Saint Paul the Apostle

Feast Days:

January 25th (Conversion of Saint Paul)

June 29th (celebration of Saints Peter and Paul co-founders of the Church)

November 18th (feast of the dedication of the Basilicas of Peter and Paul)


Saint Paul's Conversion


    Jewish Talmudic student. Pharisee. Tent-maker by trade. Saul the Jew hated and persecuted Christians as heretical, even assisting at the stoning of Saint Stephen the Martyr. On his way to Damascus to arrest another group of them, he was knocked to the ground, struck blind by a heavenly light, and given the message that in persecuting Christians, he was persecuting Christ. The experience had a profound spiritual effect on him, causing his conversion to Christianity. He was baptized, changed his name to Paul to reflect his new persona, and began traveling and preaching. Martyr.

Saint Paul's Conversion

from the Liturgical Year, 1904

We have already seen how the Gentiles, in the person of the Three Magi, offered their mystic gifts to the Divine Child of Bethlehem, and received from Him, in return, the precious gifts of faith, hope, and charity. The harvest is ripe; it is time for the reaper to come. But who is to be God's laborer? The Apostles of Christ are still living under the very shadow of Mount Sion. All of them have received the mission to preach the gospel of salvation to the uttermost parts of the world; but not one among them has, as yet, received the special character of Apostle of the Gentiles. Peter, who had received the Apostleship of Circumcision (Gal. ii. 8), is sent specially, as was Christ Himself, to the sheep that are lost of the house of Israel (St. Matth. xv. 24). And yet, as he is the Head and the Foundation, it belongs to him to open the door of Faith to the Gentiles (Acts, xiv. 26); which he solemnly does, by conferring Baptism on Cornelius, the Roman Centurion.

But the Church is to have one more Apostle--an Apostle for the Gentiles--and he is to be the fruit of the martyrdom and prayer of St. Stephen. Saul, a citizen of Tarsus, has not seen Christ in the flesh, and yet Christ alone can make an Apostle. It is then, from heaven, where He reigns impassible and glorified, that Jesus will call Saul to be His disciple, just as, during the period of his active life, He called the fishermen of Genesareth to follow him and hearken to His teachings. The Son of God will raise Saul up to the third heaven, and there will reveal to Him all his mysteries: and when Saul, having come down again to this earth, shall have seen Peter (Gal. i. 18), and compared his Gospel with that recognized by Peter (Ibid. ii. 2)--he can say, in all truth, that he is an Apostle of Christ Jesus (Gal. i. I), and that he has done nothing less than the great Apostles (II. Cor. xi. 5).

It is on this glorious day of the Conversion of Saul, who is soon to change his name into Paul, that this great work is commenced. It is on this day, that is heard the Almighty voice which breaketh the cedars of Libanus (Ps. xxviii. 5), and can make a persecuting Jew become first a Christian, and then an Apostle. This admirable transformation had been prophesied by Jacob, when, upon his death-bed, he unfolded, to each of his sons, the future of the tribe of which he was to be the father. Juda was to have the precedence of honor; from his royal race, was to be born the Redeemer, the Expected of nations. Benjamin's turn came; his glory is not to be compared with that of his brother Juda, and yet it was to be very great-- for, from his tribe, is to be born Paul, the Apostle of the Gentile nations.

These are the words of the dying Prophet: Benjamin, a ravenous wolf, in the morning shall eat the prey, and in the evening shall divide the spoil (Gen. xlix. 27). Who, says an ancient writer (These words are taken from a Sermon, which for long time was thought to be St. Augustine), is he, that in the morning of impetuous youth, goes like a wolf, in pursuit of the sheep of Christ, breathing threatenings and slaughter against them? Is it not Saul on the road to Damascus, the bearer and doer of the high-priest's orders, and stained with the blood of Stephen, whom he has stoned by the hands of all those, over whose garments he kept watch? And he, who, in the evening, not only does not despoil, but with a charitable and peaceful hand, breaks to the hungry the bread of life--is it not Paul, of the tribe of Benjamin, the Apostle of Christ, burning with zeal for his brethren, making himself all to all, and wishing even to be an anathema for their sakes?

