faithful steward, who wants to be trustworthy with regard to preaching, and particularly with regard to preaching Paul, needs to do quite a lot of reading and studying and reflecting.

Paul’s letters are by far some of the richest fare in all of divine revelation, but they are an acquired taste. They are at the fulcrum of some of the hottest debates in contemporary theology — about grace, faith, justification, resurrection and parousia — just to name a few.

No theologian is able to speak about the realities of Christianity without speaking about Paul. One aspect, then, of the challenge of faithfulness is the preacher’s obligation to improve himself in terms of knowing the faith.

A related aspect of the challenge to be faithful is the obligation to serve God’s people. Paul himself reminds us how important preaching is when he says, “So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ” (Rom. 10:17).

When preachers fail to read and study and reflect as they ought, they have little to offer God’s people. Allow me a limping analogy: If a priest were to find one day that he had forgotten to consecrate hosts at Mass and that the tabernacle was empty, I doubt he would start to give out popcorn or potato chips or raisins at Mass and call them the body of Christ. If he tried it, it would not fly because they are not the real thing, and the priest would be fooling no one.

Likewise, when a preacher mounts the pulpit unprepared — both in remote preparation from a lifetime of reading, studying and reflecting, as well as in immediate preparation for a particular sermon — he does not have the real thing, and he fools no one.

When a preacher begins to tell stories that are only tangentially related to the Good News, to make bland comments about current events, or to recount “what came to my mind as I was doing…,” well, it is nothing more than verbal junk food.

“What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:11–13).

Yes, the preacher must have the faith, but he must also be learned in it. Our people rightly expect to hear about God from the pulpit, not about anyone or anything else.

Paul preached about Christ, not himself: “For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Cor. 4:5–7).

The faith is that treasure, the proclamation and preaching of the Good News is that treasure. The transcendent power of the pulpit “belongs to God and not to us.” Yet that transcendent power is with us when we preach.

As Paul asks, “But how are men to call upon him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher? And how can men preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach good news!’” (Rom. 10:14–15; cf. Eph. 6:15 and Isa. 52:7).

To be faithful, then, is to recall that the same necessity laid upon Paul by his encounter with Christ is laid upon every preacher: “For if I preach the Gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!” (1 Cor. 9:16).

The challenge to be passionate

If it is a challenge to be faithful in preaching, it is no less a challenge to be passionate in preaching. A homily has to be passionate. If preachers do not care about what they say, it is hard to ask anyone else to care about what they say, if they are saying anything at all.

A homily’s content notwithstanding, it ought to be evident that there is some fire in the belly of a preacher if his message is to be effective. It is not uncommon for Protestant preachers to shout out in the middle of a sermon, “Can I get a witness?” What they mean, of course, is for someone’s experience to confirm what they are saying.

Likewise, it is important that the preacher be someone whose life centers on the Gospel, someone who can witness to what he preaches. The Word is alive in the minds and hearts of the people of God, and to a certain extent the people of God can tell when it is or is not alive in the minds and hearts of those who preach among them.

Consider this quote: “Just as the Reformation four centuries ago, the progressive dechristianization of society today is attributed to a failure of preaching. The factor that more than any other made the Reformation possible was the theological confusion that marked the preaching and teaching of the faith in the early sixteenth century. Today preaching is admittedly orthodox, but it is often vapid and lacking in vitality. It no longer seeks to make converts or to lead to sanctity those who already have the faith.” Surprisingly, these words are over forty years old. The quote is from the Dominican Friar Jerome Murphy-O’Connor’s Paul on Preaching.(5)

The quote is also found twenty years later on the first page of the Jesuit Father Walter J. Burghardt’s Preaching: The Art and the Craft, published in 1987.(6) And it remains descriptive of our own day.

Notwithstanding questions of orthodoxy, preaching is often “vapid and lacking in vitality.” It is often not passionate. Perhaps the best way to revive homiletic passion is to recall that the bulk of our preaching is localized in the liturgy.

Preaching is, for the most part, a liturgical act. That makes it different from an academic discourse. We are wont, quite rightly, to say that the Mass is the re-presentation of Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary, that each time we celebrate or participate at Mass we are encountering the Lord’s passion and resurrection.

Braxton rightly notes, “In certain academic interpretations of Scripture precision is the goal. In devotional interpretation, presence is the goal.”(7)

Now his Baptist vocabulary may not be the same as ours, but his emphasis on the Word as present in the liturgy is noteworthy. The Word is proclaimed. The homily is the place for a “devotional interpretation” of what God wishes to communicate to his people through the Word, which comes to them through a homilist’s words, through the words of those who are supposed to preach what our people have already believed (see 1 Corinthians 15).

Paul’s own passion for the Word is revealed not only in the fact that he traveled extensively and suffered greatly for the sake of preaching the Good News, but also in his strong desire to ensure that his people would “get it” and “get it right.”

On the one hand, he tells us of his physical sufferings (2 Corinthians 6 and 11) to the point of revealing that he bears “the marks of Jesus” (Gal. 6:17). On the other hand, he is vehement to make sure that the truth of the Gospel is preached purely, to the point that he says anyone preaching anything else is “accursed” (Gal. 1:8–9).

Now there is a fellow who is passionate about what he is saying! How passionate? When Paul suspects hypocrisy on Peter’s part, he is hardly loathe to write of it: “When Cephas came to Antioch I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned” (Gal. 2:11).

In fact, Paul could become so passionate in his letters as “to lose it,” as we say today. In 1 Corinthians, Paul is so upset with the discord among the baptized at Corinth that he rails: “I am thankful that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius; lest any one should say that you were baptized in my name. (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any one else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the Gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power” (1:14–17). Now that is that sort of passion we see peppered throughout the Pauline letters and Luke’s recounting of Paul’s missionary activity in Acts.

Preachers are challenged, therefore, to recover some zeal. To be sure, every preacher needs to pray to the Holy Spirit to reignite the flame within him, but it would not hurt for him to do some fanning of the flame on his own. Vapidity and the lack of vitality do not come solely from a dearth of time in the library; sometimes they come from a dearth of time in the chapel.

Paul himself is big on passion as he describes the faith in Romans: “Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us” (5:1–5).

The challenge to be useful

It is a challenge to be useful in preaching. When I first read the definition offered by Braxton — “Preaching is the faithful, passionate reporting of God’s useful news” — I thought he had made a poor choice with the word “useful”; I thought “relevant” would better fit the bill. But as I reflected on it, I realized he was right on the money.

“Relevant” is a buzzword, a jargon word. To a great extent, the word “relevant” has been so “relevantized” as to be irrelevant. Sermons do not have to be relevant; sermons have to be useful to God’s people.

Again, when the preacher stands in the pulpit, he is not there to deliver anything other than the Good News — and the Good News is always useful. It is useful because it answers the fundamental questions of our hearts and souls. It is useful because it is God’s own self-revelation. It is useful because with the Good News Jesus leads us (back) to God.

As Paul says, “We also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received our reconciliation” (Rom. 5:11). What could be more useful than that?

In Murphy-O’Connor’s aforementioned quote, orthodoxy on the part of the preacher was presumed; also presumed was “the progressive dechristianization of society.”

Unquestionably, things have gotten worse since Murphy-O’Connor penned those words. We now have in our churches a generation, if not two generations, that is basically illiterate in the truths of the faith. Without questioning natural virtue or the power of grace, a vast majority of Mass-going Catholics do not know the basics of our faith.

Preaching today is very rarely “preaching to the choir.” Since great numbers of our people are bereft of knowledge of the faith, they need to hear again and again that Good News to which they ought to align their lives and minds and hearts. [And that is why Benedict XVI not only has focused his pastoral priority on bringing the faithful 'back to the basics' - educating us all over, I would say - but sets the gold standard himself for preaching in our day!]

Being a useful preacher, certainly, is telling the people what they need to hear, not what a preacher may want to say, no matter how good it may sound. What I mean is this: In order to be a useful preacher, the preacher must do what Paul did, namely, preach Christ, who, as Paul says in the Philippians hymn, is the one “God has highly exalted,” the one on whom God bestowed “the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:9–11).

That is the one useful thing to give them that they cannot get anywhere else.(8)

Consider what Paul says to the Corinthians: “When I came to you, brethren, I did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in much fear and trembling; and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Cor. 2:1–5).

While it is true that one must do some “packaging” in preparing a homily, that one must tune homilies to God’s people in terms of style, that one must give a good “presentation,” it is also true that the preacher cannot forget that the substance of his preaching is not his own, nor can he improve upon it. In that sense, our product, the Good News, ought to sell itself.

Whether or not Paul was being uncharacteristically humble when he wrote that some thought his letters “weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account” (2 Cor. 10:10), he was in fact affirming that for the preacher the medium is not the message.

It is necessary to guard that neither the accidents of the homily nor the person of the homilist become confused with the message, that is, the Messiah. Recall, if you will, Marshall McLuhan’s famous book, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. It came out in 1964, just one year after Murphy-O’Connor’s Preaching Paul.

McLuhan writes: “In a culture like ours, long accustomed to splitting and dividing all things as a means of control, it is sometimes a bit of a shock to be reminded that, in operational and practical fact, the medium is the message.”(9)

I do not think Paul would mind my quoting John’s Gospel on this one. Have you ever heard anything more antithetical to: “He must increase, but I must decrease” (3:30)?

McLuhan’s quote illuminates Murphy-O’Connor’s prescience about the dechristianization of society, but it also highlights the dangers of this dechristianization, dangers that threaten preachers, who often confuse the Good News itself — the message — with the messengers —themselves.

What does Paul say about what he preached? To the Corinthians, he says: “Now I would remind you, brethren, in what terms I preached to you the Gospel, which you received, in which you stand, by which you are saved, if you hold it fast — unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:1–4).

