January 25 is the day Catholics celebrate the conversion of St. Paul.
Before he became what we know as the “Apostle to the Gentiles,” St. Paul was known as Saul of Tarsus. Born a Jew, he was so zealous about the law of Moses that he persecuted Christians. In fact, Saul was among the crowd that killed St. Stephen, the first martyr. Following his zeal, Saul asked permission to go to Damascus to gather up all of the Christians and bring them to Jerusalem in chains as an example.
But on his way there, God had a better idea.
At the outskirts of Damascus, a bright light shone down from the sky, blinding Saul. Falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:4). After asking who was speaking to him, Saul learned the voice belonged to Jesus.
Still blinded, he followed Jesus’ instructions to go into Damascus, where he would be told what to do. In the city lived Ananias, a Christian whom Jesus spoke to in a vision, telling him to find Saul and heal him. Aware of Saul’s persecutions, Ananias was initially reluctant to do so, but he was faithful and followed Jesus’ instructions. After placing his hands on Saul, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes and his vision was restored.
Saul was baptized and changed his name to Paul. Following this conversion, Paul began preaching in synagogues and proclaimed Jesus as the Son of God. He spent the rest of his life going on missionary trips, converting many, especially people who were not Jewish, across southern Europe and Asia minor.
The letters he wrote to the communities he founded and sustained were kept and now form a large part of the New Testament. We often hear St. Paul’s words in the second reading at Mass.
Reflect on Paul’s story — one of the most famous conversions to the faith in history — through our Spotify playlist inspired by the event and its lasting impact.