Oh! the power of our dear Jesus! how wonderful! how irresistible! He wishes that the first worshippers at His Crib should be humble Shepherds--and He invites them by His Angels, whose sweet hymn was enough to lead these simple-hearted men to the Stable, where lies, in swaddling-clothes, He who is the hope of Israel. He would have the Gentile Princes, the Magi, do Him homage--and bids to arise in the heavens a Star, whose mysterious apparition, joined to the interior speaking of the Holy Ghost, induces these men of desire to come from the far East, and lay, at the feet of an humble Babe, their riches and their hearts. When the time is come for forming the Apostolic College, He approaches the banks of the sea of Tiberias, and with this single word: Follow me, He draws after Him such as He wishes to have as His Disciples. In the midst of all the humiliations of His Passion, He has but to look at the unfaithful Peter, and Peter is a penitent. Today, it is from heaven that He evinces His power: all the mysteries of our redemption have been accomplished, and He wishes to show mankind, that He is the sole author and master of the Apostolate, and that His alliance with the Gentiles is now perfect:--He speaks; the sound of His reproach bursts like thunder over the head of this hot Pharisee, who is bent on annihilating the Church; He takes this heart of the Jew, and, by His grace, turns it into the heart of the Apostle, the Vessel of election, the Paul who is afterwards to say of himself: I live not I, but Christ liveth in me (Gal. ii. 20).

The commemoration of this great event was to be a Feast in the Church, and it had a right to be kept as near as might be to the one which celebrates the martyrdom of St. Stephen, for Paul is the Protomartyr's convert. The anniversary of his martyrdom would, of course, have to be solemnized at the summer-solstice; where, then, place the Feast of his Conversion if not near Christmas, and thus our own Apostle would be at Jesus' Crib, and Stephen's side? Moreover, the Magi could claim him, as being the conqueror of that Gentile-world, of which they were the first-fruits.

And lastly, it was necessary, in order to give the court of our Infant-King its full beauty, that the two Princes of the Church--the Apostle of the Jews, and the Apostle of the Gentiles--should stand close to the mystic Crib; Peter, with his Keys, and Paul, with his Sword. Bethlehem thus becomes the perfect figure of the Church, and the riches of this season of the Cycle are abundant beyond measure.

What do we learn from this history?

Not to despise any sinner, nor to despair of his salvation; for, like Paul on the road to Damascus, the greatest sinner may, by the grace of God, be suddenly converted, and become a saint. At the command of God he accepted Ananias as his leader in the way of salvation, and became as zealous for the honor of Christ as he had previously been intent on persecuting Him. In like manner, a convert must shut his eyes to all by which he has heretofore been led astray, and must give heed to that only which God commands.

Gospel: Matthew 19:27-29

At that time Peter said to Jesus: Behold, we have left all things, and have followed Thee; what, therefore, shall we have? And Jesus said to them: Amen I say to you, that you, who have followed Me, in the regeneration, when the Son of man shall sit on the seat of His majesty, you also shall sit on twelve seats judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And every one that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for My name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall possess life everlasting. This gospel teaches that he who renounces the world, its pleasures and its riches, shall receive the grace of God, virtues, interior consolation, and eternal happiness, which are a hundredfold, that is, infinitely, more precious than worldly goods.

Prayers in Honor of Saint Paul

O Saint Paul, great apostle, who, from being an enemy, became the most zealous friend and preacher of Christ, procure for me from Him, I beseech thee, grace at last truly to know Him, Whom I have heretofore so often denied, offended, and, by my sins, crucified anew; to follow Him, and, after thy examples to be henceforth as diligent in doing justice as I have formerly been in practising evil; that I may one day attain to that happiness which thou hast gained. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, etc. Amen.

Saint Paul's Prayer for Patience

O glorious St. Paul, who from a persecutor of Christianity, didst become a most ardent Apostle of zeal; and who to make known the Savior Jesus Christ unto the ends of the world didst suffer with joy imprisonment, scourgings, stonings, shipwrecks and persecutions of every kind, and in the end didst shed thy blood to the last drop, obtain for us the grace to receive, as favors of the Divine mercy, infirmities, tribulations, and misfortunes of the present life, so that the vicissitudes of this our exile will not render us cold in the service of God, but will render us always more faithful and more fervent.