That is the primary kergyma that needs to preached, as we proclaim it at Mass: “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.”

Again, while one certainly has to prepare a homily in such a way as to make its words accessible, the preacher needs to keep in the forefront of his mind that the medium of the homily is not to be identified with the message that is Christ.

Paul expressed this well when he remarked, “Even if I am unskilled in speaking, I am not in knowledge; in every way we have made this plain to you in all things” (2 Cor. 11:6).

And a large part of that was theological instruction and moral exhortation. We need only remember Paul’s profound theological instruction vis-à-vis justification by faith in Romans and Galatians, the resurrection of Christ and of Christians in 1 Thessalonians and 1 Corinthians, or the Christological hymns in Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians; or Paul’s strong moral exhortation vis-à-vis marriage in 1 Corinthians, laziness in 2 Thessalonians, or even paying taxes in Romans.

If a homily has to be a reporting of useful news, that is, the Good News, with some application to present-day situations, that means that it has to speak not only of concepts but of behavior, for preaching “useful Good News” means at once theological instruction and moral exhortation.

Here, Braxton is on the mark: “The pragmatic focus in Paul’s preaching provided gravitational pull to his theological conceptions, preventing those conceptions from hovering above the daily struggles of his converts. Surely Paul realized that preaching that neglected to provide useful guidance for daily living was woefully inadequate.”(10)

The preacher, then, is challenged to be faithful, passionate and useful. Paul is a role model for the preacher because he exemplified faith, passion and utility in his letters. Furthermore, Paul’s words are some of the richest sources of homiletic fodder in the New Testament.

To be sure, the challenges to be faithful, passionate and useful in preaching are not limited to preaching Paul, but they are exemplified in him insofar as he himself is a guide to meeting them.(11)

Therefore, let us conclude with Paul’s words: “Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my Gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which was kept secret for long ages but is now disclosed and through the prophetic writings is made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith—to the only wise God be glory for evermore through Jesus Christ! Amen” (Rom. 16:25–27).



End notes
1. Since the Vatican’s Latin Vulgate continues to list Hebrews under the heading of Paul’s letters, Hebrews is included in the Lectionary under the same title. Here, I use the terms “Pauline literature” and “Paul’s letters” interchangeably. Most scholars think that Paul was only directly responsible for seven letters — Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, and Philemon—and most scholars believe the pastorals (1 and 2 Timothy and Titus) came from other hands than Paul’s, although ones well-schooled in his thought. As for Ephesians, Colossians, and 2 Thessalonians, the jury is still out. As to Hebrews, scholarly consensus maintains that it is not written by Paul, not a letter, and not written to Hebrews. What I say here applies to Paul’s letters and to the others mutatis mutandis.
2. Note that I use the words “sermon” and “homily” more or less synonymously, though I recognize subtle distinctions; for the distinctions, see “From Sermon to Homily” (chap. 1) in Robert P. Waznak, An Introduction to the Homily (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1998), 1–30. Likewise, I apply the term “preacher” inclusively to both the ordained and non-ordained who spread God’s Word; those times when what I say refers exclusively to one state or the other should be evident to the reader.
3. Brad R. Braxton, Preaching Paul ( Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2004), 27.
4. For helpful ways to discern ways to preach like Paul, see James W. Thompson, Preaching Like Paul: Homiletic Wisdom for Today ( Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001).
5. Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, Paul on Preaching (New York: Sheed & Ward, 1963), xiii.
6. Walter J. Burghardt, Preaching: The Art and the Craft (New York: Paulist Press, 1987), 1.
7. Braxton, 71 (emphasis original).
8. To develop useful sermons according to the pattern of Pauline readings given in the Sunday Lectionary, see Frank J. Matera, Strategies for Preaching Paul (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2001).
9. Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (1964; rpt. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1964), 7.
10. Braxton, 39.
11. As Daniel Patte writes, “In order to learn how to preach Paul’s Gospel, there is no better teacher than Paul himself” (Preaching Paul, Fortress Resources for Preaching Paul [Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984], 17).



Reverend Michael F. Hull, S.T.D. is a priest of the Archdiocese of New York and a professor of Sacred Scripture at St. Joseph’s Seminary (Dunwoodie) in Yonkers, New York. His last article in HPR appeared in July 2006.

====================================================================

Not to detract anything from Fr. Hull's presentation, but it just strikes me as glaringly obvious that he does not refer at all to the Holy Father's preaching as an example of the preaching that he advocates!


TERESA BENEDETTA
00Sunday, July 6, 2008 9:02 PM



News items from the Pauline Year website of St. Paul's Basilica:
www.annopaolino.org/interno.asp?lang=eng&id_dettaglio=1938...



The chains on display were immediately noticeable when Pope Benedict and Patriarch Bartholomew paid homage at the tomb of St. Paul
on June 28. The tomb itself is under the altar, and may be viewed through the glass-covered panel on the pavement
.



ST PAUL’S CHAIN ON DISPLAY
NEXT TO HIS TOMB





The surviving links of the chain that, according to age-old tradition, held St Paul as a prisoner here in Rome between 61 and 63 AD, are now on display in an illuminated and decorative display case near the Apostle’s tomb in the Papal Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls.

Thus, what is regarded as the most important relic of the Apostle of the Gentiles can be more easily venerated now than in past years by the thousands of pilgrims and faithful who come to the Basilica every day.

The chain was previously kept in a gold and crystal ciborium in the chapel of the Benedictine Abbey together with other relics of the saint. The decision to give it greater visibility on the ‘Confessio’ altar under the baldacchino by Arnolfo di Cambio was taken by the Archpriest of the Basilica, Cardinal Andrea di Montezemolo to mark the Pauline Year which was inaugurated by Pope Benedict XVI on June 28th.

The relocation of the relic in the Basilica was carried out by the Benedictine Abbot, Fr Edmund Power, while the Cardinal placed it into its bronze case with a crystal viewing window.

Arranged on a silk background are all nine links of the chain with two enlarged Roman coins at the ends – ‘sesterces’ with effigies of the Emperor Nero to recall that St Paul was kept prisoner and martyred under him.

The display case, commissioned by Cardinal di Montezemolo, was designed by distinguished Italian sculptor Guido Veroi, who also made the panels for the Pauline Door, as well as a commemorative medal for the Pauline Year and a coin for the Vatican City State to celebrate the bimillennium of St Paul’s birth.

St John Chrysostom was among the first to bear witness to the tradition of venerating St Paul’s chain. Every year during the liturgical celebration of the solemnity of St Paul on June 29th, the chain is carried in procession around the Basilica by the Abbot of St Paul Outside the Walls.

Over recent years this procession has taken on an ecumenical dimension through the participation of many Orthodox and Protestant Christians.




A PAULINE EXHIBITION:
‘ON THE ROAD TO DAMASCUS’






A travelling exhibition dedicated to St Paul is the latest initiative for the Pauline Year directed at Italian dioceses, parishes, cultural centres and schools by ‘Itaca Eventi,’ a branch of the Itaca publishing house, in collaboration with the cultural affairs department of the Italian Bishops Conference.

The title ‘On the road to Damascus – the start of a new life’ helps to explain the way the exhibition has been organised into two sections, the first dedicated to the places associated with St Paul’s life and preaching ministry, the second focusing on his ‘encounter with Christ’ from which ‘the new man is born.’

Curated together by experts of the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum in Jerusalem and the Priestly Fraternity of St Charles Borromeo, the exhibition features photographic panels with texts documenting the places where St Paul went, the depiction of the Apostle in art and his relationship with St Peter.


TERESA BENEDETTA
00Monday, July 7, 2008 6:02 AM



I found a couple of posts in NEWS ABOUT BENEDICT last January that belong to this thread now:


1/25/2008 10:30 AM
TERESA BENEDETTA
Post: 11536


On the occasion of the feast of the conversion of St. Paul today and the coming Jubilee Year for St. Paul, here is a translation of a reflection written by Cardinal Ratzinger from the book Immagini di Speranza (Images of Hope, San Paolo 2005), and posted by Lella on her blog.

If you do not have a copy of the book on THE APOSTLES based on the Pope's catechetical cycle in 2006, I have put together the Pope's four catecheses on St. Paul during that cycle, given on 10/25, 11/8, 11/15 and 11/22, in THE SAINTS... thread.






The warrior and the sufferer
By Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger




At the entrance to St. Peter's Basilica, Pope Pius IX in the 19th century wanted two imposing figures placed - the Apostles Peter and Paul, both easily recognizable by their attributes - the keys in the hands of Peter, the sword in the hands of Paul.

Whoever looks at the powerful figure of the Apostle of the Gentiles without knowing the history of Christianity may think that this is a great warrior who made history with the sword and subjugated peoples that way. He would be one of so many who gained glory and riches at the price of the blood of others.

But the Christian knows that the sword in the hands of this man means exactly the opposite: it was the instrument with which he was put to death. As Roman citizen, he could not be crucified like Peter; so he had to die by the sword.

But even if this was considered a noble form of execution, he is counted in history among the victims and not the oppressors.

Whoever goes into the letters of Paul to find something which resembles a hidden autobiography of the Apostle, immediately realizes that the sword refers not only to the instrument of his martyrdom, which says something of the last moments of his life.

The sword can be understood, rightly, as an attribute of his life: "I fought the good fight," he told his beloved disciple Titus, looking back at his life, when he felt that his death was near(2Tim 4,7).

Precisely in words like these, Paul is seen as a fighter, a man of action, even a violent one. A superficial look at his life would seem to give reason to such a reading. On four long voyages, he travelled through a considerable part of the known world in his time and truly became the Apostle to the Gentiles who brought the Gospel of Jesus Christ "to the extreme ends of the earth".

