The Feast of the Conversion of St Paul falls on Sunday this year, which means that it will be skipped over liturgically--but not ignored by us. The Daughters of St Paul pray an informal novena for the January feast (our solemn feast and novena fall in June), and it was during yesterday's prayer that the thought came to me to offer this novena in a special way for the conversion of the next St Paul.
Somewhere in this world of ours is a religiously motivated zealot (or two) with a pedigree like the
young Saul: an expert in his religion, an adherent of a particularly rigorist sect in that tradition, a person of profound convictions, frighteningly intelligent. Behind the scenes, this person brings all the resources of his or her education, social media skills and networks of influential people to the goal of defending the honor of God, perfectly justified in his or her own mind that the glorious and holy end justifies any means whatever. Like Saul at the killing of Stephen, he or she will "guard the garments" of the ruffians who dirty their hands with the stones that slowly beat the life out of those perceived as enemies of God.
Somewhere out there is a person who, flung from that self-appointed command post and confronted with the shattering Truth who announces "you are persecuting Me," will bring all those resources of native genius, knowledge of the misused religion, social media technologies and string of influential friends to the proclamation of the Gospel of a God who "emptied himself and took the form of a slave"; who was "crucified out of weakness but lives by the power of God'; who "learned obedience from what he suffered", and when perfected through resurrection became the source of eternal salvation for those who, like Saul, came to the "obedience of the truth."
Somewhere, today, there is a Saul of Tarsus who only has to encounter Jesus on the road to be transformed into an apostle of the New Evangelization. That is who I am praying for in this novena.