V. Pray for us, Saint Paul the Apostle,
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray.

O God, Who hast taught the multitude of the Gentiles by the preaching of blessed Paul the Aoostle: grant unto us, we beseech Thee, that we who keep his memory sacred, may feel the might of his intercession before Thee. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Litany of St. Paul

Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.
God the Father of heaven, have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy on us.
God the Holy Ghost, have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, one God, have mercy on us.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us.*
Queen, conceived without sin,*
St. Paul, vessel of election,*
Apostle of the Gentiles,*
St. Paul, who was rapt to the third heaven,*
St. Paul, who heard things not given to man to utter,*
St. Paul, who knew nothing but Christ, and Him crucified.*
St. Paul, whose love for Christ was stronger than death,*
St. Paul, who wished to be dissolved and be with Christ,*
St. Paul, whose zeal knew no bounds,*
St. Paul, who made thyself all to all, to gain all to Christ,*
St. Paul, who called thyself prisoner of Christ for us,*
St. Paul, who was jealous of us, with the jealousy of God,*
St. Paul, who gloried in the Cross of Christ,*
St. Paul, who bore in thy body the mortification of Christ,*
St. Paul, who exclaimed: "With Christ I am nailed to the cross!"*
That we may awake and sin no more,*
That we may not receive the grace of God in vain,*
That we walk in newness of life,*
That we may work out our salvation with fear and trembling,*
That we may put on the armor of God,*
That we may stand against the deceits of the wicked one,*
That we may stand fast to the last,*
That we may press forward to the mark,*
That we may win the crown,*

Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
Spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
Graciously hear us, O Lord,
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
Have mercy on us.

Let us pray:

O glorious Apostle and martyr of Christ, chosen by Him to call us to the light of the Gospel, and the knowledge of the true and living God, obtain for us a perfect faith, firm hope, and ardent charity, that bearing always in our flesh the mortification of Christ, we may walk before God with simplicity, meekness, and humility, and thus press towards the mark--"the glorious city whose builder and maker is God."

O blessed Apostle, be our guide, whilst we travel through the dark and stormy night of life, till this corruptible put on incorruption, and this mortal put on immortality. Amen

O glorious Saint Paul, who, from being a persecutor of the Christian name, didst become its most zealous Apostle, and who, to carry the knowledge of Jesus, our divine Savior, to the uttermost parts of the earth, didst joyfully suffer prison, scourgings, stonings, shipwreck and all manner of persecutions, and who didst finish thy course by shedding the last drop of thy blood: obtain for us the grace to accept, as favors bestowed by the mercy of God, the infirmities, sufferings and misfortunes of this life, that we may not grow slack in our service of God by reason of these vicissitudes of our exile, but that we may rather show ourselves ever more devoted. Amen.

Pray for us, Saint Paul the Apostle,
That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray:

O God, who hast taught the multitude of the Gentiles by the preaching of blessed Paul the Apostle: grant unto us, we beseech Thee, that we who keep his memory sacred, may feel the might of his intercession before Thee. Through Christ our Lord. Amen

(Indulgence of 500 days)

Prayer from the Gallican Missal:

O God, who, by a voice from heaven, didst strike with terror thine Apostle Paul when raging against the holiness of the Christian Religion, and, on this the day of his Vocation, didst change him both in his heart and his name: and him, whom the Church once dreaded as her persecutor, she now rejoices in having as her Teacher in the commandments of God: whom, also, thou didst strike with exterior blindness, that thou mightest give him interior sight: to whom, moreover, when the darkness of his cruelty was removed, thou didst give the knowledge of thy divine law, whereby he might call the Gentiles: and didst thrice deliver him from shipwreck, which he suffered for the Faith, saving this thy devoted servant from the waves of the sea: grant also to us, we beseech thee, who are solemnizing both his conversion and his faith, that, after the blindness of our sins, we may be permitted to see Thee, in heaven, who didst enlighten Paul, here on earth. Amen

Concluding Prayer:

We give Thee thanks, O Jesus! who hast, this day, prostrated Thine enemy by Thy power, and raised him up again by Thy mercy. Truly art thou the Mighty God, and Thy victories shall be praised by all creatures. How wonderful art Thou, in Thy plans for the world's salvation! Thou makest men thy associates in the work of the preaching of thy word, and in the dispensing of Thy Mysteries; and, in order to make Paul worthy of such an honor, Thou usest all the resources of Thy grace. It pleased Thee to make an Apostle of Stephen's murderer, that so Thy sovereign power might be shown to the world, Thy love of souls be evinced in its richest gratuitous generosity, and grace abound where sin had so abounded. Sweet Savior! often visit us with this grace which converts the heart; for we desire to have the life of grace abundantly, and we feel that its very principle is often in danger within us.