His letters kept together the early Christian communities, stimulated their growth and reinforced their constancy. With all the force of his lively temperament, he faced adversaries which he never lacked. He used all the means at his disposal to correspond most effectively to the obligation to announce the Gospel that he felt incumbent on him (1Cor 9,16).

Because of this, he continues to be presented as the great activist, the patron of those who are in search of new missionary strategies.

All this is not false, but it is not Paul in his totality: rather, whoever sees him this way only does not grasp what specifically characterizes his figure.

Above all, it should be noted that St. Paul's battle was not that of a careerist, a man of power, much less that of a conqueror or dominator. His was a battle in the sense given to the word by Teresa of Avila.

She explained the statement that "God loves intrepid souls" this way: "The first thing that God works in his friends when they become weak is to infuse them with courage and take away the fear of suffering."

This brings to mind an observation by Theodor Haecker, certainly rather unilateral and perhaps unjust, recorded in his diaries during the war, but it should help us understand what we are talking about. That sentence was: "Sometimes it seems to me that at the Vatican they have completely forgotten that Peter was not just a bishop...but also a martyr."

Paul's battle was that of a martyr, from the beginning. More precisely, at the start of his journey, he was a persecutor who used violence against Christians. From the moment of his conversion, he went over to the side of the crucified Christ and chose for himself the way of Christ.

He was not a diplomat - when he tried diplomacy, he had no success. He was a man who had no other weapon but the message of Christ and the commitment of his life to this message.

In the letter to the Philippians, he says that his life would be poured in libation as sacrifice (Phil 2,7). In the evening of his life, in the last words addressed to Timothy (2Tim 4,6), the same expression would come back.

Paul was a man ready to be hurt and this was his true strength. He did not protect himself, he did not try to keep himself away from adversity and unpleasant circumstances, much less did he try to assure himself a tranquil life. Rather, he did the exact opposite.

But precisely the fact that he exposed himself in person, that he was not protected, that he placed himself at the mercy of misfortune and allowed himself to be consumed in the Gospel made him credible and edified the Church.

"I will most gladly spend and be utterly spent for your sakes." These words, taken from the second Letter to the Corinthians (12,15) place in evidence the soul of this man at its most profound. Paul in fact did not think that the priority of pastoral tasks was to avoid difficulties, and maintained that an apostle should not concern himself above all with having public opinion on his side. No, he wished to shake people up, break up conscience from its sleep, even at the cost of his life.

From his letters, we know that he was anything but a gifted speaker. He shared this lack of oratory with Moses and Jeremiah, who had both affirmed before God that they were completely inadequate for the mission to which he called them and had both given the excuse that they were not skilled speakers.

"His bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible" (2Cor 10,10), his adversaries said of Paul.

At the start of his mission to Galatia, he himself narrates: "You know that it was with physical illness that I originally preached the gospel to you" (Gal 4,13). Paul did not function through brilliant rhetoric nor refined strategies, but by committing himself first hand and exposing himself for the sake of the announcement that he brought.

Even today the Church will be able to convince persons only to the degree to which those who announce his name are willing to be hurt. Where this readiness to suffer personally is lacking, then the decisive argument for truth is lacking on which the Church itself depends. His battle will always and can only be the battle of those who accept sacrificing themselves - the battle of martyrs.

To the sword in the hands of St. Paul we can also attribute another meaning, beyond being the instrument of his martyrdom: In Scripture the sword is also a symbol of the Word of God, which is "living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart" (Heb 4,13).

Paul wielded this sword, and with it, he conquered persons. Basically, 'sword' here is simply the image of the inherent power of truth. Truth can do bad, can hurt - this is how it can act as a sword.

And because living a lie or even simply choosing to ignore the truth often appears more convenient with respect to the demand made by truth, men are scandalized by the truth, would wish to liquidate it, push it aside, clear it away from their path.

Who among us can deny that sometimes the truth has brought us trouble: the truth of truth itself, the truth about what we should do and not? Who of us can affirm that we have never tried to put ourselves first before the truth, or at least, to accommodate the truth to make it less sorrowful?

Paul was restless because he was a man of truth. Whoever is dedicated to the truth and does not wish to use any other weapon nor prefer any other task to it, will not necessarily be killed but nevertheless will reach something near martyrdom: he will become a sufferer. To announce the truth, without becoming a fanatic or a calculator: that is a great task.

It may be that polemics sometimes made Paul harsh, to the point of making him seem close to fanaticism, but he was never a fanatic in any way.

Texts full of kindness, as we read in his letters - the most beautiful, perhaps, we find in the letter to the Philippians - are the true distinctive trait of his character. He could keep himself from fanaticism because he did not speak for himself, but was bringing men the gift of another: the truth of Christ, who died for this and who remained a man who loved up to death. And even on this point, we should somewhat correct our image of Paul.

We also have too much in mind Paul's most aggressive texts. But in this case, too, what was said of Moses is also valid: we see Moses as one who easily got angry, as a hard and inflexible figure. But the book of Numbers says of him: "Moses was the gentlest of all men" (12,3; LXX).

Whoever reads Paul in entirety will discover the gentleness of Paul. We already said it before: his success depended on his readiness to suffer in person. Now we should add: suffering and truth always go together.

Paul was fought against because he was a man of truth. But the fact that what remains of his words and his life has only grown depends on the fact that he served the truth and suffered for it. Suffering is necessary to accredit the truth, but only the truth can give suffering a significance.

At the entrance to St. Peter's Basilica are the figures of the apostles Peter and Paul. Even at the main door of the Basilica of St. Paul outside the Walls, they are shown together, with scenes from their life and martyrdom.

From the very beginning, Christian tradition has considered peter and Paul inseparable" together, they represent the whole Gospel. In Rome, the link between them as brothers in the faith has also taken on another significance, which is very specific.

They were seen by the Christians of Rome as the counterpart of the mythical brothers credited with founding Rome: Romulus and Remus. Moreover, one can also establish a strange parallelism between these two men and the brotherly pair of the Biblical story: Cain and Abel. the first became the assassin of the second. The word 'fraternity', considered only in its human aspect, this acquired a bitter flavor. As it is understood among men, it is seen in the fact that it is represented in all religions by similar brotherly pairs.

Peter and Paul, as humanly different from one another as they are, and although their relationship was not without conflicts, appear as the founders of a new city, as a concretization of a new and authentic way of brotherhood, made possible by the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is not the sword of the conqueror that can save the world, only the word of the suffering.

Only following Christ can bring us to this new fraternity, to the new city. That is what they tell us, the pair of brothers who speak to us from the great basilicas of Rome.




* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


And these I had almost forgotten about:

1/24/2008 2:36 PM
TERESA BENEDETTA
Post: 11523


Vatican invites Alexy II to Rome
for Pauline jubilee



ITAR-TASS is the official Russian news agency.


VATICAN CITY, January 23 (Itar-Tass) - Pope Benedict XVI has invited the Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia Alexy II to visit Rome in June for the festivities on the occasion of the Year of the St Apostle Paul, Radio Vatican said quoting Cardinal Andrea Cordero Lanza Montezemolo, the Archpriest of the Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls.

By inviting the supreme hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church to the festivities, the Holy See seeks to facilitate the improvement of relations between the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church, the cardinal said.

The Vatican officials also said Wednesday that the Holy See had issued a similar invitation to Bartholomew I, the Patriarch of Constantinople as well as to the heads of other Christians denominations.

The jubilee year dedicated to the St Apostle Paul and marking the 2,000th anniversary since his birth will begin June 28, 2008, and end June 29, 2009.

The exact year of the apostle's birth is not known but historians believe he was born somewhere between 7 and 10 AD.


1/25/2008 1:01 PM
TERESA BENEDETTA
Post: 11539


NO SURPRISE: MOSCOW'S 'NYET'
DID NOT TAKE LONG IN COMING




MOSCOW, Jan. 24 (DPA) - The Russian Orthodox Church has rejected an invitation from the Vatican for the Patriarch of Moscow and primate of the Russian church to visit Rome, Interfax news agency reported Thursday.

A trip by Alexei II to Rome in June would be premature, said the cleric responsible for the foreign relations of the Patriarchate, Igor Vyshanov.

The "delicate topic" of a meeting between the head of the Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XVI, and Alexei II would require serious discussions between both sides.

The Vatican announced yesterday that Pope Benedict XVI had invited the Russian primate to visit Rome to mark St Paul's year.

The Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church have been separated since a schism in the 11th century. Relations between the Vatican and the Russian Orthodox Church remain strained despite ecumenical efforts by Pope Benedict.



maryjos
00Wednesday, July 9, 2008 10:33 PM
Message from Mary
My photos from the two liturgies which marked the beginning of the Pauline Year are on the Visit With Papa thread. I'll probably put my account there, too.
TERESA BENEDETTA
00Thursday, July 10, 2008 1:33 AM
Mary - you can always post the same material in more than one thread! Since a forum format does not sort out entries in any way - unlike on a blog where entries are sorted for future reference according to the multiple thematic links the blogger assigns to each -we have to go around that by posting an entry more than once if it merits to be seen under different headings...

I certainly hope that anybody else who has any personal experience of a Pauline Year event - or any reflection or comment about such an even, or on St. Paul and his work - could post it here and on any other suitable thread.

Consider, do we even know what is the next great millennial event that the Church will celebrate? I can only think right now of two things - the Jubilee of the Resurrection (can the Church treat it any less than it did the Jubilee of the Nativity?) and then the Jubilee of the Martyrdom of Peter and Paul.

P.S. It just occurred to me: in between those two events will be the first millenium of the Great Schism - in 2054! Will Christian reunification have come about by then? Only the Holy Spirit knows, as the Holy Father likes to remind us....






TERESA BENEDETTA
00Thursday, July 31, 2008 5:19 AM





St. Paul seen as 'convert of converts':
US conference highlights Letter to the Romans




STEUBENVILLE, Ohio, JULY 30, 2008 (Zenit.org).- St. Paul is an example to all of what it means to convert and give one's life over to God in a radical way, according to theologian Scott Hahn.

