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How Paul Used His Gifts, and How We Are Called to Do Likewise

Fr Rich AndreRich Andre, CSP
January 20, 2023

The Paulist Fathers currently have 17 patron saints. We observe a lot of feast days every year, but this weekend is the biggie! Rather than celebrating the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle just on Wednesday, January 25, we also celebrate it this weekend.

St. Paul is considered the textbook example of instantaneous conversion, but I disagree with that assessment. His conversion was anything but instantaneous. God called Paul from the womb, like God calls all of us, to serve. Even though he was an ethnic and religious Jew, Paul was a Roman citizen receiving a Greek education. His zeal for God was so strong that he moved to Jerusalem as a teenager to become a Pharisee. Although he started his studies much later than his classmates, he excelled. On the road to Damascus, once Jesus revealed that Christians were righteously following God, Paul’s lifetime of serving God made him able to change his mindset in an instant. No longer thinking of Christians as traitors to Judaism, he immediately devoted every aspect of his being to his work as a Christian missionary, becoming “all things to all people, to save at least some” (1 Cor 9:19-23). As a Jewish Pharisee, he was intimately familiar with the Scriptures. Educated in Greek rhetoric, we could write and debate well. Because Pharisees supported themselves financially, he was a skilled canvas maker who couldn befriend tradespeople and barter his skills to travel throughout the Empire. As a Roman citizen, he used his privileges to magnify his witness.

Traditionally, the feast of Paul’s conversion is the day that the Paulist Fathers ask everyone affiliated with us to discern how they, like Paul, can use their various God-given gifts to advance our portion of the mission of Jesus Christ. Most concretely, we ask our friends and collaborators to make financial pledges to the Annual Paulist Appeal. The APA funds our ongoing expenses, such as tuition for our students, healthcare for our retired brothers, and administrative support for our many outreach ministries that don’t have dependable revenue streams. Thank you for helping everyone affiliated with the Paulists – including all of you here at the Paulist Center – to spread the saving gospel of Jesus Christ!

(Many of you gave very generously to the Paulist Capital Campaign last year, which addressed our extraordinary needs, needs different than the ongoing ones funded by the APA. Thank you again for the sacrifices you made for that campaign! It raised the money to build the Hecker House of Studies in Washington, DC. Since November, our students have been thriving in the new environment, designed for using 21st-century tools to spread the gospel.)

I’m grateful that our own Mary Sullivan is giving the Paulist Appeal this year. She is a great witness to how Paulist spirituality has impacted her life. She’ll be encouraging everyone at the Paulist Center to consider the gifts we have to support the ministry of Paulists and collaborators everywhere, not just in Boston. Thank you for devoting your time and talent to the APA, Mary!

St. Paul explained that we are all interdependent parts of the one Body of Christ. Thank you all for discerning your part in helping everyone in the Paulist universe to serve Jesus, the Christ!