Convert us, as thou didst Thine Apostle; and after having converted us, assist us; for, without Thee, we can do nothing. Go before us, follow us, stand by our side; never leave us, but as Thou hast given us the commencement, secure to us our perseverance to the end. Give us that Christian wisdom, which will teach us how to acknowledge, with fear and love, that mysterious gift of grace, which no creature can merit, and to which, nevertheless, a creature's will may put an obstacle. We are captives: thou alone art master of the instrument, wherewith we can break our chains; thou puttest it into our hands, bidding us make use of it; so that our deliverance is thy work, not ours--but our captivity, if it continue, can only be attributed to our negligence and sloth. Give us, O Lord, this Thy grace; and graciously receive the promise we now make, that we will render it fruitful by co-operating with it.

Assist us, thou holy Apostle of Jesus! to correspond with the merciful designs of God in our regard; obtain of Him, for us, that we may be overcome by the sweetness of an Infant-God. His voice does not make itself heard; He does not blind us by the glare of His divine light; but this we know--He often complains that we persecute him! Oh! that we could have the courage to say to Him, with a heart honest like thine: Lord! what wilt thou that we do? He would answer, and tell us, to be simple, and to become little children, like Himself--to recognize now, after so many Christmases of indifference, the love He shows us in this mystery of Bethlehem--to declare war against sin--to resist our evil inclinations--and to advance in virtue, by walking in His divine footsteps. Thou hast said, in one of thine Epistles: If any man love not our Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema (I. Cor. xvi. 22)! Oh! teach us to know this dear Jesus more and more, that so we may grow in his love; and, by thy prayers, preserve us from that ingratitude which turns even the sweet Mysteries of this holy season into our own greater condemnation.

Glorious Vessel of election! pray for the conversion of sinners, who have forgotten their God. When on this earth, thou didst spend thyself for the salvation of souls; continue thy ministry, now that thou art reigning in heaven, and draw down, upon them that persecute Jesus, the graces which triumph over the hardest hearts. Apostle of the Gentiles! look with an eye of loving pity on so many nations, that are still sitting in the shadow of death. During thy mortal life, thou wast divided between two ardent desires--one, to be with Christ, the other, to remain longer on earth laboring for the salvation of immortal souls: now, that thou art united for ever with the Jesus thou didst preach to men, forget not the poor ones to whom their God is a stranger. Raise up in the Church apostolic men, who may continue thy work. Pray to our Lord that He bless their labors, and the blood of such among them as are Martyrs of zeal. Shield, with thy protection, the See of Peter, thy Brother-Apostle and thy Leader.

Support the authority of the Church of Rome, which has inherited thy power, and looks upon thee as her second defense. May thy powerful intercession lead her enemies into humble submission, destroy schisms and heresies, and fill her Pastors with thy spirit, that, like thee, they may seek, not themselves, but solely and in all things the interests of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen


Sequence: Corde, voce pulsa caelos

Church of the Gentiles! sing with heart and voice thy hymn of triumph, and make the heavens echo.

Paul, the Doctor of the Gentiles, has finished his course, and triumphs in glory.

This is he that was the youthful Benjamin, the ravenous wolf, the devourer of the prey, the enemy of the Faithful.

He was a wolf in the morning, but in the evening, a lamb. The night was past, the day-star rose, and he preaches the Gospel.

This is he that marched in the road of death, but was stayed, as he goes to Damascus, by Him who is the Way of Life.

He had breathed forth threats, but at length he yields; he prostrates, and obeys; he is made captive, and goes whither he is led.

He is sent to Ananias--the wolf to the lamb: his stormy heart is calm.

He receives the sacrament of the font; its saving waters turn the venom of his soul into the fragrance of love.

He becomes a sacred vessel, a vessel divine, a vessel that gives forth to men the sweet wine of the grace of doctrine.

He visits the synagogues, and proves the christian faith by unfolding the prophets.