Hahn, professor of theology and Scripture at Franciscan University of Steubenville, was the host of the Applied Biblical Studies Conference on "Romans: The Gospel According to Paul," held last week at Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio.

In honor of the Year of St. Paul, over 450 people from across the U.S, Canada, Ghana, and Australia listened to Catholic biblical scholars unpack St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans.

“St. Paul was the model of true conversion, which is giving your life over to the Lord in a radical and complete way. In that way, Paul is a true convert and an example for all of us,” said Hahn.

Using the example of his own journey to the Catholic faith from the Presbyterian Church, Hahn said Romans enabled him to better grasp the Catholic faith and pointed out that all Christian denominations can hold Paul’s writings up as truth.

“This book can change people. It can bring Catholics and Protestants together. Pope Benedict XVI emphasized that the Pauline Year is an ecumenical event. That’s why he invited so many other faiths to his declaration of the year of St. Paul,” said Hahn. “Because of the amazing grace that he received, Paul was able to spread the message of Christ to many people.”

Timothy Gray, a professor of sacred Scripture at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver, highlighted the way Paul led early Christians in evangelization.

He pointed out how Paul gave the bad news -- that both Jews and Gentiles have sin and that sin is a universal struggle -- then turned to the richness of God and how Jesus conquers sin. Lastly, Paul turned to the example of Abraham, showing the importance of faith in all circumstances.

Gray explained why Paul took the “good news, bad news” approach.

“We can’t have any evangelization when people do not think that they are sick with sin and need help. This is why Paul uses the bad news to show that all people are sinful, and then the good news, with the faithfulness of God and promise to all his people, is fulfilled in Jesus Christ.”

Father Pablo Gadenz, who recently completed his doctorial dissertation on Romans at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, celebrated Mass and spoke at the conference. He said Romans is essential reading for any follower of Christ, adding that Paul is the most prominent writer of the New Testament.

“Benedict XVI said it’s not just a question of who was Paul, but who is Paul and how he can speak to us today, especially during this year,” said Father Gadenz. “By studying Paul’s letters and the Acts of the Apostles, where we learn about Paul’s life, we can appreciate what Paul says, because he was writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and he continues to talk to us today.”

Jeff Cavins, former host of EWTN’s Life on the Rock, told attendees that it was important that Catholics become more educated in Scripture.

“The typical Catholic simply doesn’t know the biblical story,” he said. “Catholics don’t know God’s words and how he’s revealed himself in salvation history as well as not completely understanding the traditions of the Catholic Church. As a result of not knowing God’s word and the Church, they can’t bridge the gap between faith and everyday life.”

When you can’t connect your purpose in the world with any faith, Cavins said, you can begin to lose hope. “But, Scripture is filled with hope and truth. Studying the Bible is about regaining our story and realizing who we are.”

Cavins mentioned four “pillars of faith” -- the Apostle’s Creed, the sacraments and liturgy, life in Christ, and prayer -- that can help people to renew hope in Christ and regain “the ultimate intimacy with God.”

By using these pillars, he said, we can show others where we receive our strength and hope, giving others hope as well.

Scott Hahn closed the conference, reminding attendees of the promises of God: “There is one thing we find in Paul’s writings and that is, the knowledge of our God and Father and of his son, our lord Jesus Christ.

"Once again, Jesus in the Holy Eucharist is going to lead us back to the Father, to discover who God is and what that makes us -- sons and daughters of God.”




The World English Bible translation of the Letter to the Romans is on a single screen:
www.ebible.org/web/Romans.htm

The USCCB New American Bible translation begins with a useful Introduction on
www.usccb.org/nab/bible/romans/intro.htm
and is easy to navigate from one chapter to the next from there.




8/1/2008 3:37 PM
TERESA BENEDETTA
Post: 14,515


Benedict XVI invited to Damascus
during the Pauline Year

By Luca Collodi
Translated from the
Italian service of



DAMASCUS, August 1 - This year, Damascus is the cultural capital of the Arab world. It is, of course, the capital of Syria, a nation of 20 million, of whom 90 percent are Muslim and 10% Christian.

As the site of Paul's conversion to Christianity, it is also a center of celebration for the Pauline Year, inaugurated by Pope Benedict XVI on June 28 to mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of St. Paul.

According to the Apostolic Nuncio in Syria, Archbishop Giovanni Battista Morandini, this is a fundamental idea in strengthening ecumenism in a land which has been the treadle of cultures and religions.

He says that not only Catholics, who make up just about one percent of the Syrian population and non-Catholic Christians but even the Muslim community are aware of the significance of the Pauline Year.
Syria also counts with Orthodox, Melkites and Armenian Christian communities.

These days, Damascus - with its old city, bazaars and typical music - is a city open to dialog which also demonstrates the possibility of coexistence among men and women of diverse religions.

Such coexistence, despite the winds of crisis that have continually shaken the Middle East, comes from a profound common history of centuries.

This tradition was recalled by the Grand Mufti of Syria, Ahmad Hassun, meeting with a group of Italian journalists who are making a Pauline Year pilgrimage to Damascus, as he renewed the invitation first made by the Syrian President last year, for Benedict XVI to visit Syria.

The invitation for a Pauline Year visit has been extended to the Pope by other nations of the Middle East associated with St. Paul through his travels.

Hassun expressed his wish to meet with Benedict XVI in the Vatican to extend his invitation personally.



Grand Mufti of Syria invites
Benedict XVI to Damascus
during the Pauline Year




DAMASCUS, August 1 (Translated from ANSA) - The Grand Mufti of Syria,
Ahmed Badr Al Din Hassun, wishes to meet Benedict XVI as soon as possible to invite him to Damascus during the Pauline Year.

"His trip could contribute to bring peace to the Middle East," he said. Last year, Syrian President Assad invited the Pope to visit Syria.

Hassun expressed the fear that new Islamic fundamentalism threatens to destabilize Syria.



Syrian Mufti hopes Pope
visits Damascus for Pauline Year

By Mirko Testa



DAMASCUS, Syria, JULY 31, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The Grand Mufti of Syria is hoping for a visit from Benedict XVI during the Pauline Jubilee Year.

Ahmad Badr El Din El Hassun invited the Pope to visit his country in the context of a meeting in Damascus with a group of journalists, on a trip following in the footsteps of the Apostle to the Gentiles.

"What I would like to say to the Holy Father is that at present, Damascus is the capital of Arab culture and, at the same time, the capital of the Year of St. Paul," Hassoun said. "I will be exceedingly happy if the Holy Father decides to accept our invitation to visit Syria in this year."

The Grand Mufti expressed his hopes to meet privately with the Pope to organize the trip. He said he would also like to reiterate to the Pontiff what he said publicly in Strasbourg last January.

On that occasion, Hassoun spoke of the need for fruitful intercultural dialogue to promote peaceful coexistence between peoples, rooted in the common principles of the various religions, saying that the "culture of the spirit, whether Christian or Muslim, confers on humanity its moral dimension."

The Grand Mufti also expressed the hope that "the Vatican might play a role in planting the flower of peace in the Middle East."

"Deep down, among religious intellectuals, there is no quarrel but dialogue and discussion," the Muslim leader contended. "And I hope that the Holy Father will play a fundamental part in the peace of the world."

The Great Mufti recalled Pope John Paul II's urgent appeal not to erect walls but build bridges of dialogue, in reference to the wall of separation built between Israel and Palestinian territories.

"The Vatican had a fundamental role in the fall of the Berlin Wall," he said, "and I hope it will be able to play a similar role to demolish the wall being built in the land of peace."






8/2/2008 3:26 PM
TERESA BENEDETTA
Post: 14,528


I missed this yesterday when posting reports on the Grand Mufti's invitation to the Pope - this AP story includes a reaction from the Vatican.


Syria's Grand Mufti
invites Pope to Syria




VATICAN CITY, August 1 (AP) - Syria's Grand Mufti, the country's top Sunni Muslim religious authority, says he would like to meet Pope Benedict XVI and persuade him to visit Syria.

The mufti, Sheik Ahmad Badereddine Hassoun, made the comments in Damascus, according to the Italian news agency Apcom and other reports Friday.

"I would like to invite the Holy Father to visit our country, following in the footsteps of St. Paul," Hassoun was quoted by Apcom as saying. "I am available for a meeting at the Vatican. I would like to see him one on one to plan the visit together."

Benedict's predecessor, Pope John Paul II, made a groundbreaking visit to the Ummayad Mosque in Damascus in May 2001.

Benedict has been vacationing in the Italian Alps.

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said the invitation attests to the current "serene climate" in Syria and "good relations" with the country.

Benedict has been trying to improve ties with Islam since giving a speech in Germany in 2006 that angered many in the Muslim world.

In the Regensburg University speech, Benedict cited a medieval text that characterized some of the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad as "evil and inhuman," particularly "his command to spread by the sword the faith."

The Pope later said he was "deeply sorry" about the reactions his remarks sparked and stressed that they did not reflect his own opinion.

Hassoun, a moderate cleric, said the case was closed.

"There is a dialogue, and between religions and intellectuals there are always discussions," he said, according to Apcom. "One can fight with one's wife, but then the love grows."

Hassoun is among a group of 138 Muslim scholars that has called for greater dialogue between Christians and Muslims.

Benedict XVI met with Syria's vice president in September to discuss the situation of Christians in Syria and the role Damascus should play in bringing peace to the Middle East.

The Pope has urged Syria to use its influence in the region to help resolve conflicts and counter terrorism.







Orazio La Rocca - who with Marco Politi, covers the Vatican and religion for

was one of the Italian journalists who met with the Grand Mufti in Damascus. He has interesting details to add to the other reports.

