Saint Paul offers the greatest example of a life totally transformed in an instant by the intercession of divine grace. Once a zealous prosecutor devoted to hunting down and imprisoning Christians, his conversion was so extreme that it is commemorated by its own feast day, January 25. Bitten by snakes, stoned by mobs, tortured and shipwrecked, Saint Paul was left for dead many times. He is known as the Great Apostle because of his unstoppable energy and the success of his missionary journeys. Told to preach to the heathen nations and the non-Jews, he is known as the doctor of the gentiles because he traveled throughout Greece and Asia Minor converting thousands. He is invoked for strength, patience and faith. His numerous writings and long sojourns make him the patron saint of journalists and public relations.
Born a Roman citizen at Tarsus in Cilica, his given name was Saul. His father, a devout man, sent him to study under the famous rabbi Gamaliel in Jerusalem. As a young man Paul was a model Pharisee, the most extreme of all the Jewish sects, and zealous in his pursuit and persecution of Christians. He firmly believed that the only way to preserve Jewish law was to wipe the Christians off the face of the earth. He was present at the stoning death of Saint Stephen, the first martyr. Ten months after Christ was crucified, Paul was on his way to Damascus to arrest Christians when he was blinded by light and fell from his horse. While on the ground a voice asked him, “Saul, Saul, why dost thou persecute me?” When Paul replied, “Who art thou Lord?” The voice answered, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Paul was then told to continue to Damascus to await instructions. Paul spent the next three days unable to see or eat. It was during this time that he says he learned the Gospel. The entire teachings were infused in him. When he regained his vision on the fourth day, he was baptized and changed his name from Saul, the name of a great king, to Paul, which means small as a sign of humility.
Because of his reputation as a persecutor, Paul was at first mistrusted by the original apostles. After three years in Damascus, his former allies in the synagogue were so incensed with his new preachings that he had to be lowered over the city walls in a basket in the dark of night to escape death. When he returned to Jerusalem 12 years later he was arrested for creating chronic havoc and, because of his Roman citizenship, he was deported to Rome for a trial. He survived shipwreck off Malta and was released in Rome. He then traveled to Spain and Ephesus and was arrested once again for his revolutionary preachings. He was brought back to Rome and beheaded in AD 67 in a place called Tre Fontane, Three Fountains, so named because it was said that Saint Paul’s head bounced three times when it was cut off and in each place it bounced, a fountain sprang from the earth. His body is buried in the basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls in Rome.
Feast Day: June 29, shared with Saint Peter
Patronage: Evangelists, Malta, Journalists, Public Relations
Invoked against: Snakebite
Novena to Saint Paul
O holy apostle who, with your teachings and with your charity, taught the entire world, look kindly upon us, your children and disciples.
We expect everything from your prayers to the divine master and to Mary, queen of the apostles. Grant, O doctor of the gentiles, that we may live by faith, save ourselves by hope, and that charity alone reign in us. Obtain for us, O vessel of election, will correspondence to divine grace, so that it may always remain fruitful in us. Grant that we may ever better know you, love you and imitate you, that we may be living members of the Church, the mystical body of Jesus Christ. Raise up many and holy apostles. May the warm breath of true charity permeate the entire world. Grant that all may know and glorify God and the divine master, way and truth and life. Obtain for me the special favors I am asking during this novena. (Your request here).
Lord Jesus, you know we have no faith in our own powers; in your mercy grant that we may be defended against all adversity, through the powerful intercession of Saint Paul, our teacher and father.
Say this novena nine times in a row for nine days in a row.