He preaches the cross of Christ; and for that Cross' sake himself does bear the cross, dying a thousand deaths.

Yet dies not, but is a living victim, conquering every pain by unconquered courage.

He is set apart by God as the teacher of the Gentiles; and by the wisdom of God he overcomes the wise ones of the world.

Rapt to the third heaven, he sees the Father and Son in one substance.

The mighty Rome, and the learned Greece-- both bow down their heads, and learn the Mysteries, and embrace the Faith of Christ.

The Cross triumphs! Then does Nero rage to see this Paul spreading the Faith by his preaching, and sentences him to die by the sword.

Thus disburthened from the flesh, Paul sees the true Sun, the Only Begotten of the Father.

He sees the Light in Light, by whose almighty power we shun the pains of hell. Amen



Hymn: Exsultet orbis     

Now let the earth with joy resound,
And heaven the chant re-echo round;
Nor heaven nor earth too high can raise
The great Apostles' glorious praise.

O ye who, throned in glory dread,
Shall judge the living and the dead,
Lights of the world forever more!
To you the suppliant prayer we pour.

Ye close the sacred gates on high;
At your command apart they fly:
O loose for us the guilty chain
We strive to break, and strive in vain.

Sickness and health your voice obey;
At your command they go or stay:
From sin's disease our souls restore;
In good confirm us more and more.

So when the world is at its end.
And Christ to Judgment shall descend,
May we be called those joys to see
Prepared from all eternity.

Praise to the Father, with the son,
And Holy spirit, Three in One;
As ever was in ages past,
And so shall be while ages last. Amen


(Roman Breviary for the Common of Apostles)


Responsory of St. Paul      

All ye who groan beneath
A load of ills oppress'd,
Entreat St. Paul, and he will pray
The Lord to give you rest.

O victim dear to Heaven!
O Paul, thou teacher true!
Thou love and joy of Christendom,
To thee for help we sue.

Pierced by the flame of love,
Descending from on high,
'Twas thine to preach the faith which once
Thou soughtest to destroy.

O victim dear to Heaven!
O Paul, thou teacher true!
Thou love and joy of Christendom,
To thee for help we sue.

Nor toil, nor threatened death,
Nor tempest, scourge, nor chain,
Could from the assembly of the saints
Thy loving heart detain.

O victim dear to Heaven!
O Paul, thou teacher true!
Thou love and joy of Christendom,
To thee for help we sue.

Oh, by that quenchless love
Which burnt in thee of yore,
Take pity on our miseries,
Our fainting hope restore.

O victim dear to Heaven!
O Paul, thou teacher true!
Thou love and joy of Christendom,
To thee for help we sue.

True champion of the Lord,
Crush thou the schemes of hell,
And with adoring multitudes
Thy sacred temples fill.

O victim dear to Heaven!
O Paul, thou teacher true!
Thou love and joy of Christendom,
To thee for help we sue.

Through thy prevailing prayer
May charity abound;
Sweet charity, which knows no ill,
Which nothing can confound.

O victim dear to Heaven!
O Paul, thou teacher true!
Thou love and joy of Christendom,
To thee for help we sue.

To earth's remotest shores
May one same faith extend;
And thy epistles through all climes
Their blessed perfume send.

O victim dear to Heaven!
O Paul, thou teacher true!
Thou love and joy of Christendom,
To thee for help we sue.

Grant us the will and power
To serve Thee, God of might,
Lest, wavering still and unprepared,
We sink in depths of night.

O victim dear to Heaven!
O Paul, thou teacher true!
Thou love and joy of Christendom,
To thee for help we sue.

Praise to the Father be;
Praise to the Son who rose;
Praise to the Spirit Paraclete;
While age on ages flows.

O victim dear to Heaven!
O Paul, thou teacher true!
Thou love and joy of Christendom,

To thee for help we sue.

Ant. He is my Vessel of Election, to carry my Name among the gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.

V. Pray for us, O blessed Apostle Paul.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray:

Almighty and eternal God, Who in thy divine compassion didst direct thy blessed Apostle Paul what to do that he might be filled with thy Holy Spirit; grant that we may be so counseled by his teaching, and aided by the suffrage of his merits, that, serving Thee in fear and trembling, we may be filled with the consolation of thy heavenly gifts. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

(Indulgence 100 days)