"I immediately wrote to the Holy Father to ask for a clarification after the words he was reported to have said in Regensburg," the Grand Mufti said, "and he answered me, explaining the sense of his entire intervention. It was really an academic lecture but it was presented in the media as an attack against Islam."

In any case, the Mufti said, even after the polemics that erupted over the Regensburg lecture, "the dialog between us was not broken and everything was resolved well. The quarrel (over Regensburg) was like a dispute between spouses. After the quarrel is over, then they should love each other more."

However, taking the Regensburg episode almost as a model - to which he adds the great dispute that had provoked a crisis between the West and Islam before Regensburg (over the Danish cartoons on Mohammed) - the Grand Mufti did not spare words against "the press and the journalists (who) wrote falsehoods to foment inter-religious hatred with the clear intent to denigrate Islam and religion."

His invitation to the Pope appeared sincere and convincing.

If Benedict XVI accepts, his visit to Syria would be the high point of the Pauline Year, which will see an official pilgrimage to Damascus by the Italian bishops in October, under the leadership of Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, Archbishop of Genoa.

That visit will be returned by a pilgrimage to the tomb of St. Paul in Rome by a Syrian delegation to be led by the Grand Mufti, with Syrian government officials of ministerial rank. They will also participate in related events like the international festival of religious tourism sponsored by the Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi, the Vatican travel agency that organizes pilgrimages.


TERESA BENEDETTA
00Sunday, August 31, 2008 6:56 PM




AUDIENCE OF 8/27/08
Aula Paolo VI
#2 in BENEDICT XVI'S
CATECHETICAL CYCLE ON ST. PAUL



In his first General Audience at the Vatican after his summer vacation, the Holy Father resumed the catechetical cycle on St. Paul which he started the week before he left for Australia.




Dear brothers and sisters,

In the last catechesis before the summer holiday - two months ago, at the beginning of July - I started a new series on the occasion of the Pauline Year, by considering the world in which the apostle lived.

Today I wish to resume and continue reflecting on the Apostle of the Gentiles, offering a brief biography. Since we will dedicate next Wednesday's lesson to the extraordinary event on the road to Damascus, Paul's conversion, the fundamental turning point of his existence following his encounter with Christ, we will briefly linger today on the totality of his life.

We find the extremes of Paul's biography in the Letter to Philemon, in which he calls himself "old" (Fm 9: presbýtes), and in the Acts of the Apostles, which, at the time of Stephen's death by stoning, describes him as 'young' (7,58: neanías).

The two descriptions are obviously generic, but according to ancient usage, 'young' meant a man in his 30s, while 'old' was used for those who had reached their 60s.

In absolute terms, the date of Paul's birth depends largely on the dating of the letter to Philemon. Traditionally, it was believed to have been written during Paul's Roman imprisonment, in the middle of the 60s. Paul would have been born in the year 8, to have been more or less 60 then, and at the time of Stephen's stoning, he would have been 30.

And that should be the right chronology. Our current celebration of the Pauline Year follows this chronology - 2008 was chosen in view of a birth date more or less in the year 8.

In any case, he was born in Tarsus of Cilicia (cfr Acts 22,3). The city was the administrative capital of the region, and in the year 51 A.D., its proconsul was no less then Marcus Tullius Cicero, while ten years later, in the year 41, Tarsus was the place of the first meeting between Marc Antony and Cleopatra.

A Jew of the Diaspora, Paul spoke Greek even if his name had a Latin origin, though derived by assonance from his original Jewish name Saul/Saulos, and he held Roman citizenship (cfr Acts 22,25-28).

Paul was thus situated on the frontier of three different cultures - Roman, Greek and Jewish - and perhaps it was because of this that he was disposed to a fecund universalistic openness, to mediation among cultures, to a true universality.

He also learned manual skills, probably from his father, appropriate for the occupation of 'tent-maker' (cfr Acts 18,3: skenopoiòs), which probably meant he worked with coarse goat's wool or linen fibers to be made into mats and tents (cfr At 20,33-35).

Around the age of 12 or 13, when a Jewish boy becomes bar mitzvà ('son of the precept'), Paul left Tarsus for Jerusalem to be educated at the feet of Rabbì Gamaliel the Elder, nephew of the great Rabbì Hillèl, according to the most rigid norms of Phariseeism,
acquiring in the process a great zeal for the Mosaic Torah (cfr Gal 1,14; Fil 3,5-6; At 22,3; 23,6; 26,5).

On the basis of this profound orthodoxy which he learned in the school of Hillel in Jerusalem, he saw in the new movement around Jesus of Nazareth a risk, a threat to the Jewish identity and to the true orthodoxy of the patriarchs.

This explains the fact that he fiercely 'persecuted the Church of God', as he admitted three times in his Letters (1 Cor 15,9; Gal 1,13; Phm 3,6). Even if it is not easy to imagine what concretely this persecution consisted of, his attitude was in any case one of intolerance.

It is in this context that the event of Damascus takes place, which we will return to in the next catechesis. What is sure is that, from that moment on, his life changed, and he became a tireless apostle of the Gospel. In fact, Paul passed into history for what he did as a Christian, as an apostle, than for being a Pharisee.

Traditionally, his apostolic activity has been subdivided into three missionary journeys, to which is added the fourth one when he went to Rome as a prisoner. All this is narrated by Luke in the Acts. But in the case of the three missionary journeys, one must distinguish the first from the other two.

In fact, Paul did not have direct responsibility for the first one (cfr Acts 13-14), which was entrusted to the Cypriot Barnabas. Together, they left from Antioch on the Oronte, sent forth by that Church (cfr Acts 13,1-3), and after having landed at the port of Seleucia on the Syrian coast, they traversed the island of Cyprus, from Salamis to Paphos, from which they crossed over to the southern coasts of Anatolia, now Turkey, passing through the cities of Attalia, Perge of Pamphilia, Antioch of Pisidium, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe, from which they then returned to their point of departure.

Thus was born the Church of the peoples, the Church of the pagans. In the meantime, especially in Jerusalem, a serious discussion had been born - up to what point were these Christians, who had come from paganism, obliged to participate in the life and laws of Israel (all the various observances and prescriptions that separated Israel from the rest of the world) in order to truly participate in the promises of the prophets and to effectively share Israel's legacy?

To resolve this problem which was fundamental for the birth of the future Church, the so-called Council of the Apostles assembled in Jerusalem to decide this problem - upon it depended the effective birth of a universal Church.

It was decided not to impose observance of the Mosaic laws on converted pagans (cfr Acts 15,6-30) - this means they were not obliged to follow Jewish norms. The only necessity was to be with Christ, to live with Christ, and according to his words. Being of Christ, they were also of Abraham, of God, and participants in all the promises.

After this decisive event, Paul separated from Barnabas, chose Silas (for a companion) and began his second missionary journey (cfr Acts 5,36-18,22). Going beyond Syria and Cilicia, he revisited the city of Lystra, where he recruited Timothy (a very important figure in the nascent Church, son of a Jewish woman and a pagan) and had him circumcised. They traversed central Anatolia and reached the city of Troade on the northern coast of the Aegean Sea.

Here an important event took place. In a dream, Paul saw a Macedonian from the opposite side of the sea, that is, on the continental mainland, who said, "Come and help us". It was the future Europe asking for the aid and light of the Gospel.

Spurred by this vision, he arrived in Europe. Heading for Macedonia, he entered Europe. He landed at Neapolis, went to Philippi where he founded an admirable Christian community, proceeding then to Thessalonia, which he had to leave because of difficulties caused by the local Jews, going on to Berea, and finally reaching Athens.

In this capital of ancient Greek culture, he preached first at the Agora and then at the Areopagus, to both Greeks and pagans. The discourse at the Areopagus, cited in the Acts of the Apostles, is a model of translating the Gospel to Greek culture, of making the Greeks understand that this God of the Christians and of the Jews was not a God who was alien to their culture, but the unknown God awaited by them, the true answer to the most profound questions of their culture.

From Athens, he went to Corinth, where he stayed for a year and a half. Here we have a very definite timeline of events - the surest dates in his biography, because during this first visit to
Corinth, he had to appear before the governor of the senatorial province of Achaia, the Proconsul Gallion, on a charge of illegal worship.

About this Gallion and his time in Corinth, there exists an ancient inscription found in Delphi, which says he was the Proconsul to Corinth from 51-53. So here we have an absolutely sure date. Paul's Corinthian sojourn took place in those years.

We can suppose that he must have arrived there more or less in the year 50 and remained until 52. From Corinth, passing through Cencre, the eastern port of the city, he headed back to Palestine, arriving in Caesarea Marittima, from which he proceeded to Jerusalem, and from there, returned to Antioch on the Oronte.

The third missionary journey (cfr At 18,23-21,16) began once again in Antioch, which had become the point of origin of the pagan Churches, of the mission to the pagans, and the place where the term 'Christian' was born. Here, for the first time, St. Luke tells us, the followers of Jesus were called Christians.

From there, Paul headed directly for Ephesus, capital of the province of Asia Minor, where he stayed for two years, carrying out a ministry which had a fecund fallout on the region.

From Ephesus, Paul wrote the letters to the Thessalonians and the Corinthians. But the population of the city was incited against him by the local silversmiths, who saw their income diminished with the weakening of the cult to Artemis (the temple dedicated to her in Ephesus, the Artemision, was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world), and so, he was forced to flee to the north.

Once again, he passed through Macedonia, went down to Greece, probably to Corinth yet again, and stayed for three months, during which he wrote the famous Letter to the Romans.

He then retraced his steps - passing back through Macedonia, then sailing for Troade, and then, with brief stops on the islands of Mytilene, Chio, and Samos, he reached Miletus where he delivered an important address to the Ancients of the Church of Ephesus, giving them an image of the true pastor of the Church (cfr Acts 20).

