Below is adapted from the allocutio I will give tonight at Legion of Mary, on Ch. 24, part 9 of Legio Mariae: St. Paul.
Frank Duff writes of St. Paul that, “A soul that is to win others must be great and wide as the ocean. To convert the world, one’s soul must be greater than the world.” What an accurate description for a man who poured himself so fully into a life of spreading Jesus’s word. He was a speaker, writer, teacher and apostle whose message is still, today, critically important in helping us understand God.
St. Paul is one of my favorite saints, particularly because of the way in which he immediately took to the life that God called him to – without any hesitation, and with a willing spirit. He reminds us of our own mission to evangelize. If you are called in some way to use your gifts for God – and of course, we all are – there is no room for hesitation. There are so many ways to use these gifts, as well, and I think St. Paul loved and found value in the unique skills which God instills in every human.
His story is also a reminder that no soul is ever past hope and we never how or who God will call to serve Him. Let us remember that St. Paul’s story begins when he is called Saul of Tarsus, known for violently persecuting the early Christians. He is converted on the road to Damascus as he is journeying to put more Christians on trial, becoming an example of how the Holy Spirit can work to change our hearts and minds, even in what seem like bleak circumstances. He then goes on to be persecuted himself, but cheerfully so, with an understanding that in his weakness he finds God’s strength.
We really can strive to have souls as wide as the ocean and greater than the world. This is not a vain statement, but a way of saying that the love we have for others must be all-consuming and that we must keep our activities aligned with things not of this world, but with things greater than this world.
Many of his letters contain instructions and advice to the converts in the places where he had lived and his words have a way of answering the questions we as followers still have now, in the modern world. Many of his thoughts are among the most-quoted parts of the Bible. Let us close with one now:
1 Corinthians 13:
"If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."