He next set sail for Tyre, going on to Caesarea Marittima, and then north once more to Jerusalem. Here he was arrested on the basis of a misunderstanding. Some Jews had mistaken for pagans other Jews of Greek origin who had been brought by Paul to the temple area reserved only for Jews.

He was spared from the prescribed death penalty at the intervention of the Roman tribune guarding the temple (cfr Acts 21,27-36) - all this happened when Felix Anthony was the imperial Procurator in Judea.

After a period in jail (whose duration is disputed) and - being a Roman citizen - having appealed his sentence to Caesar, the next Procurator Porcius Festus sent him to Rome under military guard.

The voyage to Rome passed through the Mediterranean islands of Crete and Malta, and then the towns of Syracuse, Reggio Calabria and Pozzuoli in Italy. The Christians of Rome came out to meet him on the Via Appia as far as the Appian Forum (about 70 kms from Rome) and some as far as the Three Taverns (40 kilometrs from Rome).

In Rome, he met with the representatives of the Jewish community, to whom he confided that it was for 'the hope of Israel' that he carried his chains (cfr Acts 28,20). But Luke's account of Paul ends with his mention of the two years he spent in Rome under light military custody, without indicating either a decision by Caesar (Nero at the time) nor his eventual death.

Subsequent traditions describe a subsequent liberation, which is said to have allowed a missionary voyage to Spain or another episode in the Orient, specifically in Crete, Ephesus and Nicopoli in Epirus. Equally hypothesized is a new arrest and second imprisonment in Rone (during which he supposedly wrote the three so-called Pastoral Letters - tthe two letters to Timothy and that to Titus), followed by a second trial which was not in his favor.

However, there are many reasons which have led many scholars to end the biography of St. Paul with Luke's accounts in the Acts.

About his martyrom, we shall return much later in this catechetical cycle. For now, in this brief listing of Paul's voyages, it is enough to take note of how he dedicated himself to announcing the Gospel without sparing any effort, facing a series of grave trials, of which he has left us a list in the second Letter to the Corinthians (cfr 11,2-28).

And he writes, "All this I do for the sake of the Gospel" (1 Cor 9,23), exercising with absolute generosity what he calls his "anxiety for all the churches" (2 Cor 11,28).

We see a commitment which can be explained only by a spirit that was truly fascinated by the light of the Gospel, enamored with Christ, a spirit sustained by the profound conviction of the need to bring to the world the light of Christ, and to announce the Gospel to everyone.

I think this is what should remain with us after this brief summary of the journeys of St. Paul - to see his passion for the Gospel, and thus sense the grandeur, the beauty and above all, the profound need we all have of the Gospel.

Let us pray so that the Lord, who made Paul see his light, who made him hear his words, and touched his heart so intimately, may also make us see his light, so that his Word may also touch our hearts, that we too may give to the world today - which has such thirst for it - the light of the Gospel and the truth of Christ.


In English, he said:

Today’s catechesis presents the life of Saint Paul, the great missionary whom the Church honours in a special way this year.

Born a Jew in Tarsus, he received the Hebrew name "Saul" and was trained as a "tent maker" (cf. Acts 18:3). Around the age of twelve he departed for Jerusalem to begin instruction in the strict Pharisaic tradition which instilled in him a great zeal for the Mosaic Law.

On the basis of this training Paul viewed the Christian movement as a threat to orthodox Judaism. He thus fiercely "persecuted the Church of God" (1 Cor 19:6; Gal 1:13; Phil 3:6) until a dramatic encounter on the road to Damascus radically changed his life.

He subsequently undertook three missionary journeys, preaching Christ in Anatolia, Syria, Cilicia, Macedonia, Achaia, and throughout the Mediterranean. After his arrest and imprisonment in Jerusalem, Paul exercised his right as a Roman citizen to appeal his case to the Emperor.

Though Luke makes no reference to Nero’s decision, he tells us that Paul spent two years under house arrest in Rome (cf. Acts 28:30), after which — according to tradition — he suffered a martyr’s death.

Paul spared no energy and endured many trials in his "anxiety for all the churches" (2 Cor 11:28). Indeed, he wrote: "I do everything for the sake of the Gospel" (1 Cor 9:23). May we strive to emulate him by doing the same.





TERESA BENEDETTA
00Sunday, August 31, 2008 7:10 PM




Challenges to preaching Paul
by Michael F. Hull

July 2008


St. Paul is a role model for the preacher
because he exemplified
faith, passion and utility in his letters
.


Preaching Paul is no mean feat. The Pauline literature in the Lectionary includes the thirteen disparate letters bearing Paul’s name, as well as Hebrews.(1)

To be sure, Paul’s letters are, at one and the same time, some of the most pastorally sensitive and theologically profound writings in the New Testament. There is no doubt that they present a richness of theological insight, which ought to be expounded from the pulpit for the benefit of the people of God.(2)

In order to speak about challenges to preaching Paul, my departure point is a definition of preaching by Brad R. Braxton, an African-American Baptist minister, who teaches homiletics at Vanderbilt Divinity School.

In his book Preaching Paul, Braxton says: “Preaching is the faithful, passionate reporting of God’s useful news.”(3)

Braxton’s definition is very helpful because it focuses on three challenges in preaching: the challenge to be faithful, the challenge to be passionate and the challenge to be useful.

On one level, these challenges transcend Paul’s preaching and our own preaching of Paul, inasmuch as these three challenges are immediately present in all preaching, either from the Old or New Testament. Yet on another level, they are particularly poignant because they are conspicuous in Paul’s letters.(4)

Even a cursory perusal of Paul’s letters reveals his faithfulness to his calling on the Damascus road and his desire to finish the “race” that he first describes in 1 Cor. 9:24. The imagery is picked up again in 2 Timothy: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (4:7; cf. Heb. 12:1).

So too, we cannot forget his passion in Romans, when, lamenting the lack of conversions to Christ among his fellow Jews, he says, “For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen by race” (9:3). Paul’s passion leaps off the page!

And, as far as usefulness goes, no one speaks more to practicalities than Paul. Paul talks about anything and everything, whether it be women in church in 1 Corinthians 11 or fighting with Peter and company in Galatians 2. Once again, as Braxton has it, “Preaching is the faithful, passionate reporting of God’s useful news.”


The challenge to be faithful

It is a challenge to be faithful in preaching. A homily has to be faithful, that is, faith-full. God’s people need to hear about the faith from the pulpit. They do not need to hear about anything else.

What is somewhat confusing is the distinction between having the faith and knowing the faith. Since the lion’s share of preaching is the competence of the ordained, it is helpful to recall the rite of ordination to the diaconate.

There, the candidate is handed the Book of the Gospels and the ordaining bishop says: “Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you have become. Believe what you read, teach what you believe and practice what you teach.”

In terms of preaching, it is, obviously, vitally important for the preacher to be faithful, but it is also vitally important for the preacher to have knowledge of the faith.

Many may still recall the days of the “canonicals,” when priests had to pass examinations before they could hear confessions or preach; or the days of “simplex” priests, mostly in religious orders, like the famous Capuchin Friar Solanus Casey, who were ordained priests who could not preach.

Even though faculties are concomitant with ordination in the new Code of Canon Law, the Church still reminds us in law, particularly in the strict requirements of seminary studies, that knowing the faith is vital.

Preachers ought to think of themselves as, to quote Paul about himself and his fellow apostles, “servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God,” as “trustworthy stewards” (1 Cor. 4:1–2; cf. 1 Pet. 4:10).

A preacher who wants to be a faithful steward, who wants to be trustworthy with regard to preaching, and particularly with regard to preaching Paul, needs to do quite a lot of reading and studying and reflecting.

Paul’s letters are by far some of the richest fare in all of divine revelation, but they are an acquired taste. They are at the fulcrum of some of the hottest debates in contemporary theology — about grace, faith, justification, resurrection and parousia — just to name a few.

No theologian is able to speak about the realities of Christianity without speaking about Paul. One aspect, then, of the challenge of faithfulness is the preacher’s obligation to improve himself in terms of knowing the faith.

A related aspect of the challenge to be faithful is the obligation to serve God’s people. Paul himself reminds us how important preaching is when he says, “So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ” (Rom. 10:17).

When preachers fail to read and study and reflect as they ought, they have little to offer God’s people. Allow me a limping analogy: If a priest were to find one day that he had forgotten to consecrate hosts at Mass and that the tabernacle was empty, I doubt he would start to give out popcorn or potato chips or raisins at Mass and call them the body of Christ. If he tried it, it would not fly because they are not the real thing, and the priest would be fooling no one.

Likewise, when a preacher mounts the pulpit unprepared—both in remote preparation from a lifetime of reading, studying and reflecting, as well as in immediate preparation for a particular sermon — he does not have the real thing, and he fools no one.

When a preacher begins to tell stories that are only tangentially related to the Good News, to make bland comments about current events, or to recount “what came to my mind as I was doing…,” well, it is nothing more than verbal junk food.

“What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:11–13).

Yes, the preacher must have the faith, but he must also be learned in it. Our people rightly expect to hear about God from the pulpit, not about anyone or anything else.

Paul preached about Christ, not himself: “For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Cor. 4:5–7).

The faith is that treasure, the proclamation and preaching of the Good News is that treasure. The transcendent power of the pulpit “belongs to God and not to us.” Yet that transcendent power is with us when we preach.

As Paul asks, “But how are men to call upon him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher? And how can men preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach good news!’” (Rom. 10:14–15; cf. Eph. 6:15 and Isa. 52:7).

To be faithful, then, is to recall that the same necessity laid upon Paul by his encounter with Christ is laid upon every preacher: “For if I preach the Gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!” (1 Cor. 9:16).


The challenge to be passionate

If it is a challenge to be faithful in preaching, it is no less a challenge to be passionate in preaching. A homily has to be passionate. If preachers do not care about what they say, it is hard to ask anyone else to care about what they say, if they are saying anything at all.

A homily’s content notwithstanding, it ought to be evident that there is some fire in the belly of a preacher if his message is to be effective. It is not uncommon for Protestant preachers to shout out in the middle of a sermon, “Can I get a witness?” What they mean, of course, is for someone’s experience to confirm what they are saying.

Likewise, it is important that the preacher be someone whose life centers on the Gospel, someone who can witness to what he preaches. The Word is alive in the minds and hearts of the people of God, and to a certain extent the people of God can tell when it is or is not alive in the minds and hearts of those who preach among them.

Consider this quote:

Just as the Reformation four centuries ago, the progressive dechristianization of society today is attributed to a failure of preaching. The factor that more than any other made the Reformation possible was the theological confusion that marked the preaching and teaching of the faith in the early sixteenth century.

Today preaching is admittedly orthodox, but it is often vapid and lacking in vitality. It no longer seeks to make converts or to lead to sanctity those who already have the faith.

Surprisingly, these words are over forty years old. The quote is from the Dominican Friar Jerome Murphy-O’Connor’s Paul on Preaching.(5)

The quote is also found twenty years later on the first page of the Jesuit Father Walter J. Burghardt’s Preaching: The Art and the Craft, published in 1987.(6) And it remains descriptive of our own day.

Notwithstanding questions of orthodoxy, preaching is often “vapid and lacking in vitality.” It is often not passionate. Perhaps the best way to revive homiletic passion is to recall that the bulk of our preaching is localized in the liturgy.

Preaching is, for the most part, a liturgical act. That makes it different from an academic discourse. We are wont, quite rightly, to say that the Mass is the re-presentation of Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary, that each time we celebrate or participate at Mass we are encountering the Lord’s passion and resurrection.

Braxton rightly notes, “In certain academic interpretations of Scripture precision is the goal. In devotional interpretation, presence is the goal.”(7)

Now his Baptist vocabulary may not be the same as ours, but his emphasis on the Word as present in the liturgy is noteworthy. The Word is proclaimed.

The homily is the place for a “devotional interpretation” of what God wishes to communicate to his people through the Word, which comes to them through a homilist’s words, through the words of those who are supposed to preach what our people have already believed (see 1 Corinthians 15).

Paul’s own passion for the Word is revealed not only in the fact that he traveled extensively and suffered greatly for the sake of preaching the Good News, but also in his strong desire to ensure that his people would “get it” and “get it right.”

On the one hand, he tells us of his physical sufferings (2 Corinthians 6 and 11) to the point of revealing that he bears “the marks of Jesus” (Gal. 6:17).

On the other hand, he is vehement to make sure that the truth of the Gospel is preached purely, to the point that he says anyone preaching anything else is “accursed” (Gal. 1:8–9). Now there is a fellow who is passionate about what he is saying!

How passionate? When Paul suspects hypocrisy on Peter’s part, he is hardly loathe to write of it: “When Cephas came to Antioch I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned” (Gal. 2:11).

In fact, Paul could become so passionate in his letters as “to lose it,” as we say today. In 1 Corinthians, Paul is so upset with the discord among the baptized at Corinth that he rails: “I am thankful that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius; lest any one should say that you were baptized in my name. (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any one else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the Gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power” (1:14–17).

Now that is that sort of passion we see peppered throughout the Pauline letters and Luke’s recounting of Paul’s missionary activity in Acts.

Preachers are challenged, therefore, to recover some zeal. To be sure, every preacher needs to pray to the Holy Spirit to reignite the flame within him, but it would not hurt for him to do some fanning of the flame on his own. Vapidity and the lack of vitality do not come solely from a dearth of time in the library; sometimes they come from a dearth of time in the chapel.

Paul himself is big on passion as he describes the faith in Romans: “Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us” (5:1–5).


The challenge to be useful

It is a challenge to be useful in preaching. When I first read the definition offered by Braxton — “Preaching is the faithful, passionate reporting of God’s useful news” — I thought he had made a poor choice with the word “useful”; I thought “relevant” would better fit the bill. But as I reflected on it, I realized he was right on the money.

“Relevant” is a buzzword, a jargon word. To a great extent, the word “relevant” has been so “relevantized” as to be irrelevant. Sermons do not have to be relevant; sermons have to be useful to God’s people.

Again, when the preacher stands in the pulpit, he is not there to deliver anything other than the Good News—and the Good News is always useful. It is useful because it answers the fundamental questions of our hearts and souls. It is useful because it is God’s own self-revelation. It is useful because with the Good News Jesus leads us (back) to God.

As Paul says, “We also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received our reconciliation” (Rom. 5:11). What could be more useful than that?

In Murphy-O’Connor’s aforementioned quote, orthodoxy on the part of the preacher was presumed; also presumed was “the progressive dechristianization of society.”

Unquestionably, things have gotten worse since Murphy-O’Connor penned those words. We now have in our churches a generation, if not two generations, that is basically illiterate in the truths of the faith.

Without questioning natural virtue or the power of grace, a vast majority of Mass-going Catholics do not know the basics of our faith. Preaching today is very rarely “preaching to the choir.” Since great numbers of our people are bereft of knowledge of the faith, they need to hear again and again that Good News to which they ought to align their lives and minds and hearts.

Being a useful preacher, certainly, is telling the people what they need to hear, not what a preacher may want to say, no matter how good it may sound.

What I mean is this: In order to be a useful preacher, the preacher must do what Paul did, namely, preach Christ, who, as Paul says in the Philippians hymn, is the one “God has highly exalted,” the one on whom God bestowed “the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:9–11). That is the one useful thing to give them that they cannot get anywhere else.(8)

Consider what Paul says to the Corinthians: “When I came to you, brethren, I did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in much fear and trembling; and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Cor. 2:1–5).

While it is true that one must do some “packaging” in preparing a homily, that one must tune homilies to God’s people in terms of style, that one must give a good “presentation,” it is also true that the preacher cannot forget that the substance of his preaching is not his own, nor can he improve upon it. In that sense, our product, the Good News, ought to sell itself.

Whether or not Paul was being uncharacteristically humble when he wrote that some thought his letters “weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account” (2 Cor. 10:10), he was in fact affirming that for the preacher the medium is not the message.

It is necessary to guard that neither the accidents of the homily nor the person of the homilist become confused with the message, that is, the Messiah. Recall, if you will, Marshall McLuhan’s famous book, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. It came out in 1964, just one year after Murphy-O’Connor’s Preaching Paul.

McLuhan writes: “In a culture like ours, long accustomed to splitting and dividing all things as a means of control, it is sometimes a bit of a shock to be reminded that, in operational and practical fact, the medium is the message.”(9)

I do not think Paul would mind my quoting John’s Gospel on this one. Have you ever heard anything more antithetical to: “He must increase, but I must decrease”(3:30)?

McLuhan’s quote illuminates Murphy-O’Connor’s prescience about the dechristianization of society, but it also highlights the dangers of this dechristianization, dangers that threaten preachers, who often confuse the Good News itself — the message — with the messengers —themselves.

What does Paul say about what he preached? To the Corinthians, he says: “Now I would remind you, brethren, in what terms I preached to you the Gospel, which you received, in which you stand, by which you are saved, if you hold it fast — unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:1–4).

That is the primary kergyma that needs to preached, as we proclaim it at Mass: “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.”

Again, while one certainly has to prepare a homily in such a way as to make its words accessible, the preacher needs to keep in the forefront of his mind that the medium of the homily is not to be identified with the message that is Christ.

Paul expressed this well when he remarked, “Even if I am unskilled in speaking, I am not in knowledge; in every way we have made this plain to you in all things” (2 Cor. 11:6). And a large part of that was theological instruction and moral exhortation.

We need only remember Paul’s profound theological instruction vis-à-vis justification by faith in Romans and Galatians, the resurrection of Christ and of Christians in 1 Thessalonians and 1 Corinthians, or the Christological hymns in Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians; or Paul’s strong moral exhortation vis-à-vis marriage in 1 Corinthians, laziness in 2 Thessalonians, or even paying taxes in Romans.

If a homily has to be a reporting of useful news, that is, the Good News, with some application to present-day situations, that means that it has to speak not only of concepts but of behavior, for preaching “useful Good News” means at once theological instruction and moral exhortation.

Here, Braxton is on the mark: “The pragmatic focus in Paul’s preaching provided gravitational pull to his theological conceptions, preventing those conceptions from hovering above the daily struggles of his converts. Surely Paul realized that preaching that neglected to provide useful guidance for daily living was woefully inadequate.”(10)

The preacher, then, is challenged to be faithful, passionate and useful. Paul is a role model for the preacher because he exemplified faith, passion and utility in his letters.

Furthermore, Paul’s words are some of the richest sources of homiletic fodder in the New Testament. To be sure, the challenges to be faithful, passionate and useful in preaching are not limited to preaching Paul, but they are exemplified in him insofar as he himself is a guide to meeting them.(11)

Therefore, let us conclude with Paul’s words: “Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my Gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which was kept secret for long ages but is now disclosed and through the prophetic writings is made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith—to the only wise God be glory for evermore through Jesus Christ! Amen” (Rom. 16:25–27).



End notes

1. Since the Vatican’s Latin Vulgate continues to list Hebrews under the heading of Paul’s letters, Hebrews is included in the Lectionary under the same title. Here, I use the terms “Pauline literature” and “Paul’s letters” interchangeably. Most scholars think that Paul was only directly responsible for seven letters—Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, and Philemon—and most scholars believe the pastorals (1 and 2 Timothy and Titus) came from other hands than Paul’s, although ones well-schooled in his thought. As for Ephesians, Colossians, and 2 Thessalonians, the jury is still out. As to Hebrews, scholarly consensus maintains that it is not written by Paul, not a letter, and not written to Hebrews. What I say here applies to Paul’s letters and to the others mutatis mutandis.
2. Note that I use the words “sermon” and “homily” more or less synonymously, though I recognize subtle distinctions; for the distinctions, see “From Sermon to Homily” (chap. 1) in Robert P. Waznak, An Introduction to the Homily (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1998), 1–30. Likewise, I apply the term “preacher” inclusively to both the ordained and non-ordained who spread God’s Word; those times when what I say refers exclusively to one state or the other should be evident to the reader.
3. Brad R. Braxton, Preaching Paul ( Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2004), 27.
4. For helpful ways to discern ways to preach like Paul, see James W. Thompson, Preaching Like Paul: Homiletic Wisdom for Today ( Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001).
5. Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, Paul on Preaching (New York: Sheed & Ward, 1963), xiii.
6. Walter J. Burghardt, Preaching: The Art and the Craft (New York: Paulist Press, 1987), 1.
7. Braxton, 71 (emphasis original).
8. To develop useful sermons according to the pattern of Pauline readings given in the Sunday Lectionary, see Frank J. Matera, Strategies for Preaching Paul (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2001).
9. Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (1964; rpt. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1964), 7.
10. Braxton, 39.
11. As Daniel Patte writes, “In order to learn how to preach Paul’s Gospel, there is no better teacher than Paul himself” (Preaching Paul, Fortress Resources for Preaching Paul [Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984], 17).



Reverend Michael F. Hull, S.T.D. is a priest of the Archdiocese of New York and a professor of Sacred Scripture at St. Joseph’s Seminary (Dunwoodie) in Yonkers, New York.


TERESA BENEDETTA
00Friday, October 3, 2008 12:35 AM



Here is a translation of the Holy Father's catechesis at the General Audience today, continuing his catechetical cycle on St. Paul.



AUDIENCE OF 9/3/08
Aula Paolo VI
CATECHESIS #3



Peter Paul Rubens, 'Conversion of St. Paul', 1601-1602.


The catechesis today will be dedicated to the experience that St. Paul had on the road to Damascus, that which is commonly called his conversion.

It was on the road to Damascus, in the early years of the third decade of the first century, and after a time during which he had persecuted the Church, that the decisive moment came in Paul's life.

Much has been written about this and of course, from different points of view. What is sure is that what took place there was a turning point, or more properly, a complete reversal of perspective.

From then on, unexpectedly, Paul started to consider as 'loss' and 'rubbish' all that had previously constituted for him the maximum ideal, almost the very reason for his being (cfr Phm, 3,7-8). What had happened?

For this, we have two types of sources. The first type, and best known, are the accounts written by Luke, who three times narrates the event in the Acts of the Apostles (cfr 9,1-19; 22,3-21; 26,4-23).

The average reader may perhaps be tempted to linger too much on some details, such as the light from heaven, Paul collapsing to the ground, the voice that spoke, his sudden blindness, its subsequent healing by scales falling from his eyes and his fasting.

But all these details all point back to the center of the event: the resurrected Christ appeared like a resplendent light and spoke to Saul, transforming his thinking and his very life.

The splendor of the Risen Lord blinded him: what appears externally is what happens in his interior reality, blinded in the face of truth, of the light which Christ is. Thereafter, his definitive Yes to Christ in baptism opens his eyes anew, makes him truly see again.

In the early Church, Baptism was also called 'illumination', because this sacrament gives light, makes us truly see. What is thus indicated theologically is physically realized in Paul: the healing of his interior blindness.

St. Paul was as therefore transformed not by a thought but by an event, by the irresistible presence of the Risen Lord, of which he could never again doubt, so strong was the evidence of the event, of that encounter.

It fundamentally changed the life of Paul - and in this sense, one can and must speak of a conversion. This encounter is the center of St. Luke's narrative, who probably used an account born in the (Christian) community of Damascus, given the local color of the presence of Ananias, the name of the street where Paul first stayed and the name of the owner of the house (cfr Acts 9,11).

The second type of source on this conversion are the Letters of St. Paul himself. He never spoke in detail about the event - perhaps because he thought everyone was aware of the essentials of the story, that everyone knew he was the persecutor transformed into a fervent apostle of Christ.

This did not happen as a consequence of his own reflection , but to a powerful event, an actual encounter with the Risen Lord. Even without speaking in detail, he referred several times to these most important fact, that even he was a witness to the resurrection of Jesus, which revelation he received from Jesus himself along with the mission to be his apostle.

The clearest statement on this point comes in his account of what constitutes the center of the history of salvation: the death and resurrection of Jesus and his apparitions to witnesses (cfr. 1 Cor 15).

Using words from the oldest tradition, as he received them from the Church of Jerusalem, he says that Jesus - who had died on the Cross, was buried and resurrected - appeared after the Resurrection, first to Cephas, that is, Peter; then to the Twelve, then to 500 brothers , most of whom were still alive in Paul's time; then to James, then to all the Apostles.

To this traditional account , he added: "Last of all, he appeared to me" (1 Cor 15,8). thus he makes it understood that it was the foundation of his apostolate and his new life.

There are other passages in which he says the same things: "Through Jesus, we received the grace of Apostolate" (cfr Rm 1,5); and "Have I not myself seen Jesus, our Lord?" (1 Cor 9,1), words which which he referred to something everyone knew.

Finally, the most widely known passage is found in Galatians 1, 15-17: "But when (God), who from my mother's womb had set me apart and called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, so that I might proclaim him to the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; rather, I went into Arabia and then returned to Damascus".

In this 'auto-apologia' (self-explanation), he underscores definitively that even he was a true witness of the Risen Lord, that he had received his own mission directly from the Risen Lord.

Thus we can see that both sources - the Acts of the Apostles and the Letters of St. Paul - converge and agree on the fundamental point: the Risen Christ spoke to Paul, he called him to the apostolate, he made him a true Apostle, witness of the resurrection, with the specific task of announcing the Gospel to the pagans, to the Greco-Roman world.

At the same time, Paul also learned that despite the immediacy of his experience with the Risen Lord, he had to enter into the communion of the Church, he should be baptized, he should live in tune with the other apostles.

Only in communion with everyone could he be a true apostle, as he writes explicitly in the first letter to the Corinthians: "Therefore, whether it be I or they, so we preach and so you believed" (15,11). There is only one announcement to be made, before Christ is one alone.

As we can see, in all these passages, Paul never interprets the event as a fact of conversion. Why? There are so many hypotheses, but for me, the reason is very evident. This turning-point in his life, the transformation of all his being, was not the fruit of a psychological process, of an intellectual and moral maturation or evolution, but something that came from without: it was not the fruit of his thinking, but of the encounter with Christ Jesus.

In this sense, it was not simply a conversion, a maturation of his 'I', but it was his own death and resurrection - one existence died, and another was born with the Risen Christ. Paul's renewal cannot be explained any other way.

Not all the psychological analyses can clarify and resolve the question. Only the event itself, that powerful encounter with Christ, is the key for understanding what happened: death and resurrection, a renewal by the very one who had appeared and spoken to him. In this more profound sense then yes, we can and should speak of conversion.

This encounter was a real renewal which changed all his parameters. Thus he could say that what had once been essential and fundamental for him had become 'rubbish', no longer a 'gain' but a loss, because from then on, only the life of Christ mattered.

Nonetheless, we should not think that Paul was then trapped or enclosed by that one event. The contrary is true, since the Risen Christ is the light of truth, the light of God himself. This opened up his heart, made it open to all.

At that moment, he did not lose what there was of goodness and truth in his life, his his heredity, but he understood in a new way the wisdom the truth and the profundity of the Laws and the Prophets, he re-appropriated them in a new way.

At the same time, his reason opened up to the wisdom of the pagans: being open to Christ with all his heart, he became capable of an ample dialog with everyone, he became capable of doing everything for everyone. Thus he could truly be an apostle of the pagans.

As for us, we ask what can all this mean for us? It means that even for us, Christianity is not a new philosophy or a new morality. We are Christians only if we encounter Christ. Of course, he does not show himself to us irresistibly, luminously, as he did to Paul, to make him the apostle for all Gentiles.

But even we can encounter Christ, in reading Sacred Scripture, in prayer, in the liturgical life of the Church. We can touch the heart of Christ and feel that he touches ours.

Only in this personal relationship with Christ, only in this encounter with the Risen Lord, do we truly become Christians. In this way, our mind opens up to all the wisdom of Christ and the richness of truth.

Let us therefore pray to the Lord that he may illumine us, that he gives our world this meeting with his presence, and thus grant us a living faith, an open heart, great charity for all, able to renew the world.


In English, he said:


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today’s catechesis focuses on Saint Paul’s conversion.

In the Acts of the Apostles, Saint Luke recounts for us the dramatic episode on the road to Damascus which transformed Paul from a fierce persecutor of the Church into a zealous evangelizer.

In his own letters, Paul describes his experience not so much in terms of a conversion, but as a call to apostleship and a commission to preach the Gospel.

In the first instance, this was an encounter not with concepts or ideas but with the person of Jesus himself.

In fact, Paul met not only the historical Jesus of the past, but the living Christ who revealed himself as the one Saviour and Lord.

Similarly, the ultimate source of our own conversion lies neither in esoteric philosophical theories nor abstract moral codes, but in Christ and his Gospel. He alone defines our identity as Christians, since in him we discover the ultimate meaning of our lives.

Paul, because Christ had made him his own (cf. Phil 3:12), could not help but preach the Good News he had received (cf. 1 Cor 9:16). So it is with us.

Transfixed by the greatness of our Saviour, we – like Saint Paul – cannot help but speak of him to others. May we always do so with joyful conviction!

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